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Music for forlorn ears

Four singer-songwriters get lyrical about single life on Valentine's Day

So Valentine's Day is upon us once again Ñ a time for talking teddy bears, bargain-bin sweets and canoodling next to the fondue pot.

For the unattached and despondent, there's 'Some Disenchanted Evening' at the Bitter End. 'I wanted to call it 'Make Out With a Stranger Night,' but I got shouted down,' says local songstress McKinley, one of the four guitar-slinging ladies hosting the event.

Make no mistake Ñ this show isn't for starry-eyed lovers still intoxicated with each other's charms. McKinley, former Carmina Piranha guitarist Lara Michell, Stephanie Schneiderman and Lea Krueger will take the stage together, trading songs that invoke lost love, deception and the loneliest of nights Ñ a bittersweet balm for the brokenhearted.

'More bitter than sweet,' McKinley clarifies. 'Heartbroken people are so beautiful. They have a lovely vulnerability.'

McKinley, who is hard at work recording a new album at Kung Fu Bakery studio, explained the origin of the theme night. 'Stephanie (Schneiderman) had the gig, and we were all downstairs at Little Sue's CD release party talking. As it turns out, we're all single,' she recalls. 'None of us had any plans for Valentine's Day. It was not a problem for us to hang out together.'

At this point, their set list is still a bit nebulous, but McKinley anticipates no problems.

'The four of us have gotten together to practice, and we honestly were thinking about some love songs to do in case there were actual couples in the house, but we couldn't think of any,' she says.

'It's no big deal, though,' she says. 'We all write the saddest, most self-involved relationship songs you've ever heard.

'The only thing we've established is that we'll be onstage together and that we'll have plenty of wine within reach.'

Crooked Fingers

Red Devil Dawn

(Merge Records)

Go ahead and add Eric Bachmann to the list of former indie rockers who have gone solo only to discover the frazzled charms of wrung-out songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazelwood and Kris Kristofferson.

Bachmann, the former leader of North Carolina's Archers of Loaf, has returned with his fourth solo record in four years. Crooked Fingers is a band in name only; Bachmann is the songwriter and singer supported by a revolving cast of musicians. As a former spinner of songs spilling over with rage and loathing, such as 'Let the Loser Melt' and 'Vocal Shrapnel,' Bachmann has refined his approach and focused his fury with Crooked Fingers.

Attempting to move up the prestige ladder as a sort of minor league Springsteen or Dylan, Bachmann is surprisingly successful. His musical arrangements are tastefully loaded with soothing strings and gently plucked guitars, making 'Red Devil Dawn' a contemplative, late-night listen.

'Don't Say a Word' is a particularly incisive tune, with a soulful Bachmann singing, 'They say you learn/the more it burns/But what good does that do/If what you learned/Don't help to bring/The one you lost back to you?'

This is a fine record. There's just one little thing: Bachmann sings a lot like Neil Diamond. If you can get your head around this distraction, then all is well.

Crooked Fingers plays at

9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Blackbird, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-282-9949, $8.

Contact John Chandler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..