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Nevada City: a gold mine once again with folkster Alela Diane 

Wednesday, Jun 20 2007
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Since his early years with Anticon, Rhode Island-based MC Sage Francis has crafted his hip-hop tableau using painfully intimate admissions and intricate metaphors. On his latest album, Human The Death Dance, Francis implores us to "stop calling it emo" — but songs like the biographical "Hell of a Year" beg the comparison. Fortunately, he's also a hell of a lyricist who soars above the nerdy limits of "undie"-rap. Like-minded, unorthodox producers including Sixtoo and Alias provide the beats for the record, which shows Francis alternating politics with battle raps. Anticon member Buck 65 lends his support to this tour on Tuesday, June 19, and Wednesday, June 20, at the Fillmore at 8 p.m. Admission is $25; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com for more info. — Jonah Flicker


Imagine Paul Bunyan having an emotional breakdown one cold frontier night, and you're halfway to understanding the muscle and tenderness at the core of David Bazan's songwriting. Bazan looks like a lumberjack, sings in a woebegone tenor, and writes finely detailed, bittersweet vignettes about normal people at moments of crisis. Once the core member of indie-folk outfit Pedro the Lion, Bazan is operating under his own name now, and has beefed up his sound considerably since the bummer acoustics of PtL. Warm electric guitars, analog electronics, and aching harmonies made last year's Fewer Moving Parts EP powerful. His narratives double as haunting, funny short stories, and he hasn't shied away from his preoccupation with religion, making this revival tent as inviting as ever. David Bazan plays with the New Year on Thursday, June 21, at the Bottom of the Hill at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $12; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info. — Frances Reade


Pretty Girls Make Graves took their final bow on a Seattle stage just two weeks ago, but bassist Derek Fudesco has already made the transition to a dramatically different project, the Cave Singers . Steeped in Appalachian atmospherics and anchored by vocalist Peter Quirk's ghostly quiver, the trio could almost be mistaken for lost field recordings from the Anthology of American Folk Music. But even with the occasional washboard player joining the group, the Singers' live shows still possess a very contemporary feel. On this tour, the Cave Singers are joined by equally haunting duo Lightning Dust on Wednesday, June 27, at Bottom of the Hill at 9 p.m. Admission is $8-10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info. —Hannah Levin


Amid the hubris of SXSW this year, I was fortunate to stumble across humble singer Alela Diane strumming her guitar during Arthur magazine's eclectic and hippie-f(r)ied showcase. Diane's songs evoke bucolic images of dry grass, bramble, and knee-deep snow, and her clear, keening voice sent shivers in the heat of the day. Hailing from Nevada City, the same small town as Joanna Newsom, Alela Diane's version of folk may not be as overt or convoluted as that of her neighbor's, but her craftsmanship is similar. While Diane's tunes hew to the folk tradition, they aren't traditional by any means. Alela Diane is part of the Grass Roots Record Co. showcase on Tuesday, June 26, at the Hemlock at 9 p.m. Admission is $7; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com for more info. — Andy Beta

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Jonathan Zwickel

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