When it comes to bluegrass, either traditional or progressive, Austin's Meat Purveyors are hardly the real deal, not when you can easily pick up Ralph Stanley or Rhonda Vincent instead. Then again, if you want real rockabilly, you don't reach for the Cramps or Brian Setzer, but that doesn't necessarily diminish their respective gratification factors, does it? On their latest disc, Pain by Numbers, the Purveyors drag bluegrass kicking and screaming through the streets of hip-city, wipe off the dirt, but don't dress the superficial wounds. While no instrumental virtuosos, the MPs are a spirited lot: Soulful fiddler Darcie Deaville anchors the group with her formidable technique and grasp of the trad sound, and frontperson Jo Cohen's singing has that class-of-'77 punk rock tartness. Plus, they've got interestingly unusual taste in covers: Ronnie Milsap's carnal honky-tonk hit “Daydreams About Night Things” at one end of the spectrum, and industrial-music icon Boyd Rice's disconcerting “I'd Rather Be Your Enemy” on the other. The MPs continue their Bay Area miniresidency on Friday, July 16, at the Park (974-1925 or www.theparksf.com); Saturday, July 17, at the Starry Plough (510/841-2082 or www.starryploughpub.com); and Sunday, July 18, at the Stork Club (510/444-6174 or www.storkcluboakland.com).
Minneapolis' the Owls are better than the Beatles. Sure, both bands have three songwriters (sorry Ringo), both spin pretty multipart harmonies, and both excel at ringing guitar pop and plaintive piano balladry. But not only are two of the Owls hot women — singer/guitarists Allison LaBonne and Maria May — they're also both librarians! (Paul McCartney probably doesn't know diddly about the Dewey Decimal System.) Plus, the Owls' tunes feature the talents of Brian Tighe, who's responsible for as many great songs as George ever was, thanks to his work with longtime pop band the Hang Ups. But the main reason the members of the Owls are better than the Beatles is simple — they're all still alive. The Owls and Dear Nora fly high on Sunday, July 18, at the Make-Out Room. The Mosquitoes open; call 647-2888 or go to www.makeoutroom.com.