Downtown Music

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May 24, 2004 // UPDATED 1:39 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Holly Day
Holly Day

Cutting it close

The Saw Doctors first came together in the small town of Tuam, Ireland, when lead singer Leo Moran finally realized that his dream of being an Irish reggae star just wasn't going to happen. He broke the news to his band-mates in the short-lived Too Much for the White Man and set off on his own.

Later, along with drinking buddy Davy Carton, Moran scribbled down a set of roots-rock tunes, and the first songs of The Saw Doctors came to be. (Incidentally, they're named after traveling Irish saw-sharpeners, not American Civil War doctors, as I'd originally thought.)

Forget the usual swaggering rock clich/s about life on the road, drug problems and easy sex. Continuing the tradition of all-time greats like Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, The Saw Doctors sing about bringing in the harvest, running away to join the army, the plight of Ireland's unwed mothers and the effect of an oppressive religious climate on a nation's youth.

Over their 15 years on the road, the band's line-up has changed, but the chewy core of the band has remained Davy Carton (vocals/guitar), Leo Moran (guitar/vocals), Pearse Doherty (bass/vocals/flute/ tin whistle) and John Donnelly (drums). And word is that time has not taken a toll on the bunch, who remain as raucous as ever.

Despite their numerous successes (some of their singles have outsold those of U2 and Sinead O'Connor in their native country), the pub-band-turned-Irish-supergroup has managed to stay true to its audience and their sound, remaining at heart a true people's band.

Monday, May 24, 7 p.m., First Avenue, 701 1st Ave. N., $10 advance, $15 at the door. 332-1775.

Let it whip

You probably think you've never heard of The Dazz Band, but thanks to thousands of television commercials since the band's actual existence in the '80s, a good chunk of their repertoire is likely deeply embedded in your subconscious.

Coining the word "Dazz" as a contraction of "danceable jazz," the Dazz Band distinguished itself by having a less melodic funk sound than their contemporaries, focusing instead on the beat of the music and how that beat affected dance crowds.

The Dazz Band got a Top 10 hit with "Let It Whip" in 1982, which also earned them a Grammy. More hits followed, including: "On the One for Fun," "Cheek to Cheek," "Swoop," "Party Right Here" and "Joystick."

Sunday, May 30, 8 p.m., Escape Ultra-Lounge, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. $15. 333-8855.

Diamond in the rough

One quiet night with a normally very, very, very noisy baby, I got to hear an excruciatingly beautiful acoustic rendition of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" wrapping up an episode of some TV show.

The credits rolled and I learned that a guy named Gary Jules was responsible for the cover. Not long after, I'd managed to dig up a copy of his independently released "Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets."

I was absolutely hooked.

Jules' quietly understated music is so perfectly balanced between solid song structure and poignant lyricism that the songs haunt you long after you've turned off the stereo.

Listening to him in the safety of your living room is an intense enough experience; I can't imagine what it'll be like to see him play live.

Wednesday, May 26, 8 p.m. Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 1st Ave. N. $10. 335-8181.

Holly Day can be reached at