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March 2, 2006

The Hum heading

Heading: What's happening with the world?, photo of David Rovics


Acerbic, funny politi-folky songwriter David Rovics heads back to town next week for an all ages show in Eureka Tuesday, March 7. I caught up with him via cell on day three of a tour with Attila the Stockbroker.

What has Rovics been singing about on this tour? "Well, about what's happening in the world -- the unbelievable array of scandals that are before us. The wealth of material has never been greater. I just can't find enough time to write about all the crazy shit that's going on." Noting that stupid, bad men in office make good fodder for satire, he added, "It really does make my work easier. Not that Clinton was difficult to write about, but with Bush it's handed to you on a silver platter."

His tour mate, Attila the Stockbroker, is a Brit, and happened to be riding in the car with Rovics. Rovics handed him the phone, and I asked Attila what it is he does. "I'm a performance poet," he began, "a very energetic, entertaining, political performance poet. I came out of the punk scene doing poetry between sets by punk bands. Sometimes I play the mandola -- I attack it -- I don't play with any particular virtuosity. From there I started doing gigs on my own."

How do the two of them fit together? "David and I do the same kind of thing in totally different ways," he explained. "David is more folky, a technically gifted guitarist with a wonderful voice, and he's polite; and I can't really play that well and I shout a lot. But I've got lots to say, and it works. We talk about what's happening in the world right now from a sort of radical/social political perspective, which is also humorous with lot of energy to it."

Being a 21st century performer, he concluded with a bit of advice: "If people are interested in what we're doing and they want to find out more, just point them at our websites: and"

The Rovics/Attila performance in Eureka is at something called Synapsis Warehouse (in Old Town at 47 3rd, between A and Commercial). Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is on a sliding scale; no one turned away for lack of funds.

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You could see the show Tuesday by country star Lorrie Morgan at Cher-ae Heights Casino up in Trinidad as the polar opposite of the low-budget lefty folk show in E-town. Morgan was born into the world of the Grand Ole Opry as the daughter of George Morgan, whose claim to fame was the hit song, "Candy Kisses." (Her real name is Loretta Lynn Morgan.) She debuted on the Opry stage at 13, then, after her dad died in 1975, she took over his band for a few years before settling into a job as a demo singer/receptionist for Nashville song company Acuff-Rose. In 1984, at the age of 25, she became the youngest ever member of the Opry. A couple of years later she scored a hit with "Trainwreck of Emotion"; not long after, she married Keith Whitley, a former bluegrass star turned country superstar who, sadly, died from alcohol poisoning in 1989. Lorrie channeled her pain into her music. In 1990 she had a hit with "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose," a duet pairing her voice with a track by her late husband. The '90s saw her biggest successes: No. 1 country hits, platinum albums and further country-song lifestyle activities. She married singer-songwriter Jon Randall in 1996; they divorced a few years later. In 2001 she recorded an album of duets with Sammy Kershaw, I Finally Found Someone. They married later that year, and now own and operate a chicken restaurant on the outskirts of Nashville.

The people who live in the mostly Hispanic neighborhood at the northeastern corner of Manhattan call their home "El Barrio," but it's also known as Spanish Harlem. A musical melting pot where the rhythms of Cuba, Puerto Rico and other Latin America countries mix and meld with American jazz, the area has long been ground zero for American salsa.

It's also home to The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a 16-piece powerhouse led by pianist Oscar Hernández, a New York-born salsa veteran who has played behind and/or arranged music for everyone from Tito Puente and Celia Cruz to Julio Iglesias and Rubén Blades.

Spurred by Latin music producer Aaron Levinson, Hernández assembled an all-star band to record Un Gran Día En El Barrio (One Great Day in the Neighborhood) for Ropeadope Records back in 2002 -- a mix of mambo, cha-cha-cha, rumba and guajira that the record company deemed "Harlem's answer to the Buena Vista Social Club."

The follow-up, Across 110th Street, released on Libertad Records, took things one more step forward and recently garnered a Grammy as "Best Salsa/Merengue Album" of last year.

Add the Spanish Harlem Orchestra to the list of choices for next Tuesday: They play at the Van Duzer.

And for something completely different from anything above, Tuesday at the Starving Weirdos' Samoa Manor, it's an evening of improvisational noise/rock/jazz madness by Starving Weirdos, Lone Elk and, from Portland, improv noise godfathers, Jackie-O Motherfucker. Which will you choose?

The Eileen Hemphill-Haley Band plays folky rock early Thursday, March 2, at Six Rivers, followed by more folk/rock by Ryan and Holly Sharp (aka The Cobalt Season), who describe themselves as "a voice of hope and clarity amidst an apathetic consumer-driven society, deconstructing the American Dream and all its cronies (religion, nationalism, corporatism, etc.), paint[ing] impressions of a better way, a better day."

Friday, March 3, at Six Rivers, it's funk from Moo-Got-2. Darin Mitchell has a message for MG-2 fans: "This will be our last show for a while so come party down with us!"

Down the road at the Clam Beach Inn, it's metal mayhem with P.H.I.S.T. and Skitzo, whose lead singer closes each show with a display of projectile vomiting. (Yuck.)

Friday is death metal night at Brogi's Boiler Room, with Grotesque Records artists Embryonic Devourment, Slaughterbox from Red Bluff and locals Locust Furnace bringing on the darkness.

Meanwhile, across town at Calvary Lutheran Church, pianist Anton Nel plays classical tunes for the Eureka Chamber Music Series.

Also along classical lines: A concert Saturday, March 4, at Fulkerson Recital Hall by Japanese marimba master Eriko Daimo, presented by Humboldt Folklife Society, KHSU and Marimba One, the Arcata company that made her marimba. The plan is to record the show for future broadcast on NPR's "Performance Today."

Blues? Buddy Reed and the Rip It Ups play back to back shows: Friday at Kelly O'Brien's and Saturday at Sal's Off Broadway. Big Earl and the Cryin' Shame take over at Kelly O's on Saturday. And down at the Riverwood, it's buxom blues by Candye Kane.

Blue Lake Casino will be Deadhead central Saturday, with organist Melvin Seals & JGB in the Sapphire Palace recreating the vibe from the Jerry Garcia Band days while Hot Buttered Rum plays high altitude bluegrass for free in the Steelhead Lounge.

If you've been watching the national news this week you know Tuesday was Mardi Gras, an all-important day in New Orleans. While we're already into Lent, North Coast Rep is throwing their annual Mardi Gras-style Masquerade Ball Saturday at the Bayside Grange, with Brazilian samba dancing by Bara Dance and Drum, bellydancers from Ya Habibi Dance Co., juggling by Humboldt Jugglers, magic by Shantaram, food from Jambalaya and Cajun music by The Bayou Swamis, who always throw beads to the crowd. Come in costume; prizes for the best ones.

Saturday is also Arts Alive! night, which means music in the streets unless it's raining, or unless you stop by the not-yet-open Arkley Center for the Performing Arts, where the 24/7 Jazz Quartet plays swing tunes for dancing under a tent. Around the corner (and indoors) The Ian Fays play at Ramone's Old Town. And at Old Town Coffee, it's the Tao Jonesers. Don't know who they are, but they sure have a great name.

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