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Release Me 

New CDs from Vidagua, Side Iron, Johnny Render, Martin and Blades, plus Bob D’s birthday and radio news

click to enlarge New CDs from Side Iron, Vidagua and Johnny Render - PHOTO BY BOB DORAN
  • photo by Bob Doran
  • New CDs from Side Iron, Vidagua and Johnny Render

As we shift into the digital age, where music is exchanged via computers and played on phones and iPods, some say the CD is dead. Not so fast, say independent artists who still see the disc as a viable art form.

For example, the reggae-meets-Latin bilingual vocal duo Vidagua is celebrating the release of a self-tiled CD this weekend. You may have seen Vidagua's Lorenza Simmons and Biancamankai as back-up singers for Berel Alexander and Ishi Dube (who produced the album). The ladies have been singing and writing songs together since meeting at HSU 11 years ago and figured it was time to make a record. "It's taken almost two years, but a lot of the songs were works in progress for 10 years," said Lorenza when she dropped off an advance copy.

Why put out a CD? "We want to share the songs with people who have heard them over the years, so they have something to take home. And we still love the idea of having a hard copy in the hand, having the art and liner notes. We'll do some digital stuff too, but we're glad we did this. We hope to share it far and wide, share our message." The message? "It's very much about love, about uplifting the soul, especially in these times. Music is such a powerful way to bring people together and spread the love."

Pick up a copy and feel the love Saturday at the Red Fox with special guest Madi Simmons (Lorenza's dad) who sings on the record, plus DJs One Wise Sound and Gabe Pressure.

That same night at the Alibi, local alt. honky tonk rockers Side Iron celebrate the completion of what seems to be an eponymous album. (The CD and a poster were dropped at the Journal office and Side Iron is all it says on the disc.) Sampled speeches by a Mexican politician and Obama lead into raw, driving songs about life, love, drinking and redemption. Bridgeville-based songwriter Gabe Rozzell opens the release show.

Then there's the Johnny Render CD Release Tour invading the Shanty Saturday. Renderville Records publicist Randy Render (Johnny's brother?) offers this cryptic description of Johnny: "Render is a longtime L.A.-based ‘entertainer' who released his LP Rendervoux ‘anonymously' this year on the ‘anonymous' Renderville Records label. Render's identity is currently ‘unknown,' although several sources have identified him as filmmaker Jensen Rufe, who directed the 2006 Rural Rock & Roll documentary about Humboldt garage rock." Clues: Render's album was recorded by longtime Guided by Voices producer Todd Tobias. Rufe is a huge GBV fan who also leads the GBV tribute, Tiger Bomb. Like GBV, Johnny's songs tend toward short, sincere indie pop. (What's hard to tell is whether the sincerity is real or tongue-in-cheek.) His touring combo is something of a Rural Rock revival with Dameon Lee Waggoner from Lowlights and The Letdown on bass, and drummer Ray Johnson from The Cutters and The Sin Men. Aaron Friscia from The Sharp Ease handles lead guitar duty. Also on the bill: The Suicide Notes from Portland, the latest band for former local Pat Foss from Petey and The Associates. Your MC for the evening: none other than rapper JPG, back in action after a long hiatus. Classy reunion.

Same Saturday at the Jambalaya rapper/producer "AC the Coolest" (aka Alex Carapanos) celebrates the release of his CD, Turn Up The AC. Hailing from the East Bay, AC moved to Arcata in 2005 to attend HSU. While living in the dorms, he and longtime friend Charley "The Fowl" Fowler started producing beats and writing songs, calling the collaboration Caldecott Connection, referencing the Caldecott Tunnel that connected them as youths in the Bay. Fast-forward seven years to present day: AC the Coolest debuts his solo CD. Caldecott Connection has now expanded and evolved to become Fresh Coast Connection and released an album, Fresh Coast Connection Vol. 1. With his solo disc, AC stays fresh, but looks to his roots. "I think the G-funk era of Warren G and the ‘90s Bay Area hip hop scene influenced me the most growing up," he says. "My musical flavor is rooted in the funky, soulful West coast movement." 

Local legends Potluck and Ishi Dube, as well as Bay Area singer Mike Marshall (famous for his hook on the Luniz song, I Got 5 On It), are among the featured artists on the new record. AC's Fresh Coast Connection friends also contributed verses on some of the new tracks. Saturday's CD release party will be hosted by none other than Berel Alexander with opening sets by Blunt Savages and Fresh Coast Connection. (You can also catch Berel early that evening across town at Robert Goodman Wines.)

