Music » The Hum

His Guitar Sings

Charlie Hunter, plus Sara Watkins, cover bands, farewell to DJ Knutz and the return of John Biord



Charlie Hunter is a guitar player and a composer of songs, but you'd never call him a singer/songwriter: His guitar sings, but he doesn't. Instead he paints lyric pictures with improvised melodic lines, playing a custom seven-string guitar designed so he can play his own bass lines.

Last time he came to town it was behind a self-produced record called Gentlemen, I Regret To Inform You, You Will Not Be Getting Paid, which addressed, in part, the plight of the working musician. "It's definitely a lot harder to make a living now than it ever has been, that's for sure," he told me at the time. "But you know, it's the same for every other industry except for maybe the Mafia and investment banking."

His latest disc, Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead, revives the hard times theme. This time he's working with the amazing drummer Scott Amendola. "The title pretty much says it all," writes Hunter in a note on his website. "It's a sign of the times; this is what's going on out there in the world."

Songs described as "starting points for some kind of narrative" include "Rust Belt" and "Ghost Mall," evoking scenes from working class neighborhoods hard hit by hard times. Likewise "Economy with Dignity," which borrows its title from a thrift store.

"There Used To Be a Nightclub There" is a lament for lost touchstones in our musical landscape. "Right now there is a passing of a whole era," says Hunter. "I grew up in nightclubs. I gigged first at 15 years old. I watched people that just amazed me. Clubs were hubs of culture, and in a lot of ways they were so spontaneous. ... In Berkeley, where I grew up, all those places are now gone. It was a town where there was a musician class. Now, you can feel that culture is disappearing."

Not completely. Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola play tunes from Not Getting Behind Is The New Getting Ahead and other music on Tuesday at HSU's John Van Duzer Theatre.

When the Grammy-winning progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek broke up in 2007, fiddler Sara Watkins embarked on a solo career, writing and recording her own songs. Her latest disc, Sun Midnight Sun, released earlier this year, finds her in good company with Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne among the guests. (Sara spent the summer opening on Browne's tour.) On Thursday, Watkins' own tour hits Humboldt Brews. She's on the road with Aoife O'Donovan, a founding member of the Boston-based nu folk stringband Crooked Still (the one with Tristan Clarridge on cello).

Thursday's "Jam at the Jam" benefit for the Arcata and Rooney-McKinleyville Children's Centers brings together the sweet Lyndsey Battle (her daughter Vela goes to the preschool) with the jammin' Peace of Mind Orchestra, Speakeasy Saints, Hella Kinetic, Brett McFarland, DJ Knutz "and more." Good cause. In the interest of full disclosure I'll note that ARMCC did a great job taking care of my preschooler (a long time ago).

If you're Facebook friends with any local musicians, you know about the battle waged this last month in KWPT The Point's Classic Cover Contest. Thirty-two bands submitted 55 tracks for a series of hard-fought elimination rounds. Friday night the winning bands play Blue Lake Casino's Wave Lounge. A band I've not heard of called Tripwire took first place with classic covers of Spirit's "I Got a Line on You" and "Feelin' Alright" by Traffic. The well-dressed Beatles tribute Silver Hammer came in a close second with some excellent Fab Four coverage. Third went to River Valley Mud with vocalist Claire Bent belting out "Piece of my Heart" a la Janis Joplin (kudos to Joe Antrim for the spot-on opening guitar solo), but since RVM has its own show Saturday night at the Jambalaya (with Sour Cream opening), the third spot will be instead filled by SoHum's Twango Macallan who came in a strong fourth with a cover of ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man."

Local melodic rockers Angel's Cut celebrate the release of an eponymous debut CD Friday at the Red Fox with what they describe as "a rock show, a fucking rock show." Along with tunes from the new record the show includes a bit of burlesque by The Beat Vixens, a photo booth, and more rockin' fun.

Children of the Sun is back after a brief hiatus, playing the Jambalaya Friday with local bluesmen Black Cat Bone. Fair warning: Kids 'o Sun's Facebook announcement declares, "We're going to take our pants off."

Kyle Stasse, aka DJ Knutz, has been a force on the local music scene, working with teens at the MARZ Project and throwing some awesome "Funky Full Moon" record parties at the Ocean Grove, among other things. As the year closes, he's movin' on, but first he's hosting "DJ Knutz' Final Funkin' show in Humboldt (for a while)" on Saturday night at Humboldt Brews. All of his vinyl junky friends will be taking turns with "micro sets," a veritable who's who of local soul/funk DJs including DJ Red, Matt n' Adam, DJ Zephyr, Rickshaw, Truth 1, Jaymorg and the Pressure Anya team. (BTW, Jaymorg joins Pressure Anya for Thursday's Dirty Dancing at the Alibi.)

Twas the "Naughty Before Christmas" Saturday and Ba-Dum-Chh Comedy Crew was in the house at Arcata Theatre Lounge, telling jokes and funny stories and such with special guest Johnny Taylor (the comic from Sacto, not the soul singer), plus local surf rock combo Twist of the Python. Ba-Dum-Chh emcee Sherae-O invites you to, "Come laugh with us, or at us, or whatever -- it doesn't matter."

Stevo DeRosa, aka Astro Tarot, celebrates his birthday Saturday night at the Ocean Grove with an A to Z of electronica by eight producers from here and there: Ages, Ahnnu, DAT-1, Datablend, DTCPU, Mndsgn, Touch and Zanapod.

Portland band of the week: Steve Schecter, aka Ghostwriter, a one-man folk punk powerhouse who's been on the road for a decade strumming his hollow body guitar and growling ditties while keeping time with a foot pedal tambourine. He returns to the Alibi Saturday sharing the bill with local honky tonk heroes Side Iron.

Jazz vocalist Donna Landry and The A Train mark 30 years of playing with a reunion Saturday night at the Eureka Inn with Anthony Sanger on piano and multi-instrumentalist Bob Olofson playing "jazz, blues, swing and oldies."

Blues belter Candye Kane is still winning her battle with The Big C. She describes herself in song as a survivor and "the toughest girl alive." One thing for sure, she rocks, as you'll see if you make it down to the Riverwood Inn Saturday night.

It's local metal time at Ink Annex Saturday as the Placebo presents an all-ages night of loud with Burning Hash, Enceledus and Locust Furnace. Starts at 7 p.m. Don't be late.

If you remember the name John Biord, it's probably because he once owned the Eureka Inn but lost it in a foreclosure auction in 2004. As noted in the Journal at the time, Biord was found guilty of failure to pay $117,235 in bed taxes to the city of Eureka (just part of a million plus in debt), and was sentenced to community service and a few days of jail time. Since then the St. Bernard's grad has been living in Nashville, pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter/composer in a soft rock/country mode. A recent CD, Cinematik, collects songs he wrote for movies and TV. His 10th single, "Moonlight Baby," delivered in a vocal style reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn, was just released, a teaser for an upcoming album, his third. He will be back in Eureka Friday night for "An Evening With John Biord and Friends" at the Eureka Theater, not too far from the Inn.

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