When: Fri., April 9, 8 p.m. 2010
This bill's juxtaposition is a compelling one: Phosphorescent is the astral Americana project of Matthew Houck, a wooly Georgia boy living in Brooklyn. He's devoted an entire album to Willie Nelson covers (2009's To Willie) and songs to the metaphorical and actual beasts that threaten to rip life's fabric (2007's "Wolves" and 2005's "Joe Tex, These Taming Blues"), uniting it all with high, twisting harmonies and instrumentation that guilds country music with billowing textures. Houck's music seems determined to push the boundaries of what can be conveyed with a song—and what it can be conveyed with.
The Englishman David Gray, though, sports at most a thick stubble, which seems an appropriate enough description of his songs, too. He's moved gradually from the strident, simple acoustic spats he made in the mid-'90s (see 1996's excellent Sell, Sell, Sell) to graceful ballads shaped by a balance of electronics and acoustic guitars on 2005's Life in Slow Motion and 2009's Draw the Line. The catalyst for that transition seems to have been White Ladder, the smart, confident album that introduced him to millions of Americans in 2000, two years after its British release. If you only remember "Babylon," Gray's popular introduction is worth hearing again.
The hirsute and the suit—either way, an excellent show. —Grayson Currin