The CDs arrive in an unending stream. The mailman sticks them in the slot in my front door; FedEx and UPS drivers block the street in front of my house to drop them off; promoters leave them on my porch or mail them to the Journal office; bandmembers slip them to me at shows. I don't mind. Oftentimes, I even request them. But they tend to pile up on my desk, and sometimes I can't find them when I need them.
Take for example, the new Keller Williams disc, Dream, sent to me by a publicist far, far in advance of its release date (last week) and his local appearance (Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Van Duzer). The Dream title derives from a dream-team of jammish collaborators: Béla Fleck, Bob Weir, Charlie Hunter, Michael Franti, Steve Kimock, String Cheese Incident to name a few. I gave it a spin when I got it, and while I appreciated the stellar cast, it may have been a day when I was not exactly in a jammy mood, because I promptly lost the thing when I took it out of the player. And frankly, I think Keller works better on his own, which is what he'll be doing Thursday night.
While hanging around at Muddy's Hot Cup the other night following the truly fine show by The Country Pretenders, a couple of people handed me CDs. First, Pretenders' bassman Gary Davidson gave me a copy of a disc he's on with Old Dog, a congregation of local pickers. I have to admit, it's still in its shrink-wrap on my desk, but I will get to it. Then a couple of members of The Bucky Walters introduced themselves and gave me their new eponymous CD, a fine piece of work in the neo-old timey vein. "We put our hearts and souls into this," one of them told me. I'd actually heard (and appreciated) the band the night before (backing Melody Walker at her birthday party at the Jam) and told them as much as I slipped it in my pocket. The album starts off with "Banjo Song," a fast-moving number that begins with a train whistle and proceeds to barrel out of the station. There's great picking and singing throughout, and good songs (I especially like "Dead Man's Blues"). I'm guessing that the boys penned the lyrics (the liner notes are scant), but they sound like they could be old songs and that's a good thing. If you happen to pick this paper up Wednesday, The B.W.s are playing a Valentine's gig at Humboldt Brews. Friday, Feb. 16, is the official CD release party at Jambalaya. Twanginess guaranteed.
Living Well is a new disc by Rob Crow,one of the founders of the San Diego-based rock/pop band Pinback, one of those nearly famous indie outfits that knows how to put the hooks in the right place. The solo project (his fourth) is something like a slowed-down version of Pinback, chock full of polished, personal songs that apparently draw on his new life as a dad and husband, and the maturity that role entails. Rob's people sent it my way because he's on the requisite CD release tour, which hits Arcata Saturday, Feb. 17, for a stop at HSU's Kate Buchanan Room. Local indie rockers The Signals open.
Down at the Jambalaya Saturday night it's the first night a of a two-night run (Feb. 17&18) by Santa Cruz-based neo-old timey Devil Makes Three and the Portland post-blues duo Hillstomp, who just released a new album called The Woman That Ended The World. This one's a collection of stripped-down down and dirty blues, heavy on the slide (Henry Kammerer) and driven by chugging rhythm (John Johnson). Good stuff, with a beat that'll get you up and dancing. The equally kick-ass Devil Makes Three sold out the 330 Club (larger than the Jam) last time they were in town, so you might want to get a ticket in advance.
Also sort of in the blues mode, a new disc called Green Blues, by MV & EE with The Bummer Road, the MV & EE being Matt Valentine & Erika Elder, neo-hippies from Vermont. The album is on Ecstatic Peace!, a label run byThurston Moore of Sonic Youth and, as you might guess, it's out there on the "freak folk" side of the blues, with long songs layered with psychedelia, strange noises, odd harmonies and other wildness. The band is on a tour that brings them to Accident Gallery Sunday, Feb. 18, with cool avant noise/guitar duo Tom and Christina Carter aka Charalambides and Humboldt's own Starving Weirdos, whose CD-R releases have drawn acclaim internationally, specifically, in England's Wire magazine, where the Weirdos landed on a best of 2006 list in the "outer limits" category.
They did not send me their record, but Diego's Umbrella sounds pretty cool. The Spanish-surf-pirate pop band out of San Fran plays Thursday, Feb. 15, at Indigo Nightclub. Nucleus opens.
The Mateel resumes its monthly Community Jam on Saturday, Feb. 17, with a performance by Earl Thomasand his new acoustic band.
