Purveyors of rockabilly performance art swimming in rye whiskey, the members of Southern Culture on the Skids
(pictured) live on the edge, downing corn liquor and emptying bottles of hair spray daily. Proficient at channeling the Patsy Cline-like pinings of the average doublewide-dwelling homemaker, SCOTS leaps beyond caricature and kitsch, finding the real charm that's hidden behind the paisley Naugahyde dining room set and that beat-up Ford on cinder blocks in the front yard. With a fanatically loyal following to satisfy, the North Carolina-based quartet doesn't sit still for long, as revealed by its relentless tour schedule and the musical ground it covers on its albums. On its most recent release, 2000's Liquored Up and Lacquered Down
, SCOTS veers from Tex-Mex sounds to country rock backbeats, hanging a velvet Elvis on the wall of a living room smothered in green-and-brown shag carpet and making it work.
The Demolition String Band, opening for SCOTS on both nights of its Grand Emporium run, found the alt in its unique brand of alt-country on the sidewalks and back alleys of New York City. Singer/songwriter Elena Skye's sultry voice strikes a precarious balance between the moody musings of Cowboy Junkie Margo Timmins and the comforting optimism of Emmylou Harris, and guitarist Boo Reiners' flatpicking adds a layer of gritty attitude to a sound that already drips with backwoods authenticity. Pulling up Atlantis, the group's sophomore release, comes complete with a countrified cover of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and leaves listeners wondering how these city slickers learned to honky-tonk so well.