POP / Joseph Gallivan on pop

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The second greatest thing about Vic Chesnutt (right), singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia, is that he's never going to be an international superstar. It's not that he doesn't have the talent. The problem is, he's in a wheelchair, and aside from people not generally liking the disabled, getting on and off planes and stages is always going to be too much hassle. He's always going to be the sound of Athens, Georgia.

First there came Drunk, released here this year, and now there is West of Rome (Texas Hotel/Pinnacle), another clutch of startling, absorbing vignettes which move effortlessly from the particular to the general. With Chesnutt (note the oddly placed Ts) on acoustic guitar, his wife Tina on bass, some slide guitar, and two nieces on violin and cello, the music is a sparse, redneck folk, inverted and employed in the service of canny lyrics and a liberal sensibility. The slow pace of his songs, one after another, can be either depressing or hypnotic, depending on what you are after. (Tom Waits fans queue here.) But he does break it up with the odd swinger - such as 'Steve Willoughby', which contains the immortal line: 'Someday I'm gonna be virtuous / Someday I'll be a paragon / Like Louis Farrakahan . . .'

As part of the excellent American South Festival at the South Bank this month, he will be in London and playing 'in a circle' with other southerners Guy Clark (C&W), Joe South (pop/country) and Allen Toussaint (from New Orleans; wrote 'Working in a Coal Mine') on Monday 25 Jul.

Vic Chesnutt plays the Queen Elizabeth Hall (071-928 8800) 7.45pm 25 Jul, pounds 8-12; thereafter he tours, returning to London Borderline (071-734 2095) 4 Aug, Islington Garage (071-607 1818) 5 Aug