Ritchie Havens may not be the best songwriter out there. In fact, he’s quick to defer to his peers, and he’ll tell you it took him years to get past singing other people’s songs. And he’s not the greatest guitar player — he has an idiosyncratic style that’s mostly rhythmic strumming. But he knows how to deliver a song like he means it, like it means something, and that’s what’s kept music lovers interested in him all these years.
He called me yesterday morning, a day before he left his New Jersey home for California on a tour that brings him to the Van Duzer Sunday, Nov. 11. We had a long, rambling conversation (he’s hard to keep on topic) touching on a new album he’s finishing up, his role in the new Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There (he plays a grandfather figure who jams with a young, black version of Dylan), and the cover of “Tombstone Blues” he did for the soundtrack.
We ended up talking about the record label he’s run for more than 30 years and about the paradigm shift in the music business.
“It’s crazy,” he told me. “But I think what’s good about it is that young musicians who could never get the ear of a record executive, because they live in Osh Kosh or someplace like that, now they get the opportunity to be their own middleman. They can post their own music, upload their songs. In the end the system becomes more sophisticated. It may be that there will eventually only be web links left ... The interesting part is we’re preserving the history of music, and the music of today. Whatever it is, we have a better opportunity to learn about it and hold onto it.”
He sees this creating a multigenerational audience. “Every year the movie Woodstock plays, an entire generation of teenagers discover it for the first time,” he says excitedly. “And that’s very cool. Our generation didn’t buy our parents records, but you see that now. We started something and we have to keep it going.”
(Note: For the rest of the Ritchie Havens interview go to humblog.wordpress.com .)
The legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock returns to the Van Duzer Friday, Nov. 9. He comes with a just-released album, River: the joni letters, in hand, and an impressive quartet including guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta , both of whom appear on the new disc. River is a collection of songs by Joni Mitchell or relating to her work in some way; it’s a marvelous record, with Herbie in fine form on acoustic piano taking off on Joni’s fusion of jazz with folk forms. Wayne Shorter shows up as do guest vocalists, including the likes of Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, even Mitchell herself. None of those singers will be with him here, nor will Shorter, but he is bringing a vocalist, and my guess is people who see this show will be blown away by the young jazz/folk artist Sonya Kitchell. She actually recorded one of Joni’s tunes, “All I Want,” for this record, but it’s a bonus track only available if you buy the album online via Amazon. Sonya called from Los Angeles where she was about to begin rehearsals for the tour, and we talked about how she ended up in this position at the age of 18, why her song is not on my copy of the CD and more, but there’s so much other stuff going on this week I have no room for the interview here, so again I’m going to refer you to humblog.wordpress.com.
If you’ve been to any local street fairs or festivals in the last year or so, you know that Afro-Brazilian samba and its associated drum lines are huge here in Humboldt, with several samba troupes who beat out the unmistakable batucada . This weekend Santa Cruz’ top samba group, SambaDa , led by Brazilian natives Papiba Godinho and Dandha da Hora , are up for a couple of shows: Friday they’re at the Mateel to help EPIC celebrate 30 years of fighting to protect the environment. Saturday the troupe comes to Six Rivers in McKinleyville for a wild night.
Meanwhile some of the local drummers are throwing their own party Friday in HSU’s Green and Gold Room. Billed as a “ Brazilian Bluegrass Bonanza ,” the HSU Samba Club event includes jammin’ pickers The Bucky Walters , Santa Cruz-based psychedelic funk band Byron Space Circus and local samba troupe Bloco Firmeza , plus special guest Marcio Peeter from Brazil (via Oakland), a former member of the group Ile Aiye, in town to teach and perform with Bloco Firmeza for the weekend.
Call this an international weekend. Saturday and Sunday the Humboldt Folklife folks present Quebecois music and dancing with Le Petit Melange coming down from southern Oregon. That would be Kevin Carr (from Irish/Dead cover band Wake the Dead) Barbara Mendelsohn (from Good Ol’ Persons), and New Brunswick natives Louis Leger and Barbara Richert , both from the French Canadian band La Famille Leger. Saturday afternoon at the Arcata Presbyterian Church they present “ Chantons et Dansons, ” aimed at children and families and including a spoons workshop. Saturday evening, again at the church, it’s a traditional “ Soiree Quebecoise ” with songs and stories, then a Quebec-style Contra Dance with SoHum’s Sue Moon as caller. Sunday morning the action moves to the Humboldt Baykeeper office in Eureka, with a workshop, jam session and potluck.
