Music Week Briefs

Macy Gray, Chris Isaak, others

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click to enlarge Macy Gray - Giuliano Bekor
Giuliano Bekor
Macy Gray

Gray Matters

She seems in a perpetual haze, Macy Gray, with her laconic, spacey demeanor and voice that's equal parts slur and gravel. It's as if she emerged from some exotic nether land with an alchemy of jazz and soul that sounds at once familiar and strange. Gray, born Natalie Renee McIntyre, is actually from Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She was a late bloomer whose breakthrough album, 1999's On How Life Is (featuring the hit "I Try") didn't come until she was 32. Her timing was perfectly in synch with the rise of neo-soul, but Gray has never quite achieved superstardom. Even so, she's forged a solid and versatile career that also includes acting in Idlewild, Lackawanna Blues and Training Day. She'll be joined on this show by The Brand New Heavies, a long-standing British group whose latest album, Get Used to It, is an all-but-moribund collection of formulaic dance-pop.

Macy Gray w/The Brand New Heavies, Thurs., Aug. 16, 7:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa. Tickets $37.50, $47.50 and $67.50. —Eric Snider

Her Story

Snooze-inducing dreck. That's usually what comes to mind when somebody mentions "adult contemporary" or even "adult alternative." Brandi Carlile gets filed under both. However, the young woman's music is pedestrian only if you'd say the same thing about Cat Power, Feist or, say, Joanna Newsom. Carlile's hit "The Story," the title track to her thoroughly potent breakthrough album that came out earlier this year, might just be the most emotive song one is likely to hear these days on commercial radio or catch on VH1, where the video has become a viewer favorite. Carlile possesses an explosive, rich voice — with just a hint of rural twang — that bends to the breaking point in order to completely sell an ostensibly simple lyric like "I was made for you." Considering Carlile's self-titled 2005 debut is also a gem, we wholeheartedly recommend going to see her. The caveat is that she is opening this show and will likely only be granted a 30-minute time slot. Headlining is Ruth Eckerd Hall regular Chris Isaak, the Orbisonian crooner behind "Wicked Game," "Somebody's Crying" and "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing."

Chris Isaak w/Brandi Carlile, Fri., Aug. 17, 7:30 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $39.50-$75. —Wade Tatangelo

Up Against It

If any group deserves the right to an exclamation point — and still be taken seriously — it's Gainesville four-piece Against Me!, who have reigned as one of the region's top punk bands for the past several years. Blending crisp, melodic sonics with fiercely delivered lyrics that would make the likes of Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg grin in approval, Against Me! is truly a band of substance. Formerly on the indie label Fat Wreck Chords, Against Me!'s major label debut New Wave came out last month on Sire. But have no fear — it's just as defiant and gritty as past work; check out the thoughtful lead single "White People for Peace." Two Gallants, who recently played Jannus Landing as Les Claypool's opener, are a guitar-drum duo from San Francisco. They're signed to Saddle Creek but offer a much scrappier brand of indie-folk than one might expect from label mates of Bright Eyes. Dig the Gallants new tune "Steady Rollin'" — it's equal parts murder ballad and saloon sing-along. Good stuff. Arrive in time to check 'em out.

Against Me! w/Two Gallants/The Gaslight Anthem, Fri., Aug. 7, 7 p.m. (doors open), Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg. $16. —WT

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