The jazzy jammin' organ/drum duo Billy Martin and Wil Blades just released a new CD, Shimmy, on Martin's own label, Amulet Records, in association with Royal Potato Family. This is one of those almost instant partnerships: When Martin (of Medeski Martin and Wood fame) met the young organist from Berkeley at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest last year, they got into some old school groove jazz a la Brother Jack McDuff, Groove Holmes, etc. That led to a West Coast tour; partway through they booked studio time in Blades' hometown.

"We had about seven hours to record as much music as we could and hoped to get a full record out of it," said Martin. "We were burning the candle bright, touring down the coast. By the time we hit the studio we had about five gigs behind us and were well warmed up with the material we were developing." The end result: an instant record, a good one at that, and now another West Coast tour to celebrate the sweet release, including a stop Tuesday at the Jambalaya.

Tribute of the week, hands down, Chris Parreira's Second Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash on Thursday (Bob's actual birthday) at Mad River Brewing, marking the great songwriter's 71st birthday. You'll hear The Trouble, The Rezonators, Kulica, Jan Bramlett, Jeff Kelley, Patrick Cleary, Marty L'Heralt and Jeff DeMark, all dipping into the deep well that is Dylan's songbook. I loved last year's truly awesome Million Dollar Bash; this one should be just as good if not better.

There's also the Beatles tribute, Silver Hammer, playing Saturday night at Blue Lake Casino, a band that I only recently realized is closely related to '80s tributers Eyes Anonymous. Did I mention that the guys have really cool costumes that seem to be inspired by the Yellow Submarine movie?

Mazzotti's Arcata, former home of Brewin' Beats and Cafe Tomo, relaunches as a music venue Thursday with a show featuring Australian "funkadelic hippo hop monkey crunk" electro artist Opiuo. Be prepared to dance.

The Willits-based Dirt Floor Band plays "self-deprecating folk-country" music the guys refer to as "barefoot-punk-grass," kind of a funkadelic bluegrass mash-up with banjo and guitars shifting from acoustic to electric. They hit Humboldt Brews Thursday, sharing the bill with like-minded bluegrassy genre busters The No Good Redwood Ramblers. Yahoo!

Friday's "Mechanical Menagerie" at Redwood Raks is a "whimsical" all-ages, animal-themed benefit for the fire dance group Nightshade Serenade with bellydancing, "animal hi jinx" by Blue Angel Burlesque, a fire show (presumably in the courtyard outside) and music by alt. country-rockers Gunsafe.

In the mood for doom metal? Upsidedowncross presents a doom life here and go on the road with it, but I'm not read to do that. twofer Monday at the Alibi with Across Tundras from Nashville and Uzala from Boise/Portland.

Jon Dee Graham, an Austin-based Americana songwriter with a resume that includes playing in a band with Alejandro Escovedo and recording with Ry Cooder, is also part of the pre-release wave: His Garage Sale album comes out this summer. Sunday he's at Robert Goodman Wines with another Austin songwriter, Mike June (his CD Exile on Wilson Street is just out), and Chris Parreira, who lived there too.

Wikipedia tell us that, in Indian religions, moksha (Sanskrit for liberation, from the root, muc, to let loose, let go) is "the final extrication of the soul," which ends "all the suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and rebirth." In Las Vegas on the other hand, Moksha is a five-piece kick-ass, funk rock band that lets loose in a not-so-spiritual fashion. Release yourself from suffering with Moksha Sunday at Humboldt Brews. SambAmore offers a rhythmic warm-up.

SoHum's Redwood Community Radio KMUD is marking its silver anniversary this year by throwing a big block party on July 7 in Redway. But first there's a live KMUD broadcast starting at 7 p.m.Sunday from the Riverwood Inn celebrating another silver anniversary: 25 years on the air by two deejays who have been with the station since the start, Les Scher, host of "Lester Leaps In" (Sundays at 7 p.m.) and Johanna Hamel, host of "Jomama's Blues" (Sundays at 9 p.m.). Saxophonist Francis Vanek and friends are featured on Les' show, and since Les plays sax too and is among Francis' friends, he'll undoubtedly join the jam at some point. Oakland-based blues/soul piano player/vocalist Lady Bianca follows at 9.

My guess is you'll also find Jomama at the Riverwood Friday night when blues guitarist/songwriter Debbie Davies brings her band to town. Winner of the Blues Foundation's "Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist" award a couple of years ago, Davies took some time off to mourn the loss of her close friend, musician Robin Rogers, and to heal after breaking her arm. The result was a record full of new songs, After The Fall, set for release in July, which I suppose makes this a pre-CD release show.

And while we're talking radio deejays, we're about to lose one of my favorites, Barry Thorpe, host of the expertly curated "Classic Jazz Variety" show on Wednesday nights on KHSU since 1994. Barry is retiring and sailing off into the sunset, headed for Bali (seriously, he really is). Tune in his last show May 30; he promises some extra special musical surprises. Bon voyage!

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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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