February 23, 2006
I had a visit this weekend from George Ziminsky, a local musician with international tastes who has a special fondness for Celtic tunes. He was spreading the word about a last-minute show by a band called Flook, Tuesday, Feb. 28, at The Red Radish out in Blue Lake.
"This will be the Celtic show of the year!" he told me with great enthusiasm, noting that the band is red-hot in the British Isles, having just won the "Best Band" title at the recent BBC Folk Awards. Their latest disc, Haven, has already garnered raves over there and was just released in the U.S.
The ten-year-old quartet features a pair of flautists, Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, backed by Ed Boyd on guitar and John Joe Kelly on bodhran, taking music with traditional roots and bringing it into a new century -- in a quite stunning way, I might add. To learn more I shot an e-mail across the sea to Sarah, asking her: What's a Flook? She explained, "We used to be called Fluke, because there were three flutes in the band, and `flute' is like `fluke,' and it was a fluke we were playing together -- but we found out there was [also] a dance band called Fluke, so we changed the spelling. Doesn't mean anything really to us, other than that, but our fans are often keen to tell us [it] means i.e. flatfish so we called our first album and our record company Flatfish."
I mentioned what George had told me -- "This will be the Celtic show of the year!" -- and asked if she would describe their music as Celtic. "I guess it is broadly speaking "celtic" [note the lower-case spelling, hers, not mine], but not in the misty mystical way that is often associated with that word. We don't much like labels..."
You probably know that "fluke" has a couple of other meanings: It's part of an anchor or a whale's tale and, as Sarah mentioned, it's also a coincidence or accident, as in a fluke shot in a game of snooker or pool. So is it a fluke that there are three shows going on simultaneously that night potentially vying for the same audience?
You might imagine the Humboldt Folklife Society sponsoring the visit from a traveling Irish/Brit folk band -- they are not. The Folklifers have their own show Tuesday at the Bayside Grange, a return engagement by another band taking traditional folk in new directions: The Mammals. You may recall they were here just short of a year ago for another show in the same Grange hall. I'm sorry to say I missed it, but by all accounts it was pretty amazing.
Since then the band has completed another CD, Departure, a fine one that shows their continuing evolution. There are songs few would identify with folk, straying into indie rock territory (but with banjos buried in there), then there's a folk-style cover of an indie rock classic, Kurt Cobain's "Come As You Are," played, appropriately, as a mournful dirge. And to remind you that folk has always had a social conscience, there are political songs like "Alone On the Homestead," a lament from a woman who has lost her husband, her brothers, her dad, "and everything I had" to "the war." Just about when you're thinking it might be the Civil War or some other conflict long ago, she sings, "Most families got their boys back in body bags. The papers wouldn't even print coffins draped with flags." And you know what war she's singing about. (Note: You can also hear The Mammals play live in the KHUM studio at 1 p.m. Tuesday.)
Meanwhile, while invertebrates and mammals are dividing folk fans elsewhere that same Tuesday night, one-man-jam-band/guitar wizard Keller Williams plays in the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace. Keller is another with a new disc out -- with a folk twist. His is titled Grass (they always have one word names) and it's his take on bluegrass or new grass or maybe keller-grass. On the record he's playing with The Keels (remember the Larry Keel Experience?), putting a twangy spin on classis rock tunes like "Another Brick in the Wall," a few originals and a couple of familiar Garcia/Hunter numbers, with "Loser" paying a quick homage to Beck's song with the same name. While he's on the road alone (or with his dog), I'm guessing he might be in a twangy mood.
Did I mention that Tuesday, Feb. 28, is also Mardi Gras? As in, the day before Ash Wednesday? They're celebrating that night at Six Rivers with free nu-grass by Moses Lincoln Johnson.
I was sorry to hear that my old friend Karen Dumont is leaving town, and even sadder when I talked with her and learned she's heading up to Oregon to help with her mom's hospice. She's saying farewell Friday, Feb. 24, at The Pearl, singing "jazz and mellow blues" with a bunch of friends. Stop by, say goodbye and give her a hug.
More jazz Saturday at the Pearl with the Chris Amberger Trio, led by the remarkable visiting bass player, with Michael Curran on drums and Francis Vanek, who's back in town with his sax. (Remember Equinox?)
There's jazz down SoHum way Sunday, too, probably a bit wilder. The Small Town Audio Resources jazz extravaganza at the Mateel has Rob Seifert and friends, aka The F-Holes, plus Banyan. That band is led by Stephen Perkins, drummer from Jane's Addiction, and also sports "Memphis" Willie Waldham (from Ratdog) on trumpet, bassist Tony Franklin and, from Tiny Universe, guitarist Brian Jordan. (Sorry, Nels Cline and Mike Watt are otherwise occupied.) But wait, there's more: Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, a Chicago-based African jazz band led by renowned percussionist/composer Kahil El'Zabar, who are touring with DJ Josh Deep (of Deeper Soul Records) and guitarist Fareed Haque from Garaj Mahal. This is one awesome show! You say you can't make the drive to Redway? Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is also playing at Humboldt Brews Saturday night.
Mazzotti's, Arcata's house of reggae, has two big shows this coming week: Saturday night it's Sister Carol and Itawe, backed by Yellow Dub Squad, whose show was merged with the already planned visit by De Apostle, a roots dancehall singer from St. Croix. Then at Mazzotti's next Wednesday, March 1, it's the classic Jamaican reggae vocal group The Itals, touring with Freesound.
You don't like reggae? Indie rock more your style? Saturday night at Kelly O'Brien's catch three fine local bands: psychedelic rockers The Great Salvation, space rockers The Signals and those sweet little rock `n' rollers The Ian Fays, who recently completed the first in a series of zombie videos coming from no-budget filmmaker Jon Olsen. (I'm in The Buffy Swayze's zombie vid. More on that some other time.)
Saturday night at the Alibi, catch Hillstomp, a duo from Portland, Ore., "drawing on North Mississippi trance blues, a bit from the hills of Appalachia and stealing energy from punkabilly," plus, Jay Swanigan from Slewfoot String Band playing with the Dirtnap Band as the Homesick Hillbilly, in honor of his grandpa. He explains, "My grandfather, Bud Swanigan, moved from the Ozark hills of Missouri in the '40s when he met the love of his life, my grandmother, Vinita, in Patterson, Calif., when he was on leave from a South Seas tour of duty. They married and moved to Tracy, where they raised a family and still live. My grandfather is a nostalgic, poetic writer these days (a long-retired heavy machinery mechanic) but he's been a picker his entire life. Even after an industrial accident severed tendons in his arm, he still plays what he can. He writes about his childhood a lot, hence Homesick Hillbilly. I'm inspired by him and get nervous he will be leaving us soon -- he'll be 83 this June." Long my he live...
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