He doesn’t lay claim to inventing reggae, but Frederick “Toots” Hibbert says he gave the Jamaican music style its name. Born in a town called May Ten in the hills far from Kingston, Toots headed for the lights of the city when he was still a teenager.
As he tells the tale, “I’m from the countryside. I grew up in the church with my parents; dad and mom would preach. I sang in the choir, grew up in that, you know. People told me I could be a singer so one day after I become a big young man I got myself to Kingston.”
It was the ska era when Toots hit Kingston. As predicted he found work as a singer and put together a vocal group called The Maytals. “My music was a little different because of my voice, because of the sound I have,” he recalled. “I can sing R&B, I can sing country, I can sing blues. And I invented the word reggae.”
How? “The music was playing in Jamaica for a long time. Then this rhythm come up, this different rhythm. Nobody knew what to call it. People called it different names like ‘blue beat’ and ‘boogie beat.’ One day we were sitting around and this word just comes up — reggae — because in Jamaica they would say, if a girl not looking good you call her streggae ; if a boy not looking good you call him streggae . It’s a nickname, slang for people who don’t dress properly. I shortened it a little, said, ‘Let’s do the reggae.’ It was a different vibe.”
The raggedy music called reggae took hold and Toots and the Maytals have been at it for decades, injecting the gospel sound he grew up with to prove that “Reggae Got Soul,” as he put it in another song. Ready to feel the Maytals vibe? He’s back in Humboldt Thursday, Oct. 4, for a show at the Indigo Lounge.
There’s more reggae, plus rock and trance DJs Saturday at Southern Humboldt Community Park. Irie Boogie features Humboldt and Mendo bands including Ishi Dube and Massagana , Self Fulfilling Prophecies , Soulevity and assorted irie DJs.
The CenterArts concert juggernaut comes on strong this week with four majors shows in the course of a week. First up is folk music icon Doc Watson playing at the Van Duzer Thursday, Oct. 4. The blind flatpicking guitarist with a rich baritone voice broke through nationally during the folk boom of the early ‘60s after playing the Newport Folk Festival and revived his career in the ‘70s when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band enlisted him for their Will the Circle Be Unbroken album. He’s been going ever since although he did slow down a bit after his son (and music partner) Merle died in a tractor accident in the ‘80s. This tour finds him sharing the stage with David Holt , a multi-instrumentalist/storyteller/historian who worked with Doc on his autobiographic 3-CD set, Legacy .
Next up is a Sunday show featuring what might seem an unlikely pairing: jazzy pianist Bruce Hornsby and bluegrass mandolin master Ricky Skaggs. Of course if you know a bit about Hornsby it makes more sense. He was born in Virginia, so the Southern sound is part of him, and he can play with just about anyone. He was with the Grateful Dead for a time and has worked with everyone from Bob Dylan and Bonnie Raitt to Don Henley and Willie Nelson. What will it sound like? Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, the eponymous album they put out earlier this year, mostly leans toward the country side and they’re touring with Ricky’ band Kentucky Thunder , so expect jazzy bluegrass, not the other way around.
Hornsby has also worked with Béla Fleck , master of the mutant banjo, who returns to the Van Duzer stage Monday with The Flecktones . How do you describe a band led by a banjo player that includes a super-funky bassist like Victor Wooten ; Victor’s brother, who calls himself Future Man , on a homemade electronic rhythm thing called a drumitar; and a sax/flute player like Jeff Coffin ? Well, the band’s latest album, The Hidden Land , won the 2006 Grammy for Contemporary Jazz, which doesn’t quite hit it for me. I asked Béla if “contemporary jazz” is where he sees the band fitting into the musical spectrum. “Well, it’s funny,” he replied. “The genre known as contemporary jazz usually includes music that I wouldn’t include myself with, for instance Kenny G, etc. Yet the truth of the words ‘contemporary jazz’ actually fit the Flecktones music pretty well: We are contemporary and there is a lot of jazz in us.”
