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Two Kinds of Tunes

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It has stuck with me over the years is how haunted some artists are (or were). I'm talking about folks like John Fahey, Townes Van Zandt, early-career-pre-coming-out Janis Ian (her record Between the Lines remains one of my misery favorites) and the late Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., who unceremoniously drank himself to death during the span of his 30s. Due to some weird, likely misguided summer activities during the recent full moon cycle, I was listening to a lot of his tunes, even going so far as learning and arranging one for myself, which is rare because I generally hate playing music these days. But the guy had talent, and there is a shard of broken-hearted genius cutting through his sparse and plaintive songs like a lethal burr. One thing that has always drawn me to music like that is the central function it provides, the lineage of which stretches back to the Delta blues and beyond: It's a sin-eater for your pain. The singer hurts and his songs are sad, and in that sadness comes validation of your own misery, sometimes even relief. Taking these sonic inoculations of vaccine-strength hardship is one way to beat the blues and likely why I didn't drink myself to death during my 30s. Borrowing from Pope's famous quote, to err is human and to write a good song about fucking up is pretty close to divine. Forgiveness, fear, death, sex and failure all float through these songs like spectral jellyfish, leaving tendril marks behind your eyes long after the notes have died. Van Zandt once said something like, "There are two kinds of music in this world, the Blues and 'Zippity Doo-Dah.'" If you prefer the latter then you can disregard this intro. If we're friends and I really like you, maybe I'll play you my version of Molina's "Farewell Transmission" on bass sometime, Big Muff drone, lighter slide melody and all.

Have a good week.

Thursday

Few bands really got the formula as right as ZZ Top, the Texas power trio whose ripping licks and hot grooves entertained the world for five decades. The group's third album Tres Hombres is a standby in my personal rotation, particularly in the truck. And while you can no longer enjoy the trio's live antics since the unfortunate death of bassist Rusty Hill last July, there is a hot local cover band called Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers who are carrying on the tradition. Check 'em out today at 6 p.m. at a free one on Madaket Plaza.

Friday

Widely regarded as one of the greatest reggae artists of all time and certainly one of the greatest living female artists, Sister Carol's hypnotic, "toasting" style of vocal delivery runs roughshod over the expectations of what feminine vocals are "supposed" to present themselves as in the boy's club world of reggae music. A lacework of contradictions, her vocal delivery is monotone, melodious, hard, gentle, powerful and yielding, depending upon the song. That there is so much nuance in her delivery in a style that originated in the harsh and loud world of Jamaican dancehalls is a testament to her creative genius. Come see for yourself tonight at Humbrews at 9:30 p.m. ($25, $20 advance).

Saturday

Clementine Was Right is the musical vehicle of writer Mike Young, whose poetry and prose has sprouted up in many major just-off-mainstream media outlets over the past decade. The songs have thus been inflected with the cadence of stories, as the New Mexico-based group unfurls a sound that is at once dusty and sparkled, like the faded rhinestones on your mom's favorite Saturday night jacket from yesteryear. The California Poppies are a wise local opener for this one, with that shiny pop sound evoking a time when Technicolor gave way to Kodachrome in the sunny realm of "California Dreaming." The Miniplex is the place, the hour is 8 p.m. and the price is 10 bucks. Not a bad delivery charge for anything coming from the Land of Enchantment.

Sunday

The 2010s were known for quite a few trends, many ranging from odious to world-destroying. One trend that didn't suck, however, was the soul revival that has graduated from clubs to festivals, theaters and arenas. One of the better examples from this new pack of R&B upstarts is Durand Jones & the Indications, whose spare sound is evocative of all the things that keep people spinning Motown and Stax Records vinyl delights at home and in the club. Plus I'm a sucker for a drummer who sings, which is a duty that drummer Aaron Frazer shares with frontman Jones. This Center Arts show will inhabit the remodeled Van Duzer Theatre tonight at 8 p.m., with special guest keysman Kiefer in tow ($40, $90 VIP).

Monday

It's the back end of my column, which means it's the front end of the new week in the post-dog days of summer, which means not too much is happening regarding live bands. However, I like to juice some of the other stuff going on regularly, and who doesn't love a little karaoke? If your answer was, "I love a little karaoke," come over to the Jam at 9 p.m.

Tuesday

Speaking of regular local gigs, check out the Clam Beach Tavern if you're in the mood for Hip Hop Night with DJM. That might sound vague and enigmatic but I'm reporting the basics because what more information do you need, anyway? Oh yeah, the time: 10 p.m.

Wednesday

Movie night. Tonight's showing at the Arcata Theatre Lounge is an utter classic from the world of animated tech-noir futuresongs from Japan. I'm talking about Ghost in the Shell, the cel and CGI-created 1995 masterpiece set in the distant world of seven years from now. Whether we will indeed have human-cyborg hybrids in 2029 remains to be seen. But beyond being an action-packed visual bombardment, it's most interesting in its examination of classic existential concerns, such as being, authenticity and free will. And the soundtrack is killer. Pre-show raffle at 6 p.m., movie at 7:40 p.m., $5 or $9 if you want a poster.

Collin Yeo (he/him) is still working on his ideal summer bod, which includes growing a carapace, claws and many scuttlin' legs. He lives in Arcata.

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