Also on Saturday night, an alt. this and that show at the Pearl with songwriter Deric Mendes(the guy who earned raves playing Hedwig in last summer's production), Universalia Jane(who a bunch of people have told me I must see and Jane, I promise I will, eventually) and last but not least Sarahfae, a songwriter I happened to hear at an Arts Alive! opening not long ago. She's good a fine songwriter with a sweet voice. Also at the Pearl, on Thursday, a 50th birthday party for Danny Furlong of North Coast Dance. Costumes if you have `em. No cover. No-host bar. And on Friday at the Pearl, Clint Warner's jazzy Pocket Jazz with special guest guitarist Mike Ernst, an associate of P.J. bassist Chris Matheos. Chris has a free workshop Sunday at 2 Street Music (3:30 p.m.) for his Mel Bay book, Getting Into Slap Bass.
The Lost Whale B&B's "Whale Tail" evenings of dinner and music resume in February. It began Valentine's Day with violist Stephan Vaughan and guitarist Jim Adams playing after supper; they're onto their second night Feb. 15. This coming week songwriter Kaydi Johnson returns for a two-night run starting Wednesday, Feb. 21. Coming up Feb. 28 and March 1, Allison Scull and Victor Martin, a jazz/folk duo from Dunsmuir.
That night at Arcata's Dancenter (in the Creamery) The Humboldt Spin Co-oppresents a fundraiser "to support spin arts in the community." Spin Arts? That's the art of twirling pairs of objects on the ends of lengths of rope, sometimes with those objects burning. The show includes The Janky Mallets, Dun Dun Fare, various DJs and, of course, fire dancers, presumably outside.
At the Red Fox Friday it's another Diamondback joint, this time featuring Southern-style white rappers Moonshine Bandits, although in this case southern refers to Cali or, "sweet home California," as they put it. Traveling with them, a country rap outfit called The Shinerz. (Country rap? Is that possible?) Locals LCA and Lil Sic fill out the bill. BTW, that's sandwiched between two nights of DJ reggae (Thursday and Saturday) withDub Cowboyspinning. (No, not fire.)
Saturday at Six Rivers catch alt. rockers Strix Vega, and don't miss the opening set by fingerstyle guitarist Todd Krider, a local wonder in the Michael Hedges mold who does not play out too often.
Monday, Feb. 19, at Red Fox it's another one for the jam crowd with Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing, a stellar band led by drummer Previte with the mad saxophonist Skerik (of Critter's Buggin, Flying Frog Brigade, etc.), keyboardist Brian Coogan (from the Stanton Moore Trio, Hairy Apes BMX, etc.) and bassist Reed Mathis, who plays with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, among others. I think you get the picture: Jazziness unleashed.
Coming up next Wednesday at Muddy's Hot Cup, a rollicking set by UKEsperience, who are "proud to announce" sponsorship by Pono ukuleles from Wahiawa, Hawaii. Go to www.koolauukulele.com and you can hear what the band sounds like. (Click on music.)
Also on Wednesday, Feb. 21, a big Passion Presents show at the Mateel with Sound Tribe Sector 9, the spacey Santa Cruz electronica/jamband that's rising fast on the jammy festival circuit.
And speaking of the Mateel, there's another new disc on my desk, a one-song CD-R of a satirical number by Darryl Cherney titled "No Reggae No Cry" (on Wood-I Records). Yes, it's about the big mess down SoHum way, a history of the conflict set to Bob Marley's classic tune, suggesting, "Humboldt Rasta, don't shed no tears, no Reggae no cry."
According to a press release from the Mateel, mediation with landowner Tom Dimmick regarding the Mateel's use of the site for this year's Reggae "failed to resolve the heated controversy." Without rehashing the whole sorry business, I'll offer a prediction on what's next. I'm pretty sure by the time you read this the Mateel will have filed an injunction on Dimmick and People Productions to try to halt their plans for a Mateel-less Reggae in August. Dimmick will likely respond with a breach of contract countersuit, leaving it to a judge to decide if the Mateel holds a valid lease. Will the show go on? I'd say yes. There's too much at stake for it to die. And you know what? I already have camping reservations at Richardson's Grove for the first weekend in August. Even if we have to bring our own boom-box, our crew is going to get together and have an irie time.