As eccentric, inspired, and riveting as the most provocative outsider visual artists, Vic Chesnutt writes songs that cut to the quick while twisting things beyond their normal frames of reference, inverting perspectives, perceptions, expectations. He's also unflinchingly self-aware, which may come from having an unusually agile mind inside a body ravaged by a car accident at age 18 and dependent on a wheelchair. "I am a monster like Quasimoto," he quietly sings in his characteristically creaky voice on "It Is What It Is" from his latest, At the Cut. He goes on to dissect his own character, showing the dichotomous nature of human nature ("irritable as a hornet...agreeable as it gets") while making sharp, universal points ("appearance is everything so nothing is how it seems"). Elsewhere he flirts with death as he would a lover, contemplates the nature of courage, and finds an astonishingly unsentimental tenderness in memory on "Granny." Using many of the same musicians who were on 2007's North Star Deserter (members of Fugazi, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra, Godspeed You! Black Emperor—who will also be along on tour), Chesnutt fashions a sound you could call post-Southern gothic, with stark, almost primitive folk-like passages, at times elegantly haunted by violin and cello, but also sometimes exploding into blistering, raw, even epic rock. With Liz Durrett.
Thu., Nov. 19, 7 p.m., 2009