The Brothers Comatose really are brothers -- well, two of them anyway. In the beginning, the self-described "raucous and rowdy" stringband from San Francisco was Ben and Alex Morrison, a couple of Petaluma boys who grew up in a folky household.
"Our dad had guitars, so we'd always played guitars, then one of my mom's friends left a banjo behind," Ben recalled. "Alex was maybe 13 at the time. He took to the banjo." A friend at school, Gio Benedetti, played bass and joined the stringy fun. "That was when things took a left turn and we started down that road. We spent a lot of time fooling around, jamming before we got a band together."
Fast-forward about a decade and a half and the bros are still picking out tunes with Gio, with a fiddle and mandolin added to the mix. You might have heard them at last summer's Jefferson State Old Time Review at the Playhouse or some other local show. That's where I picked up Songs from the Stoop, a nice set of tunes they put together while living in a Victorian on Haight Street.
A second CD is almost done with a bunch of songs about life on the road -- the band is on the road a lot. While they've already put a lot of time and money into recording, last week the Brothers posed a question to fans who follow them via Twitter and Facebook: "Do people want albums from bands anymore, or would you rather just have songs come out as they're written and recorded ... like a more constant stream?"
The response was almost unanimous: "Yes! We want albums!" even if many will simply transfer the music to a computer.
"We have such a constant stream of information in our culture today," said Ben. "Some people check Facebook and Twitter every 10 minutes. Some bands wait a long time between albums and people maybe forget about them until there's something new. We've had these songs for a while, but you have to wait until you have enough, and it takes time to record them and mix them and press them, and it all costs money, just so people can put the songs on their iPod. We like the old school approach -- we're all record collectors and we like the aesthetic beauty of a tangible object -- but at the same time, maybe people want something new every month or two from their favorite band. I'm still torn." And since there's already much invested in the as-yet-untitled new album, the bros are pushing forward. But first the Brothers C are hitting the road. The band plays Humboldt Brews Friday with Portland's Water Tower Bucket Boys sharing the bill. Be sure to stop at that merch table.
There's "stormy Monday" -- so, maybe this coming Tuesday could be dubbed rootsy Tuesday. Laid-back Americana guitar slinger Jackie Greene (who looks more and more like Dylan as time passes) straddles the blues, folk and jam scenes. His most recent disc, Till the Light Comes, was produced in part by Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips. Jackie hits HumBrews with like-minded Boston-based singer/songwriter Jabe Beyer.
Meanwhile at the Van Duzer, next-gen blues queen Ruthie Foster brings her Soul Salvation Tour to town with Paul Thorn, an alt. Americana songwriter out of Tupelo, Miss.
Same Tuesday, the Jambalaya has Brownchicken Browncow Stringband, an old time quartet from the hills of West Virginia that includes brothers Xander and Orion Hitzig.
That cool new Old Town joint The Speakeasy calls it "Bluesy Tuesday," which means music by guitarist Deorin and trumpet player Brandon. The duo also plays there on Friday. And on Monday, it's your chance to experience that burly-cue stuff you read about in Jada's story last week: The sexy ladies of Va Va Voom are doing their thing in the intimate bar.
SoCal beachrockers Animal Liberation Orchestra, aka ALO, typically hit the road in February for a "Tour d'Amour" lovefest (this in No. 6). The band returns to Arcata Sunday to play HumBrews, bringing along Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, a rootsy country soul outfit from S.F. featuring sweet vocals by Nicki, who just happens to be married to the above-mentioned Tim Bluhm (he's one of The Gramblers). The tour is a benefit for the nonprofit Music in School Today, whose name is self-explanatory.
Also in the roots vein: a Thursday show at HumBrews with Dead Winter Carpenters, a folky "roots-infused" Americana five-piece from "the shores of Lake Tahoe" with fiddler/vocalist/songwriter Jenni Charles out front.
And there's hot blues harp player John Nemeth, returning to the Riverwood Saturday night. The Riverwood is also bringing back Canadian country swingers Petunia and The Vipers for a Wednesday show (Feb. 8), led by a very cool yodeling frontman Petunia (that's right a dude).
Lotza reggae this week: On Thursday, ex-locals Synrgy celebrate the release of an eponymous CD at the Jambalaya. While the roots reggae band formed in Arcata, the guys have since relocated to Ashland, which does not strike me as a reggae hotbed. (What do I know?) Another reggae outfit opens: Arcata's Mighty Redwood Ambassadors, with special guest Madi Simmons on vocals and percussion.
Same Thursday at the Arcata Theater Lounge, Bonus brings in another Jamaican conscious reggae/dancehall show, this one featuring two Rasta singers: Chuck Fenda, aka "Poor People Defender," and the equally talented I-Wayne, both backed by IKronik.
Still more roots reggae Saturday as Groundation brings its 12th annual Bob Marley tribute tour to the Mateel. Formed years ago as part of a reggae history class at Sonoma State, the band is still led by reggae historian/guitarist Harrison Stafford. Vidagua and DJ Jacques open. Extra added bonus: Before the concert proper, Harrison is screening his recently completed documentary Holding on to Jah: The Genesis of a Revolution, an examination of, you guessed it, roots reggae and the Rastafarian movement, "as told by the musician and people who brought it to the world."
And if you can't make it down to Redway, there's always Jambalaya's "Culture Clash" Saturday with DJ Gabe Pressure spinning reggae and world music.
For another take on "world" music, you have Friday night's "World Dance Party" at Redwood Raks, which as far as I can tell is a rebranding of the Humboldt Folkdancers' old "First Friday" international folkdance party with plenty of Balkan dances and live music by Chubritza and Musaic. It starts with lessons at 7 p.m. for the uninitiated (the dances are relatively easy), and the dancing begins at 8.
Meanwhile, same Friday at the Jambalaya, it's "world" music from Africa, with Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble, a throbbing 15-piece band from Berkeley featuring members of Fela Kuti's Afrika 70, Sonny Okosun's Ozziddi and other historic world beat outfits. Yes!
Guitarist Tom Toohey's Bon Swing has a busy Friday planned with an early (6-9 p.m.) gig playing Django-esque jazz at Libation followed immediately by more of the same at Cafe Mokka. Saturday at Libation it's Djalopy, a gypsy jazz duo with a couple of members of Absynth Q.
Saturday and Sunday the Jam goes electro, first with a World Famous blast Saturday, a showcase for producers from the Dutch Rwina Records label featuring NastyNasty from San Jose and two Dutch artists, Krampfhaft and Rwina label founder Akkachar. Sunday it's the usual Deep Groove Society Sundaze.
Awesome double bill coming to the Depot April 18, featuring "The Queen of Rockabilly," Wanda Jackson, whose long career got a major boost recently when she did a record with Jack White. Wanda is touring with Portland's Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, a band with a strong local following. Tickets go on sale Monday. Yes, this will sell out. My guess is, quickly.