It’s not exactly a world music band, but Portland’s 3 Leg Torso draws on Parisian gypsy jazz, Argentine tango neuvo , East European folk and more for a mélange that’s all its own. Catch 3 Leg Friday at the Jambalaya.
For another sort of world music mash-up head out to Blue Lake Casino Saturday night for Scandinavian/Celtic folk metal by Tempest .
Saturday is also the day for the annual “ Revive the Beauty Way ” Big Mountain Benefit, as Clan Dyken comes to the Bayside Grange in a biodiesel bus on its annual Thanksgiving food run for the Dine’h Navajo people. Local folkrocker Joanne Rand and the Rhythm of the Open Hearts are onboard once again. Says Joanne, “I have a strong affinity for the Native American cause. I don’t have Native blood, but I pine for the freedom and spiritually I sense in the culture.” She’s been participating in Beauty Way shows for several years, but her history with the brothers Dyken goes back decades — “my first big concert with them back in 1982,” she recalls. “They were called Searchlight back then, but it was pretty much the same family band. They really walk their talk and I respect them for that.”
Note to blues fans: Soul man Earl Thomas is at the Metro Friday for Arts! Arcata (some sort of benefit, maybe for his National AIDS Marathon run), while across the Plaza ShinBone lays down R&B at Arcata Exchange.
The Alibi brings on the heaviness for three nights running, starting Friday with Trigger Renegade , whose members claim to be homeless but basically just tour up and down the Left Coast in their van, plus The Glasspack , a psyche-punk outfit from Kentucky with a southern feel. Saturday it’s Oakland stoner doom metal from Damnweevil plus new local heavies The Zygoats . (The Zygoats also play Thursday at the Jam.) Sunday at the Alibi it’s Scandinavian metal by Witchcraft (see record review elsewhere in this issue) plus Portland psyche rockers Danava .
About that show Thursday at the Jambalaya: The Zygoats provide local support for We Be The Echo , a self-described “instrumental punk-math-dub band” from San Francisco, and two acts on the road from Alaska, The Wagner Logic and Sonny Ogle . The Wagner Logic got its start in an abandoned laundromat back around the turn of the millennium when frontman/guitarist Jeremy Wagner joined forces with drummer/guitarist James Glaves to create catchy lo-fi indie rock tunes like those on their latest CD, Easiest to Grab — cool as the Alaskan tundra (yet warm, not cold). Sonny is the bass player for W. Logic, but also crafts indie-type songs himself so he gets his own short set. The Alaskan van-full returns to Humboldt next Tuesday, Nov. 13, for a W.L/S.O. show at the Vista with The Underclassmen .
Coming to the Vista Wednesday, a major alt. rock show featuring RTX . Now, if you believe the RTX MySpace, that stands for “Rad Times Xpress,” but those who know some rock history recognize it as a reduction of Royal Trux, a band founded around 20 years ago by Neil Hagerty of Pussy Galore and his girlfriend, Jennifer Herrema . The couple started the important indie label Drag City and produced records together for others and for Royal Trux, crafting an influential no-hold-barred experimental sound. In 2000 Neil and Jennifer split up and Royal Trux broke in two, with Neil touring with his own name or as The Howling Hex, and Jennifer fronting a new band with the RTX moniker. Earlier this year RTX released a killer CD titled Western Xterminator , but threat of a lawsuit by a pest control company forced them to re-title it, RaTX . Its official release is next week. Pick one up at the Vista, where The Monster Women and The Rubberneckers share the bill and are expected to bring their friends and fans along.
Those looking for music more on the jammy side will be hanging at the Red Fox Tavern this week. Thursday they have S.F.-based guitarist Will Bernard and whatever band he’s assembled. Tuesday, Nov. 13, they bring back Al Howard and the K23 Orchestra , a funkjam/hip hop kind of thing with Al providing spoken word raps of the conscious sort. The next night, Wednesday, Nov. 14, it’s Hot Buttered Rum , a High Sierra jamgrass combo named for the ski lodge beverage. In between, it’s this week’s reggae blast, a Friday show with Brooklyn-born Rasta Rocker-T and Irie Dole of Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi up from San Fran, plus Humboldt’s own Jah Sun from the Lion Camp. An irie time is guaranteed for all.