It was in no way planned, but the recent death of Merle Haggard provides an awkward, yet perhaps fitting, opportunity to shine a light on a local band influenced by his "Bakersfield sound." A cover band they're not, but Cliff Dallas & the Death Valley Troubadours play what I think they call "Mojave Country Twang" and that's close enough to Bakersfield for me. Released back in '14, the band's album Angels & Devils provides a glimpse into lives — some fictional, other most likely not — of what can only be surmised as local gutter dwellers and bar maggots. It's country music, but not the hoo-rah, flag-draped mindless shit that comes out of car stereos along the 99. Maybe it's better to differentiate it as outlaw country, music and stories that are concerned with the darkness in man's heart and soul and the rust that belies all that shines. Angels & Devils isn't dark and pessimistic throughout, as with much that borders on the insightful, humor abounds in this work.
I've not heard anyone brave enough to say it — so I'll give it a shot — but Cliff Dallas, whatever name you know him by, is one of Humboldt's finest lyricists. At one moment you'll hear "Black Lung" and the ghostly thoughts of a man lowered into a mine knowing death awaits, then another about a man whose perhaps only joy is the arrival of his wife's lingerie catalogue in "Victoria's Secret," and "P.B.R. Girl," which can only be about Roller Derby gals and neutered hipsters drinking this shitty beer — which hasn't "won a ribbon since 1893" — at The Shanty. All of this couched in witty turns of phrase briefly sophisticated and often vulgar and intellectually profane, yet rooted in the blue collar life. With the Troubadours whipping and crackling behind the vocals, they've got just enough polish to paint the desert landscape, but not enough where it would look like a cheesy Hollywood backdrop. With their music, it's hard to imagine why "Hippie Hatin' Me" isn't immediately adopted as Arcata's municipal song. To make this case, let me quote, "I hate your white boy rasta, soy bean pasta, mattey hair, dopey stare, jerry bear, North Country Fair®, hacky sack kickin', outta' tune pickin', bumper stickin', mate lickin', dreadlock rappin', forest crappin', circle drummin', cigarette bummin' ... Oh, hippie hatin' me."
If that doesn't bring smells of the Arcata Plaza to your nose, consider yourself lucky. Who is Cliff Dallas and who are these Troubadours? It may not really matter, but through their music and lyrics, perhaps they show us all a little bit of who we are. Pimples, wrinkles, whiskey-breath and all. It's easy to think we're angels, but as we know, it's a pretty fine line.
The weekend's starting with some feel-good vibes down at the Mateel with "Polynesian reggae superstar" J Boog and his Hawaiian-based band Hot Rain. Starting off this 8 p.m. show will be DJ Westafa and then San Diegan reggae rockers Through The Roots. $40 for the triple band bill.
You can feel equally as good and get moving as well at Redwood Curtain Brewery in Arcata with a special free performance by local funksters Motherlode. They'll start off around 8 p.m. and provide a killer soundtrack as you sip your local beer.
Just as free —but with a less talented bass player— is Money who you'll find ripping off Pink Floyd tunes at Blue Lake Casino and Hotel at 9 p.m.
Also known for occasionally covering some Floyd tunes is Poor Man's Whiskey which returns to Hum Brews for $15. Catch the band's pickin' and harmonies around 9:30 p.m.
Rock the Redwoods II is happening at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. Local litigator/guitar slinger Zach Zwerdling tells me that this is a three-band bill benefitting the Redwood Parks Association which is celebrating the National Park's 100th birthday. Donating their music for the evening are local park lovers Joyce Hough's Home Cooking, The Melanie Barnett Band, and The Delta Nationals. If you love parks too — or just good music — head over to the ATL around 8 p.m. and bring $18 to donate to the cause.
Kingfoot returns to Redwood Curtain Brewery at 8 p.m. for a free show, and up in Blue Lake you'll find the above-mentioned Cliff Dallas & the Death Valley Troubadours bringing outlaw country along with the haunting harmonies of Belles of the Levee starting around 9 p.m. at the world famous Logger Bar. This one's free, but leave a tip for the bands.
Long time rocker/punker Chuck Prophet plays with his Mission Express and Garland Jeffreys opening the show around 9:30 p.m. $15 cover charge at Hum Brews.
Three percussion groups from HSU perform at Fulkerson Recital Hall all starting around 8 p.m. The aptly titled Percussion Ensemble performs a work based on the Balinese Monkey Chant. Says director Eugene Novotney, "This virtuosic piece captures the deep emotion of the Monkey Chant in a dramatic percussive orchestration that pushes the seven-player ensemble to the limits of their technique and musicality." Rounding out this percussive bill is the HSU West African Ensemble along with the World Percussion Group performing for free for HSU students, and for $8 to the rest of us.
Keepin' the groove alive is The Deep Groove Society who will be doing their thing — as they always do — at The Jam at 9 p.m. Methinks this one's free.
Like dancing, circles and friendship? Well, I'm glad to tell you that the Friendship Circle Dance Club combines all three! Born in 1950 to "promote health through social dance", the FCDC has local dance band Jack Johnson and the Blue Lake Yacht Club playing jazz standards from the 30s through 50s for your dancing feet. Find em' at the Humboldt Grange at 7 p.m. for $4.
At the same time you can hear some Tuareg-influenced music from Algeria at Richard's Goat Tavern and Tea Room. Imarhan will be performing an acoustic set followed by an electric one. Don't expect this to be a kitschy historical snapshot for our Western consumption, Imarhan avoids exploiting their traditional nomadic dress (suited for the Sahara Desert) and culture and simply let their "desert blues" inform us that the desert is as existing in the present as everywhere else. I hear the early show is sold out, but there are still tickets available for the later show (9:30 p.m.) for $7. Opening the show is local Gobi Blank and serving as closers are Chicago psych-rockers Crown Larks.
Doing his thing — don't expect him to stop — is Humboldt's own Buddy Reed. Check him out at Libation in Arcata around 7 p.m. Ask him how his recent gig at a SoCal blues festival went, and then throw the guy some bread as he's playing for free.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Powell is a congenital music lover and hosts The Night Show on KWPT 100.3 FM weeknights at 6 p.m. Shit on P.B.R. and he'll love your album.