Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter / Sparklehorse: The Clubhouse, Tempe, AZ 2/6/2007

 SPerforming on the release date of her third album – Like,Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul – this wasn’t an ordinary Tuesday for Seattle based singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes.  Sykes and her stellar band- The Sweet Hereafter – has been making “spooky Americana” that critics have relished for a few years now, yet she still remains a few magazine covers away from obtaining lofty Cat Power/Neko Case status. With her whiskey soaked vocals and natural good looks (think Jennifer Connelly gone gypsy), 2007 almost promises to be a coming out year for Sykes. 

Playing a brief 45-minute open set at the Clubhouse, Sykes’ smoky vocals caused even the bartenders at the Clubhouse to drop the shakers and stare. Playing a round of alt-country hymns, Sykes made her new numbers (“Station Gray”), shine next to the old ( “The Dreaming Dead"). Guitarist Phil Wandsche, once of Whiskeytown, laid down the growling leads that let Sykes cast a musical spell upon the all-ages crowd.

The evening’s headliners Sparklehorse, also has a celebrated new album (Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain) that found its way onto most critics 2006 best of lists.  Although Sparklehorse is essentially a one man folk/pop band led by Mark Linkous, its live offering essentially captures his moody compositions as a four piece.  Linkous, who counts Radiohead and Tom Waits as ardent fans of his work, is more infamously known to the public for his recent bouts with depression and substance abuse.

Dreamt for Light Years, which featured contributions from Danger Mouse, Steven Drozd and Christian Fennesz, maintains Linkous’ as a surreal lyricist and composer, contradicting his pain with a creative offering of sunshiney images, highlighted in the riveting single, “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.” Hitting the stage clean-shaven, dangling a cigarette and devoid of his black framed specs, Linkous’ raspy drawl touched light on the re-birth themes of his song titles – “Mountains” and “See the Light.”  Like Sykes, the show was a little short for standard club fare, however it was a Tuesday night, and nobodys going to complain about this doubleheader in the desert.

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