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Even cowgirls get the blues. Since the official beginning of the summer concert series at Les Schwab Amphitheater in May, nine male-lead bands have taken the stage in straight succession. It's a similar story with the Athletic Club of Bend, which has featured two male acts, and Midtown Music Hall has featured a slew of testosterone-fronted acts from E-40 to the Gourds, Tiger Army and The Melvins. This weekend, two female music power acts will take the stage in Bend, within days of each other, separated by less than a mile.
Sheryl Crow plays at Les Schwab on August 28 (with emerging folk pop star Brandi Carlile) while Lucinda Williams lights up the stage four days later at the Athletic Club. Bend's recent Lilith Fair-esque turn has brought two of this generation's most influential women in music to Central Oregon and we say bring on the estrogen!
First up, Sheryl Crow, whose 10th album release, February's Detours, peaked at number two on the Billboard charts, has nine Grammy awards, a slew of number one hits ... and oh yeah, she's also beat stage-one breast cancer. Hardcore? Yes, quite so. Detours, Crow's first release since her battle with cancer, adoption of a child and breakup of her very public relationship with cyclist Lance Armstrong, reflects on everything from the war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina along with plenty of songs about endings, beginnings and what happens in between.
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The now 46-year-old Crow (can you believe that?) has mellowed with the years, each album seemingly less and less like the album that made us all fall in love with her in 1994 (to put it another way, Crow is no longer banned from Wal-Mart shelves) but her poetic songwriting style remains the same. Crow's new album is - thank God - less reminiscent of her 2002's sugar pop album C'mon, C'mon (with the exception of "Love is Free" and "Out of Our Heads") and more comparable to albums like The Globe Sessions and Wildflower. "Gasoline" may be the closest you'll get on this album to the original Crow of the '90s, but if you like Crow's recent mature sounds, Detours is worth your cash.
Even if Lucinda William's mainstream breakthrough didn't happen until 1998 with her release of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams released her first album two decades earlier (Rambin') in 1979. Williams' debut showcased a definite blues-tinged rock artist, while her sophomore release, 1980's Happy Woman Blues, leans more toward blues and country. By the time Car Wheels hit in 1998, Williams' voice seemed to have softened and she had slipped solidly into the country genre. Williams' latest release, West still contains a hint of country twang, but is full of the bad-ass, hard-driving Williams sound that we've come to expect from the powerhouse over the years.
Though some love to keep her as their personal cult favorite, Williams has nonetheless enjoyed commercial success with the inclusion of her cuts on Showtime's The L Word and Fox's House. She's also been a critic's darling for years, and proves why with her latest album. "Fancy at a Funeral" and "Mama You Sweet" combine sparse background guitar plucking with dark vocals. Williams' lyrics are often anything but cheerful and the bluesy rock sound that accompanies her poetry is earnest in its rough-and-tumble edge - in other words, she can hang with any of those dudes crowding our summer schedule.
While Bend's male-dominated concert scene takes a hit this week, the hiatus is short lived. Stone Temple Pilots are around the corner at Les Schwab, John Butler Trio and G. Love at the Athletic Club and acts like David Allen Coe, Henry Rollins and Slightly Stoopid on the horizon at Midtown, get in these ladies while you can. After Williams' set wraps up, there's nothing in sight but a long line of Y-chromosomers.
Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile
6:30pm Thursday, August 28.
Les Schwab Amphitheater. 344 Shevlin Hixon Dr.
$45/GA, $85/reserved. Tickets at Ticket Mill or ticketmaster.com.
6:30pm Tuesday, September 2.
Athletic Club of Bend. 61615 Athletic Club Dr.
$32/GA, $40/reserved, $62/dinner ticket.