I don't usually plug concerts in this column, but Beth Hart and Marie Wilson will be playing Chicago's Hard Rock Cafe today. Hart and Wilson put out two of the best rootsy rock albums so far this year (Hart's disc is currently the Pop Stops web site album of the month, and both of their CDs will no doubt place high in this year's Pop Stops "Best of 1999" list).

It's an excellent opportunity to see two great new artists at a low price for a good cause. The show is part of the Hard Rock Live Presented by American Express tour, which is donating all net proceeds to the VH1 Save The Music campaign (a charitable foundation dedicated to rebuilding music programs in public schools.) Tickets are available at the Hard Rock, or through Ticketmaster.

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You can fit his hits ("Taxi," "W*O*L*D," "Cat's In The Cradle," and "Sequel") on an EP, and he's been dead now for 18 years. But Elektra and Rhino have teamed up to release Story of a Life, a three-CD set covering the career of Harry Chapin. It's an impressive collection with 47 songs and a thick booklet with essays by family and friends on Chapin's life and career. Chapin fans shouldn't miss it.

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  To promote next month's release of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me on home video, this week Maverick Records released More Music From Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. You might think this is simply a cash-in ploy on the part of the record company, but actually, there are several original songs included on the disc that appeared in the film which were inexplicably omitted from the summer's original soundtrack disc release. Lords of Acid's psychedelic mix of "Am I Sexy?" (played during the "modeling" sequence in the film) perfectly encapsulates the mood and period of Austin Powers and it's darn catchy, too. It should have led off the original disc, but instead it opens this one.

There's also a new funky bass-driven rock song from Bangles called "Get the Girl," and a psychedelic organ, bass and swingin' horns dance mix by Propellerheads in "Crash!" The disc also includes a handful of period music that was used in the film The Monkees' "I'm A Believer," Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," The Guess Who's "American Woman," The Zombie's "Time of the Season" and Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." There's also a remix of Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger," and They Might Be Giants' James Bond-esque theme for "Dr. Evil."

 

Lakuna - Castle of Crime Lakuna
Castle of Crime
(4AD)


Looking for something a little spooky for the hi-fi this weekend? Something fresh and new not old '80s goth from Siouxsie and the Banshees or maniacally ghoulish '90s grave rock from Rob Zombie? Then try out Castle of Crime from Lakuna, the new project of ex-Throwing Muses drummer David Narcizo, and new musical partner Frank Gardner. A rhythm-based CD that involves no lyrics (though an occasional vocal sample), the album runs the gamut from a brilliant opening piece with unintelligible Deep Forest style vocal samples, a carnie organ and jungle bass drums ("Lemongrass"), to eerie Cocteau Twins-influenced haunted house stuff ("Vega"), to ominous Eastern-influenced rock songs looking for a singer ("The Veil").

For adventurous instrumental music that's not sleep-inducing New Age, find a place for this disc.

 

Lakuna - Castle of Crime Cowboy Junkies
Rarities, B-Sides and Slow Sad Waltzes
(Latent)
½


It's not really spooky, but it is mostly slow ... Cowboy Junkies have released a collection called Rarities, B-Sides and Slow Sad Waltzes this month on their own Latent label. The 11-song disc (10 listed, plus a bonus track) collects demos and rarities that have been previously unavailable, or are hard to find, and kicks off with its most upbeat tune, a bluesy rocker called "I Saw Your Shoes." It also includes another classic '60s-ish rock number in the barrelhouse piano and harmonica-augmented cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now." There's also a laid back cover of the Grateful Dead's "To Lay Me Down," which originally appeared on the 1991 Deadicated tribute CD, which featured a variety of artists covering the Dead. Like this track, most of Rarities, B-Sides and Slow Sad Waltzes lets Margo Timmins croon on a batch of lazy, cry-in-your-beer songs that leave the listener wanting more.

While perhaps not as layered and produced as some of their most recent studio albums, it's no throwaway set either. Margo Timmins' always sleek and sultry vocals perfectly counterpoint brother Michael Timmins' low twang guitar, Jeff Bird's trilling mandolin and the soft touch rhythm section of Peter Timmins and Alan Anton.

The disc ends with an uncredited 11th track that gives a look at the band's fun side it's a recording of Margo singing a capella on the traditional hymn, "The Water Is Wide," during a soundcheck (the full band version appears on the CD, as well). Near the end of the song, when it seems as if she is about to stop singing, the male crew picks up the lead and she sings along with them to finish the song in a call-response mode you can hear the laughter in her voice as she joins them and at the end, you can just see her curtsying as she says "thank you, boys!"