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Spotlighted gigs and recommended shows
Laura Reed & Deep Pocket

Laura Reed & Deep Pocket ***

In musicians’ parlance, playing “deep in the pocket” intimates that a rhythm player such as a bassist or percussionist is so intensely into the groove of whatever type of tune they’re performing —especially funk or rock— that they’re locked onto the pulse of the song and riding it for all it’s worth. When more than one musician feels that pulse and can fall in step with the others, a magical sort of interaction occurs that is the foundation of R & B, and —for that matter— dance music of most any type.

This Asheville-based neo-soul combo has groove to spare, as well they should if they have the nerve to claim that moniker. Led by the stone to the bone vocals of Reed —who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but moved to rural N.C. in the early ‘90s— their latest album offers up a decidedly reverent, yet intoxicatingly contemporary take on vintage Southern R & B of the kind developed and typified by the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Carr, Howard Tate and Bettye LaVette.

Reed and her trio (which features bass, drums and a vintage 1936 Hammond organ, but surprisingly no electric guitar) admit a fondness for those kinds of records, but are just as apt to cite Bob Marley, Erykah Badu and Fiona Apple as key influences on their own sound. Make no mistake, this band is about songs, but its members have spent enough time in jam-oriented bands to stretch out and improvise on point when they feel like it. They’re eying a tour of Japan, as well as Europe, Australia and South Africa in the near future. If the group’s studio recordings are any indication of the power and subtlety of their live shows, this may prove one of the most exciting local debuts of the year. Listen & Learn: Thurs., 9 pm, Live Wire Music Hall.

Blue Mountain ***

When this pioneering group called it quits in 2003 after a handful of releases and countless live dates that cemented their reputation as one of the finest groups to emerge from the early ‘90s No Depression scene, it was their fans turn to be blue. However, since unexpectedly reuniting in the middle of last year and throwing themselves back into regular touring, they’ve been racking up positive reviews. Better yet, they’re not only reconnecting with their old supporters, they seem to be slowly winning over new converts — most of whom are probably drug to the shows by longtime enthusiasts.

This local club gig is several months in the making, as an old friend of the group has been lobbying to bring them through town on a couple of swings through the Southeast. After a few misfires and at least one last-minute cancellation, they’ll finally take the stage at our best-known indie-rock, metal and venue.

The formerly married duo of Cary Hudson (guitarist) and Laurie Stirratt (bassist and, coincidentally, twin sister of Wilco bassist John Stirratt) are joined by longtime drummer Frank Coutch. This lineup will also appear on the group’s reunion CD of new material and a separate retrospective CD featuring newly recorded versions of their older fan favorites, both set for release this summer. General consensus is the band sounds every bit as powerful and resilient as in their heyday, so now’s your chance to see what all the fuss was/is about. Listen & Learn: Fri., The Jinx.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit ***

This marks the former Drive-By Trucker’s second appearance at this casual restaurant and bar with his current road band of young, Muscle Shoals, Al. ringers. The first show as an unmitigated success which found him burning through new tracks from his recent solo debut, as well as rearranged versions of tunes of his made famous by the Athens’ Truckers. Anyone interested in the future of straight-up, gut-wrenchingly cathartic country and soul-infused Americana should take in this gig. But get their early for the best view of the stage, as it’s hard to see from the back of the room. Presented by L.A.-based Wagatail Productions. Exact cover charge unknown at press time, but expect around $10 - $15. Listen & Learn: Sat., 11 pm, Locos (downtown).