THURSDAY

Somewhere out in the badlands of alt-country, past the boarded-up saloons of Whiskeytown and the gold-rush precincts of Wilco, lies Star City, the No Depression crowd’s latest boomtown. Its mayor goes by the name Jason Lewis (pictured), a man with a voice that’s just crawled out of a whiskey bottle, with a knack for writing tunes that walk that narrow-gauge railway tie between rootsy and pop, and with the brashness of a small-town West Virginia boy who knows he’s going places his coal-miner ancestors never dreamed of. Star City’s 2001 release, Inside the Other Days, is a mite slick for my taste—a reflection, perhaps, of this five-piece band’s New York City address—but it contains some real humdingers, including the darkly romantic “These Little Pills,” the ready-to-roll retro-Stonesish “Rabbit Scared,” and the soaring and beautiful “You and Me.” Lewis isn’t as strong a lyricist as he is a songwriter; “West Virginia Hills” is no “Hickory Wind,” and “Icarus Turn” burns itself on a whole bunch of bad lyrical cliches. But Lewis—who’s touring without his band this time out—occasionally comes through with a doozy such as “Terra Alta,” in which he skewers the father who abandoned him on a lyrical spit that’d make Jerry Jeff Walker proud. Lewis strums into town at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St. NW. $7. (202) 588-9118. (Michael Little)