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Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003 02:20 pm

Swing that thing to Nick Curran’s get-happy blues

Nick Curran & the Nitelifes Underground City Tavern. Thursday, Dec. 18.

If the roots of the blues grew out of the pain and suffering associated with the African-American experience, the branch called rhythm and blues hides the anguish under the most joyous and swingin' music found in the American songbook. It's in this time of hepcats and swingers, honkers and shouters, juke joints and roadhouses, popularized in the '40s and '50s by T-Bone Walker and Roy Brown, that blues singer and guitarist Nick Curran has planted himself.

After releasing two critically acclaimed CDs on the small Austin-based Texas Jamboree Records, Curran moved to the legendary Blind Pig Record label for his national debut, Doctor Velvet. Two of the 13 tracks on the disk feature a guest appearance by Jimmie Vaughan, big brother of the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan, founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and a huge Nick Curran fan. After sitting in with Vaughan at Antone's in Austin, Curran received high accolades from the Grammy-winning guitarist: "He's just a total ass kicker," Jimmie quipped.

Curran's peers, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Johnny Lang, get considerably more attention in the young man blues guitarist world than the 24-year-old transplanted Texan, but it's more because of the modern blues fan's taste in styles than a measure of talent. Curran's guitar playing and soulful vocals are the equal of any artist out there recreating mid-century rhythm and blues. Sometimes music can be over-intellectualized, but Curran and his band, the Nitelifes, aren't shootin' for your head anyway -- their target is lower. "Jukebox mama let me play you all night long, I gotta pocketful of dimes and I won't repeat a song," croons Curran in Jukebox Mama, a down-and-dirty number from the new CD.

Go ahead, jump right up and sweep that broken glass off the dance floor and let's see you swing that thing. There's no pain and suffering here, at least not when Nick Curran and the Nitelifes are on stage.

Miller Lite Live and the Sangamon Valley Roots Revival present Blind Pig Recording artist Nick Curran and the Nitelifes at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, at the Underground City Tavern, Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St. 789-1530. Tickets are $7 and are available at Recycled Records (522-5122) or at the door.

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