Critic's Choice

Carla Bozulich

Carla Bozulich has always been a country girl at heart. You just had to look -- or listen -- through the fuzz and distortion to notice. As the leader of the Los Angeles artcore combo the Geraldine Fibbers, Bozulich colored many of her own compositions with country underpinnings, adding pedal steel or fiddle to the band's guitar washes, searing violins and hazy poetics. She also tipped her hat to country songwriters: The Fibbers' final release, 1997's retrospective What Part of "Get Thee Gone" Don't You Understand?, included covers of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy" (albeit in a rendition that Reba McEntire fans aren't likely to recognize) and a heart-wrenching read of George Jones's already devastating ode to abandonment, "The Grand Tour." So it was a surprise, but not a shock, when Bozulich and Fibbers guitarist Nels Cline decided to record their own version of The Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson's epic concept album released in 1975. A period piece set in a Wild West wonderland of outlaws, yellow-haired ladies, saloon brawls, stolen horses and lost loves, The Red Headed Stranger is commonly regarded as Nelson's masterpiece -- a distinction that didn't seem to intimidate Bozulich. Her renditions range from faithful and conservative to exotic and boldly interpretive, using everything from Middle Eastern rhythms to vocals that sound weighted down with water. The original red-headed stranger makes an appearance as well: After hearing some of Bozulich's material, Nelson invited her to his Texas studio-ranch and laid down guitar and vocals for three tracks. Unfortunately, Nelson won't be part of the show when Bozulich performs at Monkey Mania on Tuesday, November 4. It's the time of the preacher, so don't be late.

 
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