The willfully weird Eugene Chadbourne stops by Rudyard's this evening with Walter Daniels, harmonicist (as far as I can tell that is, in fact, a word) for 1980s Austin punk bands the Hickoids and Jack O'Fire, in tow. Chadbourne's music is a mishmash of folk, blues, bluegrass, country, jazz and punk rock; his songs, performed on banjo, electric steel guitar and electric rake (his own invention), are shot through with loose, reeling scales and slides.
If Jimmy Page had been born a smart-assed, ham-handed hillbilly, he would play much like this.
Chadbourne started his Tuesday show in Austin (which featured Texas Tornados drummer Ernie Durawa) with a low-key political lament, shuffling names and phrases in some feverish mantra: McCain, Palin, Biden, Obama, Putin, Stalin. "5 bucks to slaughter. Willow pregnant cocaine. Bill Ayers changed my daughter's diapers."
It was a hypnotic and unsettling kind of stream-of-consciousness protest music that continued with the grisly "Checkers of Blood" and the blues fantasia "Rebuild New Orleans in Iraq." Chadbourne paused amid this brooding strangeness to announce "a song from 1975, written to annoy my neighbors at the time." The instrumental tune suggested the Super Mario Bros. theme, reconstructed from torn-up sheet music, played on a detuned guitar and punctuated by duck calls.
Chadbourne's roots are in free jazz, and some of the set tonight will likely veer toward improv; he definitely comes from the "play what you feel like" school, which lends his jams an air of freewheeling fun. It can lead to formless noodling, but Chadbourne has been doing this long enough (since the mid-'70s) to know when to rein it in and move on to, for example, a chorus of "Salt Peanuts." Expect to settle in, and let your mind wander when necessary. - Daniel Mee
9 p.m. tonight at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh, 713-521-0521