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The Hum by Bob Doran

Feb. 19, 2004

All those things [photo of Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Band]

ROBIN AND LINDA WILLIAMS BEGAN SINGING SWEET harmonies together after meeting at an open mike over 30 years ago, back when the Southern mountain style they explore was known as folk music. They came to national prominence primarily through their association with Garrison Keillor -- they were part of a core group that founded A Prairie Home Companion in the mid-'70s. A series of fine records for the Sugar Hill label won them legions of new fans in the '80s and '90s. Next week on Tuesday, Feb. 24, the same day they officially release their latest disc, Deeper Waters, for a new (to them) label, Red House, Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Band [photo at right] perform a Humboldt Folklife show at the Red Radish with Eileen Hemphill-Haley opening.

"Our songwriting is very much based on the old music, yet it's not old," said Robin, calling from the road Sunday morning. "We don't try to sound like the old songs; it's our own music. From the very beginning we were trying to find an individual style that was recognizable, that wouldn't sound like anybody else. And having come along in that period of time, in the '60s and throughout the '70s, we thought that's what you should do: have your own style.

"Ours is kind of a country-oriented mountain thing. I come from a country western background, and you learn the lessons of harmony the way some of the bluegrass people do it. And Linda plays old time banjo; she doesn't play the three finger roll like Earl Scruggs, she plays claw-hammer style, so that's in there. What happened was we ended up with this style that was hard to place in one camp or the other, which people want to do. They want to know, `What are you? Are you bluegrass? Are you old time? Are you country? Are you folk?' Yes. We're all those things."

Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Van Duzer, it's the Del McCoury Band, bluegrass masters on the cutting edge. Led by guitar pickin' Del, a veteran who once played with Bill Monroe, the band also includes his sons, Ronnie and Rob. After being featured on the O Brother - Down From the Mountain tour, the band has been crossing over to the jammy crowd, playing alongside Leftover Salmon and at Bonnaroo.

At the Mateel Friday, Feb. 20, the 14th annual Bob Marley birthday celebration features Bob's son Julian Marley and the Uprising Band, plus notorious dancehall phenom Elephant Man, the next big thing out of Kingston. There's more reggae Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the embattled Eureka Theater where Bob Marley's old band the Wailers play a benefit in support of efforts to reopen the Mad River Fish Hatchery. New Monsoon opens.

HSU jumps to literate hip hop Thursday, Feb. 19, with Blackalicious and Lyrics Born from the Solesides crew at Kate Buchanan Hall. Eighties rocker Eddie Money hits the Eureka Theater that night, followed by an after-party at Rumours with Humboldt's Finest, a funk/blues review with Madi Simmons on vocals, Mike Kapitan keys, "Jimi" Jeff Robinson guitar, Chris Wixson bass, Bill Moehnke drums and "$pecial guests."

Or you could grab some kick-ass Texas rock at the Alibi with Honky, a trio that includes former Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus on bass, plus a new improved version of the Hitch with vocalist Melissa Medina, previously of Turbo 400 and the Jaguars.

Friday, Feb. 20, at the Bayside Grange, Humboldt thespians present Beyond Recall, an evening of comedy with skits, stunts and sharp, witty repartee provided by Petrolians David Simpson and Jane Lapiner of Human Nature, joined by Blue Lakians Joan Schirle, Donald Forest and Michael Fields plus Los Payasos Mendigos members, David Ferney, Cosmo Kuzmick and Rudy Galindo, and Suza Lambert and friends, poking fun at all things recallish. (Proceeds support Friends of Paul Gallegos.) And there's another concert for Friends of Paul Saturday, Feb. 21, at Beginnings in Briceland, this time with Gypsy jazz by members of Cuckoo's Nest and sweet harmonies by SoHum's Mothers and Daughters.

At Redwood Yogurt Saturday evening, an indie/alt. folk/rock lineup with two duos, the Ian Fays, Sara and Lizz Schoeler, twins offering "grrly sweet angst" and Cemetery Love Club, "only getting sloshed at 4 in the morning in a cemetery could make you feel the same way," says Katie K., one half of CLC. The solos: Mike Conway with "heart on his sleeve folk" and Craig Peters with "Elephant 6-ish happy indie stuff," again according to Katie.

The Ian Fays also play Friday, Feb. 20, at Placebo in another indie showcase, one that includes Seattle jazz-pop trio the Dead Science, who are out with a new Absolutely Kosher disc, plus their friends Parenthetical Girls (who are not girls, BTW) and our own Datura Blues, who have just released a fine, stately new disc of their own: Master the Tempest Is Raging. It's also Arts Manila!, which means things on the walls by Ryan Cox.

Saturday night at Placebo it's No-Fi Soul Rebellion, an unusual band working out of Missoula. N-FSR is basically just a guy named Mark Heimer who makes cool music at home, all on his own, funky stuff reminiscent of Prince. For live performances he sings to his MP3s tracks karaoke-style, with his lovely wife, Andrea, wielding "the Soul System," a bass guitar with no strings holding an MP3 player. Also on the bill, local popsters Cubbyhole and JPG's hard-rockin' band, the Jake Brakes.

Meanwhile at Mazzotti's: serious hardness with Acts of Aggression, back in town on their "Ear Damage" tour, joined by P.H.I.S.T., Locust Furnace and Prisoner.

Does all of that sound too loud, too weird or just too young for your aging ears? More "mature" music fans might want to bar hop in Eureka, choosing between Raczka and Maez jazzin' at the Saffire Rose, the Karen Dumont Electric Blues Band at Rumours and the august Joyce Hough Band at Six Rivers Old Town.

Changes are afoot at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, but the exact nature is still unclear. Apparently a consortium called Sasquatch Group is in the process of buying the business, but the deal won't be complete for several weeks. The place remains open in the meantime; Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band, a wild neo-bluegrass combo from Alaska plays there Saturday night after hitting Six Rivers Old Town Friday. Along the same jammish bluegrass lines, Jackstraw, a band from Portland, plays at Muddy Waters Sunday, Feb. 22.

On Monday, Feb. 23, at Saffire Rose, catch Kill Rock Stars recording artists Deerhoof. Says guitar genius Nels Cline in the liner notes to the band's album, Apple O. "Few can match their infectiously raggedy powerbash and disposable pop godhead." Opening, the Monster Women, a new band with ladies from Automatic Pink.

That night at the Blue Lake Casino, sax maniac Skerik and his Syncopated Taint Septet play wild jazz, with the emphasis on brass -- no guitar and no bass. (They do have a Hammond organ however.)

Coming to the Red Radish next Thursday, Feb. 26, Eire-Japan, an Irish/Japanese hybrid who, promises George Z, will present the "show of the year" for Celtic fans.

Last but not least, a reminder that the amazing Bruce Cockburn performs at the Mateel Sunday night for KMUD. For an expanded version of the interview you saw in last week's Journal, go to, a very cool Web site maintained in part by Bobbi Wisby from Garberville.

Bob Doran



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