Soundbites: Bill Sims Jr., Rusty Belle
Can you feel it? All that commercialized love just a-blowin’ in the wind? Must be close to Valentine’s Day. A quick check of the calendar reveals that yes, in fact, everyone’s least favorite Hallmark holiday is right around the corner and Cupid is likely loading up his quiver with Viagra-tipped arrows as we speak. Chubby little bastard.
The most obnoxiously proactive among you probably already have plans. Flowers have been ordered, reservations made and amorous accommodations secured. Some may have even purchased jewelry for the occasion. To which we say: Thanks for making the rest of us look bad, hotshot.
If V-Day caught you napping, there are still a few options that may allow you to save face with that special someone.
Not a city on Earth oozes romance like Winooski, right? And nothing says “I love you” like the gift of harmonicore. Thus, this Thursday’s lineup at The Monkey House  is my lead-pipe lock to impress your best guy or gal and guarantee some sweet Valentine’s Day action . . . musically speaking, of course.
The evening gets underway with Space Tiger, who apparently exist only within the confines of The Monkey House, as virtually no info about the band is available anywhere. But hey, mystery is pretty sexy.
Following the cosmic felines is Americana sweetheart Jenny Montana , whose quirky indie-folk ballads were simply made for swaying with your true love — or whomever you happen to be spending Valentine’s Day with. I’m not here to judge.
Anna Pardenik  follows with bittersweet, jazz-inflected singer-songwriter fare sure to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy. Or really depressed, depending.
The evening kicks into high gear with Burlington’s expectant art-rock royalty Swale  taking the stage. If you thought keyboardist Amanda Gustafson was badass before, you should see her with a baby on board. In a word: stunning.
Closing out the evening are the Queen City’s reigning clown princes of inquisitive stutter-core Cccome?  And frankly, they rock about as hard as a band featuring mandolin and harmonica ever have. And that’s pretty hard.
The Monkey ain’t the only game in town this Valentine’s season. And by the way, when the hell did Valentine’s become a season? One day really isn’t enough? Screw you, Hallmark.
Anyway, few genres can match the blues for expressions of pure, visceral heartache. And few living artists are as steeped in the traditions of the genre as Georgia-born blues man Bill Sims, Jr .
Sims has dedicated his life to preserving the spirit and roots of American acoustic blues. An acclaimed guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, he’s shared the stage with the likes of Gladys Knight and Earth, Wind and Fire. His work has appeared in PBS documentaries, numerous commercials and, most recently, on the soundtrack to Denzel Washington’s epic crime saga, American Gangster.
This week, in celebration of Black History Month, Sims teams up with Vermont blues-harp ace Mark Lavoie , with whom he’s been recording and performing for more than 13 years. Lavoie is a locally renowned master of the diatonic harmonica, and most recently joined Sims on his self-titled debut album, released on Warner Brothers.
Catch Sims and Lavoie Wednesday, February 13, at the Bristol Baptist Church; this Friday at UVM’s Davis Center, and again this Saturday at the Bristol Bakery. For more info on each show, or on Sims and Lavoie, check out http://www.billsimsjr.com .
One last Valentine’s bit and then I’ll stop, I swear.
Hector “El Salsero” Cobeo  is one of the hardest-working DJs around and can be heard spinning sizzling salsa and merengue around Vermont almost any night of the week. Seriously, the hombre is everywhere. He must mambo in his sleep.
It is a widely accepted fact that precious few things in life are more sensuous than a Latin groove. Mistress Maeve  told me it’s true, and I believe her. You should, too.
So if you drop the ball on Thursday and need to score bonus points with a jilted lover, this Friday might be the perfect opportunity, as Cobeo presents the 13th Annual Valentine’s Latin Dance Party at Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge. Two left feet? No problem. Free dance lessons are offered starting at 8 p.m.
AIN’T NO SUNSHINE WHEN SHE’S GONE
Tenacious D’s Jack Black once sang, “The road is fuckin’ hard. The road is fuckin’ tough. The road is a B-I-itch, my friends. It is rough, rough stuff.” So true, Jack. So true.
Jam-pop fans will no doubt be saddened to learn that local sun-kissed trio Lucy Vincent  has decided to call it quits. Citing the burnout that inevitably comes with two straight years of intense touring, the group has split up — amicably, I’m happy to report — and will move on to new pursuits.
Lead singer Kelly Ravin  plans to continue performing solo and with other folks in and around Burlington.
Bassist Jordan Lee-Berger  is moving back to the tropical paradise of St. John and plans to remain in the music business — emphasis on “business.” He’ll be returning to school to get his MBA.
Drummer Matt Rosenthal  plans to stay in Vermont and continue his musical adventures.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee-Berger shortly before the band embarked on a Caribbean tour near the end of last year. At the time it sounded like LV had big plans for 2008, and now . . . I hope it wasn’t something I said.
Happy trails, boys.
A LITTLE RUSTY
This week, I’ll leave you with a bit about one of the more interesting bands to come into my periphery in a while, Amherst’s Rusty Belle . They’re a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, a little bit old-timey and a whole lotta weird. But in a good way. This quartet mashes genres as if they were tasty little sonic potatoes.
Drawing on a bizarrely wide range of styles and instrumentation — including dented trashcan lids and broken glass — the band manages to corral seemingly disparate influences into something altogether satisfying. But you’ll be unlikely to know exactly why that is. I’ve been digging RB’s MySpace tunes for a solid week and I still can’t put my finger on it. Maybe their upcoming shows this Friday at Langdon Street Café  and Saturday at The Monkey House will shed some light on the matter? I kind of doubt it, but it’s worth a shot.