Last up in the CenterArts blast of American music is a show Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Van Duzer called Solid Blues . This one is something of a mini-blues fest with a couple of stars who hit the blues scene in the ‘60s: soulful vocalist Mavis Staples from The Staple Singers (remember “”I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself”?) and blues harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite , plus the dynamite country blues trio the North Mississippi All-Stars , who have become darlings of the jamband set, and funky New Orleans-style keyboardist Joe Krown , who played in Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s band until the bluesman passed in 2005.
Also in a blues mode: WC Handy Award-winning guitar dynamo Joe Louis Walker and his band The Bosstalkers play at the Riverwood Inn Saturday, Oct. 6.
Got a note this week from Morgan, the blues-playing mechanic at Redwood Auto who fixed my car a few months back. (It’s still running.) He wanted me to know that his band, Black Cat Bone , is playing its first public gig (aside from the Jambalaya blues jam) at Blue Lake Casino’s Steelhead Lounge Friday night, sharing the bill with the jammy Papa Bear . The show is sort of a preview of Saturday’s Bikes by the Bay at Halverson Park where both bands are playing. (B.C. Bone at 1 p.m., P. Bear at 2:45, a tattoo show in between.) Morgan didn’t mention it, but the Bikes by the Bay website calls the band Bad Cat Bone and Donna Landry , so I guess she’s their singer.
Something different? Eliyahu and Qadim perform music “inspired by ancient mystical music of the Near East” at Arcata Presbyterian Church Sunday. Bandleader Eliyahu plays a Middle Eastern reed flute called the nay, and the bansuri, a bamboo flute from India. The band’s name, Qadim, is Arabic and/or Hebrew for ‘Eastern wind,’ but also ‘ancient’ and ‘that which will come.’ It brings together musicians from India and the Middle East to, as the band puts it, “celebrate the common musical and spiritual heritage of the now troubled region’s ancient cultures.”
The e-mail subject line put it this way: “ Iceage Cobra ’s bassist leaves band; band continues on with first half of West Coast tour.” Despite the fact that the Seattle rockers just released their debut album, Brilliant Ideas from Amazing People, earlier this year, bassist Brad Kaufman has called it quits on the eve of a tour. Most of the band’s dates have been cancelled, but they’re still coming here for two shows, playing Friday at the Vista with Angel’s Share and The Zac Institute and Saturday at the Alibi with The Common Vice . Joe Reineke, former lead singer/guitarist of The Meices, is handling bass chores for the semi-aborted tour. After that the band is auditioning for a new bass player. Need a job?
The Dewayn Brothers play at Jambalaya Saturday? What is a Dewayn Brother? The question is asked and answered on the Kansas band’s website. “Well it’s four brothers and a sister hell bent on pickin’ fast and partying hard! With rippin’ banjo, mando, guitar and thumpin’ bass all we need is the sweet voice of sis Jamie Lee and it’s a sound and a show you’ll love to see!” Incidentally, as best as I can tell they’re not actually related.
It’s local alt. night Saturday at Muddy’s Hot Cup with Kumsar, Goodwin, Weigand, Jackson and Clark (formerly the little still not big enough) opening for Universalia Jane and the Jet Set and Deric Mendes ’ new band, Tanuki , with members of Strix Vega and The Lowlights. What’s a tanuki? Wikipedia says it’s a raccoon/badger-like creature from Japanese folklore, “reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.”
Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Muddy’s Hot Cup it’s alt. folk by Taarka Duo with David and Enion Tiller , a striped down (no drums) version of “seismic gypsy hypno-grass” trio Taarka.
More alt. that same night at the Accident Gallery with locals The Monster Women and Scout Niblett , a minimalist solo artist originally from England who records for Secretly Canadian Records, often with the help of famed producer Steve Albini. Other associates include Magnolia Electric Co. (who were just in town) and Will Oldham, who sings with her on her most recent album, This Fool Can Die Now . This one could be the sleeper show of the week.