Band: The Royal Court of China.
Personnel: Joe Blanton, vocals, guitar; Oscar Rice, guitar; Robert Logue, bass, mandolin; Chris Mekow, drums.
History: Logue and Rice became best friends while high school students in the Nashville area, sharing diverse musical tastes that range from Tibetan ritual music to English and American folk to such new rock as the Gun Club. In 1985 the two began playing with Wisconsin native Mekow, who soon brought them together with Blanton, then a fine-arts major at the University of Tennessee. Taking a name that would separate it from Nashville's country image, the quartet soon became a regular in the city's active but often overlooked rock scene. Within two months after forming, the band recorded an EP, "Off the Beat'n Path." The record gained some alternative radio play around the U.S. and drew the attention of A&M; executive David Anderle, who signed the Royal Court after seeing a performance in Nashville last December. The band recently released its debut album, "The Royal Court of China," and is currently making its first tour as one of the acts on the free "Four Play Tour," which also includes three other worthy new groups: Hurrah!, Will & the Kill and the Northern Pikes.
Sound: Both the exotic name and Nashville base notwithstanding, the Royal Court of China is a rock band with a very American sound. Seamlessly stitching together a wide range of influences, the debut album is compatible with some of the more forceful moments of fellow Southerners Jason & the Scorchers, R.E.M. and Guadalcanal Diary. Highlights of the record include the shifting dynamics of the opening "It's All Changed," the mandolin and slide guitar-colored "Trapped in Waikiki" and the galloping "Man in Black," on which Blanton sounds almost like a less postured Billy Idol. The album also includes two instrumentals: the electric "Tye" and the acoustic "Townsend, TN." Throughout, the band displays considerable muscle, centered on Logue's bass, with Rice using a variety of sounds and styles to give each song distinctive shading.
Show: the Palace on Wednesday.