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June 2, 2005

The Hum

Feelin' Alright [Dave Mason playing electric guitar]


HE WAS RECENTLY INDUCTED INTO THE ROCK `N' ROLL Hall of Fame as a founding member of the '60s band, Traffic, but unless you are of a certain age, you might not know Dave Mason's name.

Of course you've heard his songs and his guitar playing. The British rocker wrote "Feelin' Alright" for Traffic, which became an even bigger hit for Joe Cocker. He performed on rock classics including The Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, and Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland.

"Yes, they've got me in a museum," said Mason when I mentioned his induction in a call to his home in Ojai. "It was nice that they did it; a bit long overdue for Traffic I think. It was a great night; a lot of really good acts [were honored that year, 2004] Prince, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne. It was a great night of music."

While Mason was inducted with his Traffic bandmates, he did not play with the band. "Stevie Winwood has his own ideas about things and that's the way that goes," he noted in explanation. Winwood and Mason had a falling out years ago. "I was there at the beginning, formed the band and did the album, but I was really young. We had a lot of success right off. The first song I ever wrote was [Traffic's] first hit. I was just too young to deal with all the success so I left. It basically fell apart with me and them after the second album."

After leaving Traffic at the end of the '60s, Mason came to the United States, establishing himself as a solo artist with the classic album, Alone Together. He had modest successes over the years, and continues to write new material, but he does not have a record company for a new album he has been working on.

"For a time, it was enough to have an album with great songs on it," he said. "Now that's not really relevant. Everybody's stealing everything off the Internet and that's punctured a large whole in the business. And, not that it was ever any different, but record labels today are more geared to chasing very young acts and considering fashion and trends. It's a situation where youth is worshiped. The result is that they're not interested in signing artists of my age. And unless you have a record company behind you promoting and pushing your record home, no one is going to know it's there. I go out and tour, but unless something happens I'll probably slowly withdraw from it all.

"I still have artist royalties and my writer's royalties from my old songs, the publishing's gone, but `Feelin' Alright' generates an enormous amount of money." So is he still feeling alright? "Everything's pretty good," he says in conclusion.

Dave Mason performs in concert Tuesday, June 7, at Cher-Ae Heights Casino.

The other big show next week features bluesman Keb' Mo', on the road with a new album, Peace... Back By Popular Demand, a set of songs from the '60s and '70s with a timely theme. "It started out as a collection of protest songs, but it evolved into an album about peace and freedom," said Mr. Mo' in a message posted on his Web site.

Among his selections is Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." He notes, "I wasn't a serious '60s hippie, just a kid from Compton. I can remember walking around the Haight-Ashbury with my family and looking at it like some kinda tourist attraction. Later on I went to a peace march in Century City against the Vietnam War. The police turned violent when the demonstrators refused to leave. Those kinds of experiences were an awakening for me to look deeper into what's going on."

The other choices "People Got to Be Free" by The Rascals, Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing," "Imagine" by John Lennon, and the hippie anthem, "Get Together," reflect on similar ideals. "If my music can cast even a shadow of peace and understanding on humanity," said Mo', "well, that will be pretty cool!"

Keb' Mo' plays Wednesday, June 8, at the Blue Lake Casino's Sapphire Palace. When he takes a break head across the casino to the Steelhead Lounge where the Clint Warner Band offers a different sort of blues.

There's an amazingly eclectic collection of bands playing the Mateel's 29th annual Summer Arts and Music Festival, all day Saturday and Sunday at Benbow Lake. With so many bands and artists, over 100 acts in all, it's likely you'll find something to suit your taste. Among my favorites: Saturday night closers, Big Sam's Funky Nation from New Orleans (at 9:15 p.m.), led by a young trombonist who came from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Chris James' Natural Four (at 7:30), a soul outfit drawing inspiration from Motown and '70s R&B. On Sunday at 6 p.m. catch the Bay Area Afrobeat outfit Aphrodesia, then stick around for Apple Gabriel from Israel Vibrations backed by Sonoma's reggae torchbearers, Groundation.

When I called Gerhard Enns, leader of The Dalloways, he was in Portland, on the road with the band, far from home base in Fresno. The tour brings them to the Placebo Friday where they share the bill with local alt. poppers Bella Dramatic.

The Dalloways initially came together in 2000, releasing an EP that Enns describes as "more jangly Rickenbacker pop, like REM. We've moved away from that to a more rich style with atmospheric swells and delays, a little more shoegaze."

The band's new record, Penalty Crusade, is rich in texture with a sound that reminded me of Brit pop bands like Roxy Music and Style Council. "I love the Style Council," said Enns, "and The Jam. Paul Weller is just amazing. I was definitely into that '80s pop movement."

I was surprised to learn that Nico, his wife of four years, is the bass player in the self-described "dreampop" band, since most of the songs Enns wrote for the band's latest are tragic tales of lost love.

"I had to get that all out of my system on this album," said Enns. "I guess the next one will be more upbeat. I had some bad breakups. I'm sure almost everybody has. I hope the songs ring true with people."

Friday at Six Rivers Brewery, it's The New Up, a jammy five-piece psychedelic rock/funk/ska/jazz outfit from San Francisco formerly known as Sunfire Pleasure. They're traveling with Al Howard and the K23 Orchestra, an equally eclectic band combining Latin jazz with funk and hip hop.

Start your Saturday with the sweet and lively sounds of Arcata's Pan Dulce, a truly fine steelband playing on the Plaza during Farmers' Market.

It's reggae time Saturday at Humboldt Brews with The Expanders in town from Van Nuys. The band's specialty is roots harmony in the old school style pioneered by groups like The Gladiators, The Congos, The Abyssinians and The Wailers.

Same night, around the corner at the Jambalaya, Delta bluesman Don Haupt plays his National steel. Don tells me he's fixin' to move on down the line this summer, so catch him while you can.

Saturday at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, Musaic offers a musical mosaic of "tragic songs and festive dances from Armenia, Greece, the Balkans and the Appalachians."

Muddy Waters has been pretty quiet since school ended, but on Monday, May 6, you can hear Taarkasta, an expanded version of Taarka, playing alt. folk with an international flair on guitar, fiddle, bass and assorted percussion.



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