Mic Harrison and the High Score, Wess Floyd and the Daisycutters
10 p.m. April 15 at Lynagh's Irish Pub and Grill, 384 Woodland Ave. $4. (859) 255-1292.
In the late '90s, you could find Mic Harrison onstage at Lynagh's Music Club every few months or so. As co-guitarist and sometime vocalist for the Knoxville band The V-Roys, he would don a suit and tie and help serve up a mix of frat rock, neo-Americana soul, power pop and more, all energized with the sort of performance drive that made the band a favorite among Lynagh's audiences from 1996 to the band's breakup in 1999.
Harrison returns with a different band to play a different Lynagh's this weekend. His outfit this time is an electric quartet called the High Score that slams together solid guitar hook-heavy rock tunes with a wily and convincing honky-tonk attitude.
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The Lynagh's venue he will play will be the famed pub on Woodland Avenue that sits two doors down from where its onetime music club operated until it closed in 2002. Harrison and the High Score perform Saturday on a bill with Nashville rock and folk-rock stylists Wess Floyd and the Daisycutters.
"It still blows my mind that it's been 10 years since the V-Roys broke up," Harrison said by phone last week from Knoxville. "It seems like forever in some ways. But on the other hand, it doesn't feel like it was that long ago. I don't know how it's happened that I haven't played Lexington for so long, though. We just kind of dropped through the cracks somehow."
During its run as a band, The V-Roys released two studio albums and a concert recording (the latter arrived after the band's demise) on Steve Earle's label E-Squared. After a 1999 solo album called Don't Bail, Harrison turned to an indie-pop brigade called The Faults. It included two former V-Roy mates — bassist Paxton Sellers and drummer Jeff Bills — and future High Score guitarist Robbie Trosper.
"With The Faults, we were going right in the opposite direction of any Americana music we could possibly find," Harrison said. "I don't know why that was except for the fact that the V-Roys had just broken up. The Faults lasted maybe a year."
From there, Harrison journeyed further down the power pop route with the big beats and radio-friendly guitar riffs of Knoxville's Superdrag. Considering himself essentially "a hired gun" in a band that was briefly signed to Elektra Records in the late '90s, Harrison stayed with Superdrag for three years, until it dissolved in 2003. (The band's original lineup has since re-formed.)
"OK, so I had my pop phase for a few years there," Harrison said. "Now I'm back to what I think I probably do the best."
That specialty turns out to be the electric honky-tonk sounds favored by the High Score, which includes bassist Vance Hillard and drummer Brad Henderson.
"As soon as I bring a song in to this bunch of guys I'm with now, the music just goes into straight honky-tonk," Harrison said.
On the 2008 High Score album On the Right Side of the Grass, such country inspiration gives life to the rockish twang of Satan Lives in Arkansas, a tune that sounds like a cross between The Band and Drivin N Cryin. But older High Score tunes, such as Mandie McManus — on which you can hear touches of the early-'70s Grateful Dead, mid-'70s Lynyrd Skynyrd and a dash of J.J. Cale — fully flesh out Harrison's contemporary honky-tonk designs.
Then come the cover tunes that High Score digs into onstage that explore forgotten recesses of country music from the '70s (Hoyt Axton's Never Been to Spain) and '80s (Mel McDaniel's' Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On).
So let's review. Harrison's career took him from Americana-inclined rock to power pop to variations of honky-tonk. Are such influences indicative of the Knoxville music scene of which he has so long been part?
"Like any other city, I suppose, things kind of ebb and flow here," Harrison said. "Right now, I'd say, things are floating pretty good because a whole lot of different kinds of bands are playing everything from really hard metal to bluegrass. We go watch a lot of these bands, too. Plus, Knoxville is just in a good location in the United States. So we've had a lot of great music come through here."
"To be honest, I kind of lucked out getting in the V-Roys. They were playing the kind of music that I really like doing. And I learned a lot of stuff through those guys. Then when I went off into the power-pop arena, a lot of stuff opened there for me, too.
"But what I'm doing now, man, ... this is what I was meant to do.
■ 3 p.m. Aug. 16. CD Central, 377 S. Limestone. Free. (859) 233-3472. www.cdcentralmusic.com
■ 6:45 p.m., as part of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $10, $5 students with ID. (859) 252-8888. www.woodsongs.com.
Sounding a bit like Patsy Cline on a bender, the Tennessee trio Those Darlins sing with a rough-cut country spirit but set their tunes within a fun indie-pop mind-set. Take The Whole Damn Thing, from the group's fine self-titled debut album, which celebrates the joys of finding a chicken dinner in the kitchen after a bout of boozing.
The harmonies mesh naturally, the rhythm has Sun Records stamped all over it, and as for the attitude ... hey, we're talking liquor and poultry here, the steady diet of many a traveling country scribe. Similarly, the sweaty harmonies Those Darlins summon over a steady summer twang and shuffle on Snaggle Tooth Mama make life in a tin-roof Tennessee shanty sound spry indeed.
The trio of guitarist Jessi Darlin, baritone ukulele ace Nikki Darlin and bassist Kelley Darlin is heading our way for two shows.
First up will be a free 3 p.m. in-store performance at CD Central on Sunday. On Monday, the Darlins head to The Kentucky Theatre for a taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.
Also on hand for the WoodSongs taping will be guitarist, songsmith and musical journeyman Ray Bonneville. Born in Canada, artistically reared in Boston and now a part-time Texan, Bonneville makes roots-inspired music that sounds as if it was conjured in the swampy recesses of southern Louisiana.
Check out the humid blues flavor in tunes from Bonneville's recent album Goin' by Feel — especially Crow John, the Mark Knopfler-esque Cemetery Road and Run Jolee Run — for proof.