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July 20, 2006

Heading: The Hum, Be whoever you are, photo of Kristin Allen-Zito

Kristin Allen-Zito was lounging poolside at a too-hot Dallas motel on a blazing sunny afternoon, recovering from the previous night's show at a place called Club Da Da. Her cellphone only momentarily disturbed her repose and she was soon chatting about life on the road, away from home in Bellingham, Wash. She's traveling with a guitar player — Rick Canut — who also switches to singing saw, which should give you a tiny hint that Kristin is not your typical guitar-slinging folky singer/songwriter.

I'd hardly asked her two questions when she turned things around asking me what music I'd been listening to that morning. "Well," I told her, "most recently your CD, Helium." "You did?" she says with a self-conscious laugh. I'd also been listening to a new Putumayo comp, Acoustic Africa, that came in the mail last week, a fact that spun us off into a discussion of Putumayo, whose world music collection has been mandatory at the place Kristin works for her day job.

I turn things back to her music by pointing out that "into the ground," the first song on her CD, caught me off guard since it's written from a male perspective. "I guess I felt more masculine at the time," she explains half-heartedly, and I suggest that there's more to it. The guy she's momentarily become is obviously kind of a dick, who screwed some girl over, probably her. "At that particular moment I was really pissed off at somebody," she admits. "It was one of those songs I kind of wrote in passing, because I was upset, but I never played it out, and I was never going to do anything with it, then I decided to record it and at the last minute I stuck it on there. The poor guy didn't even really treat me that bad. But you have these feelings and it's easy to exaggerate them as you work them out, and turn it into this epic fictional story that didn't necessarily really happen."

She revives the question about what I've been listening to, perhaps not wanting to talk about herself, and we get off on a tangent about Syd Barrett, since he died a week ago last Friday and I'd been listening to some old Pink Floyd. As our chat bounces wildly from one thing to another, she returns to talking about herself and why she does what she does.

"I would hope that people are entertained by what I do. Every once in a while I'll have people who feel inspired or connected in some way. But it also makes me happy just to be traveling and getting out on the road. My mother was a folksinger, so I grew up on the road playing in people's living rooms and touring up and down the west coast."

In fact her mom, Linda Allen, still is a folksinger. When Kristin was little Linda was Washington's official "Resident Songwriter" for the Washington State Centennial Commission, which meant Linda traveled around writing songs about various towns and cities with her daughter. They even stayed at my sister Micki's house, since she and my brother-in-law are serious folkies, organizers of an annual Folklife fest in central Washington similar to our own.

So, is Kristin following in mom's footsteps? "Definitely, but not with the same content. My mother was a feminist, but she has the same reaction you did to that first song and the swearing in it. She wished I would find different ways to say things without swearing. It's hard because she's at a point where she's trying to understand where I'm coming from, which is that I want to be able to express whatever I want to express and be myself. I think that's important as a feminist, saying it's OK to be whoever you are."

To find out more about who Kristin Allen-Zito is, stop by Sacred Grounds Friday, July 21, where she'll be singing a few of her songs, and I'm guessing chatting up a storm between tunes. (Ask her about The Trucks, a band she's in that her mom likes even less.)

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Remember "Kind of a Drag"? The catchy summer hit from back in the '60s was a ticket to ride for The Buckinghams, an American rock band that took a vaguely British sounding name to cash in on the British invasion. Lead singer/guitarist Carl Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna, both from the original lineup, play Saturday at Cher-ae Heights Casino, with a couple of younger bucks, kicking of the casino's "Blast From the Past" series. Jefferson Starship comes next (Aug. 19) with Grass Roots, Spencer Davis Group and the no-longer-young Rascals still to come, all of them with at least some small semblance to earlier incarnations.

Coming to the Alibi Saturday night, The Minders, a fine little indie pop band led by guitarist/songwriter Martyn Leaper, a transplanted Brit who started recording under the Minders moniker about 10 years ago in Denver and formed an alliance with the influential Elephant 6 crew from Athens, Georgia. Before long, Rebecca Cole signed on as drummer; she and Martyn eventually married, she shifted to keys, and they headed west to settle in Portland. I caught a Minders show a few years back at Babetta's (of all places) and I had a blast: The place was jumping with dancers in full abandon mode due to the infectious Minders' rockin'. Wild! Another Portland-based indie band, The Kingdom, about whom I know little, shares the bill that night.

Same night, around the corner at Jambalaya, it's a three-band alt. this-and-that show with The Rubberneckers (who play acoustic earlier that day at the Folklife Fest), Strix Vega (Colin also did Folklife earlier in the week) and The Neckers' MySpace friends, The Lonesome Heroes from Austin, who say they are on the road trying to change country music one bar at a time. "So we drive around in rusty vans and pour our souls into countless lonestars and sad country songs, trying to find meaning and other lonesome heroes in this strange world. Everywhere we find beautiful people hidden in the spaces between parking lots where highways end. We leave a few songs, some memories, and drive off like a giant slow motion cliché."

Also in Arcata that night, The "I Grade Records Reggae Showcase," a collection of roots reggae artists from the Virgin Islands including Army, Abja, Niyorah and Tuff Lion, all backed by the Red Eye Band, who undoubtedly will leave behind their own slow motion clichés.

The reggae/rock/ska/funk/hip hop outfit Thicker Than Thieves plays that night down at the Riverwood Inn, but you are warned that Loreen is not going to overpack the place, so advance tickets are advised. (Call soon.) The San Diego transplants are hanging in the North Country for a few days: They hit Arcata Monday for a show at Humboldt Brews.

For the polar opposite experience on Saturday, we have the All Seasons Orchestra summer concert that evening at Trinidad Town Hall, kind of a classical pops thing including music from Pirates of the Caribbean, Gypsy and Fiddler on the Roof, along with Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherazade and Mozart's "G Minor Symphony."

And spinning off in a whole new direction, Humboldt Brews' Sunday Club Confessions is a slightly different this week, with a live set by The Wet Spots, a kinky sex comedy duo who swing musically and perhaps otherwise, promising "sing-alongs, spankings and bawdy sex-ed."

Got a note from local jazz pianist Darius Brotman about the new jazz series he's just starting at the Westhaven Center for the Arts. He's calling it "Never on a Third Sunday" in reference to the Greek movie and tune, and to the fact that he'll be playing piano at the Center almost every Sunday at 2 p.m., but he'll skip the third one in each month since that's when they have the jazz afternoon shows at the Morris Graves Museum. The informal sessions will feature Darius and what he describes as "a changing cast of accomplices," which this Sunday will likely mean guitarist Duncan Burgess and perhaps a drummer. Darius invites you to "come enjoy a little jazz and maybe a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon."

Later that night at The Alibi (much later) it's another record company showcase, this time with Michael Mazochi and Mike Miller from the indie folk label Roving Gambler Records.

My friend Peggy Martinez called to let me know I have another chance to hear her raggedy country outfit, Donny Barnyard and the Dust Devils, when they play next Wednesday, July 26, at Kelly O'Brien's as part of True Colors, a benefit for the Eureka Greens. I believe David G from The Widdershins put the event together (he's Green all the way). His band is playing, anyway, and he's also recruited singing chef Brett the Truck and songwriter Lisa Sharry. Peggy notes that she will probably be playing drums for everyone but Lisa. BTW, it's also a benefit art show with works by local artists including Blake Reagan and Jordan Wry for sale to benefit the party. Haven't the local Greens been at each other's throats lately? Perhaps if they'd just party together a little more the Party would be more harmonious. In fact maybe we could apply that rule internationally. We could all use a bit more partying and a lot less fighting.

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