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Emotional Landscapes 

Boz Scaggs, blues, SWOD and a Celtic harpist

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First time I heard Boz Scaggs he was playing guitar and sharing vocal duties in the seminal '60s version of the Steve Miller Band - Children of the Future was one of my favorite records, particularly side 2, where Boz reigned.

Raised in Oklahoma and Texas, Scaggs met Miller in 1959; they played in bands together in high school in Texas then at U. Wisconsin-Madison before Scaggs struck off on his own to explore Europe and the British blues scene. Around the time of the Summer of Love he showed up in San Francisco to rejoin Miller and work on his first albums, Children of the Future and Sailor. Boz then once again went solo starting with an underappreciated eponymous blues disc with a band that included Duane Allman and a cadre of Muscle Shoals soul men.

It took until 1976 for Scaggs to break through to a mass audience with the smooth-as-silk Silk Degrees. He'd found his niche. He's recorded a long string of albums since, mostly along smooth soul lines, but venturing back to the blues and, more recently, into jazzy takes on standards - still, suave soul is his forte.

I spoke with him a few years back when he was coming to play in Eureka. We got to talking about the common "areas of expertise" of the musicians he was working with. I asked him what he saw as his own area of expertise. "I don't know how to define myself really," he told me. "I guess I have a certain vocal signature, and there's a particular kind of song that I write, although I wouldn't know exactly how to describe it. I guess I've begun to develop a personal style."

I suggested that part of that style was a heart-on-the-sleeve honesty, a realness that makes his songs ring true. "I know what you mean and I'd have to say that when I write I sort of go to that emotional well. That's where it comes from. I try to isolate myself and set the words to some musical platform that reflects something that's happening to me. And that's how I get to it. I don't find writing easy, it doesn't come to me the way it comes to some songwriters who are in a technical sense more purist than I am. A lot of it comes from my own personal emotional landscape."

You'll get a view of that landscape when Boz Scaggs returns to Eureka Monday, Aug. 3, for a show at the Arkley Center. Not sure who's with him, but I'd expect a set including his hits and probably a bit of blues.

OK, I'm guessing most of you are skipping Reggae Rising for one reason or another: Maybe you don't like crowds; perhaps you're a Mateel devotee; then again, you might not care for reggae music. Rest assured, there are many other entertainment options this weekend.

Nocturnum has the third in a run of serious blues shows Friday, bringing in harmonica master Mark Hummel and his band The Blues Survivors. Hummel is a survivor who's been blowing Chicago-style blues since the early '70s with consistently fine sidemen - his current lineup has the red hot Rusty Zinn on lead guitar. Attention blues aficionados: The turnout for Charlie Musselwhite's thing last week was low and I'm guessing they lost money. If you want more blues at Nocturnum, show up for this one. (And don't forget the Buddy Brown Blues Festival next Saturday, Aug. 8, and Blues by the Bay Sept. 5/6.)

Still more blues: Blue Rhythm Review plays blues and soul at the Pearl Friday, then at the Arcata Theatre Lounge Saturday. The Kaye Bohler Band plays the Wave at the Blue Lake Casino Saturday night. The S.F.-based vocalist writes her own songs in the R&B/funk vein and sings them in a strong, whiskey-soaked voice. She describes her style as "interactive."

Every year HSU hosts a summer workshop, Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum, with a mission, "to celebrate the folkloric music, songs, and dances of the Afro-Cuban people." Howie Kaufman always assembles a stellar faculty, drawing stars and veterans from the Cuban music/dance world. Culmination for the program is Friday night: a faculty concert at the Van Duzer that will surely be a music and rhythm dream.

For some reason I figured Magnum had superceded the role of Judas Priest tribute band Sad Wings of Destiny - I was wrong. SWOD is rising from the ashes once more for its annual "final" show on Saturday night at the Alibi (where else?). Stone Axe shares the bill.

If you're down in SoHum Saturday, and not at Reggae, stop by that local honky tonk the Riverwood Inn to hear The Bottom Dwellers from Woodland play alt. country tunes they describe as "rip snortin' honky tonk."

Deadhead? You'll want to attend Jerry's Birthday Bash with The Miracle Show Saturday at Humboldt Brews. "A tribute to our beloved Captain Trips," as the MS folks put it.

Saturday is also Arts Alive! night in Eureka. Among the musical offerings is Gamelan Sekar Sequoia, an ensemble playing the traditional Javanese instruments made of gongs and other metallophones.

You say you didn't get enough reggae over the weekend? Mykal Rose, Pablo Moses and Jah Tory hit the Arcata Theatre Lounge Tuesday, Aug. 4. Born in Kingston's Waterhouse ghetto, Mykal's rise to reggae fame came in the '80s when Sly and Robbie brought him in as vocalist for Black Uhuru. Rose is on the road with Dubtronic and JA Rasta revolutionary Pablo Moses, who's backed by his own Revolutionary Dream Band. Opening is Jah Tory, a Jamaican transplant who now lives in Humboldt. Akaboom Sound keeps the beat going before and between sets.

Nocturnum has a stoner-rock double bill next Wednesday, Aug. 5, featuring Nebula and The Entrance Band. Nebula includes former members of Fu Manchu; they have a new disc titled Heavy Psych, which pretty much defines where they're at. The Entrance Band power trio is along similar lines, but slightly bluesier.

Coming to the Westhaven Center for the Arts Saturday: harpist/storyteller Patrick Ball. Born and raised in California, Patrick ended up in Ireland doing post-grad history studies. Amidst the academics, he found himself falling for Irish music, and the Celtic harp in particular. "Must be something in the auld DNA. It stirs something in me," he says. "Also, the legendary brass-strung harp that I play is pretty universally regarded as the most enchanting instrument ever heard."

Combining music with stories, he created something he calls "Theater of Legend." "My shows are very similar to solo theater, and most of them are based on Celtic legends. Hence, Theater of Legend," he explains. "The show I will present on Saturday is Celtic Harp and Story. Whether in the stronghold of a Galway chieftain in the years before history began or yesterday in the snug corner of a pub in Dublin, the Irish have always delighted in storytelling. Their passion for eloquence and wordplay, their deep devotion to their mythical past, their ability to find joy and humor in a dark world, and their belief that the supernatural world could appear between one breath and the next made their stories and the telling of them unrivaled in the world of the oral tradition. And, always, amidst the storytelling, there was music."

Isn't that what music's all about - filling in the spaces between our stories and helping to tell them? It doesn't matter if it's lush Celtic harp, raw blues harp, a ripping metal solo or a smoky one-drop bass line, music is there to help us find joy and humor in this dark world and maybe brighten our emotional landscapes, just a little.

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About The Author

Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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