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January 26, 2006

The Hum heading

Heading: Honest Music, photo of Leahy


They call their band Leahy for a good reason: Everyone in the group, all eight members are, or were, named Leahy. They're all brothers and sisters. Their sound is often described as genre-crossing -- a mix of country, pop and traditional Celtic sounds -- but whatever they play has its roots in the Canadian province of Ontario, where they grew up. "We come from a little town called Lakefield," said Maria, who plays guitar and fiddle in the band. (All of the Leahys play fiddle.) She was calling from Lakefield, the "little town" north of Toronto where most of the family still lives. The rest live not far away. The Celtic feel in the music comes naturally. "It was the music of our parents, Irish and Scottish roots music, then folk music, then over the course of time we were exposed to everything from country and jazz to classical."

The band has long been a hit in Canada, and they've earned a legion of fans across the border almost by chance. A few years ago, they performed at the Juno Awards (Canada's Grammys), where they took home trophies, and Shania Twain was in the audience. Shania liked what she heard, and loved their show, which includes French/Irish/Canadian-style step dancing. She invited them to tour with her. The offer ultimately took up almost two years of their lives. Suddenly they were playing huge halls and stadium shows for tens of thousands. Somehow they survived the experience and avoided being pulled apart. No one decided to go live in Nashville.

Said Maria, "One thing we have learned throughout all of our experiences over the years is as long as the artist is honest with themselves and honest in the music that they're playing and bringing to the rest of the world, on whatever level -- small, rootsy, commercial, whatever -- that makes a huge difference in the satisfaction of the artist. And the audience knows it. We get satisfaction in what we play -- that will always resonate with people.

"A lot of artists are desperate to make it, but they have to know where the line is between satisfaction in their craft and what they're prepared to do to have commercial success. It's so sad to see artists sucked into the commercial way."

When we spoke Maria was preparing for another road trip across the border -- this time with Leahy as the headline act. The tour across the U.S. and back finds them at the Van Duzer Theatre Tuesday, Jan. 31, bringing a bit of honest Canadian music and dancing to Humboldt.

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Coming up Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Alibi, a fundraiser for the Six Rivers Planned Parenthood construction fund. According to the folks at SRPP, who are in the midst of pulling money together for a new $2 million-plus building, they are sweating over $200,000 promised by the Kresge Foundation. As is typical with Kresge money, it's a "challenge grant," which means the grantee has to demonstrate "effectiveness" by matching part of the gift. In this case, SRPP must come up with $25,000. I don't know that the tiny Alibi will generate all that much, but it is a good cause, and the music, provided by The Buffy Swayze and The Signal, is worth going out to see any time.

The local global fusion outfit WoMama presents a benefit dance party for the HSU Percussion Dept. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in the Kate Buchanan Room with lots of drums and drummers including the samba group Bloco Firmeza, West African rhythms from Dun Dun Fare, a female vocal group called AkaBella and, of course, WoMama's world grooves.

Elsewhere: Thursday, Jan. 26, local metal trio Cycle of Violence mark the release of their first CD, a homemade CDR thing they call The Constitution Bleeds, a title which, says their bassist Gaylen, reflects the "slightly political" nature of some of their lyrics. The release party at Brogi's Boiler Room (weren't they going to drop the Brogi's from the name?) includes a set by Cycle of Violence (why wouldn't it?) and loud music from their friends The DTs and, from Willits, Morning Stiffness.

Thursday is also the birthday of Pete Ciotti (aka Little Pete), drummer for Nucleus and a few other local jazz/jam/funk outfits. His birthday party is that night at Humboldt Brews, where Nucleus is joined by the funky Moo-Got-2. When I asked if there was anything special in store, he explained that as his present from the band, "I get to write the set list -- so expect some weird shit!"

Also in the jamrock mode, a show Friday at Humboldt Brews with genre-jumping Blue Turtle Seduction from the Tahoe area playing what they describe as "high-altitude Bohemian tribal funk grass."

This Thursday at Mazzotti's the dancehall DJs make way for some live reggae by Winston Jarrett and Wadi Gad. Born in 1944, one year before Bob Marley, Winston Jarrett grew up in the same Trenchtown ghetto that Bob called home. In the '60s he played rock steady behind Alton Ellis and recorded for Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd, then went solo to cut dozens of tracks that have recently been collected for a double-disk career retrospective album. Jarrett is joined by Wadi Gad, another veteran with decades of experience in the Jamaican music scene.

Then on Sunday night, catch yet another reggae legend at Mazzotti's: Don Carlos, one of the original members of Black Uhuru. Carlos left the band to pursue the proverbial solo career in the '80s, and garnered a massive following in Africa. In the 1990's, he returned to Uhuru to tour as lead singer, but now he's back to solo again.

Still to come in the reggae zone, as we approach the anniversary of Bob Marley's birth: a tribute to Bob next Thursday, Feb. 2, at Indigo Lounge featuring Cali-reggae kings Groundation with special guests Leroy "Horsemouth" Brown (yes another Jamaican vet) and guitarist Will Bernard, who's better known for his jazz/jam work with Motherbug and others. Then, on Feb. 4, it's dubmaster Mad Professor, again at Mazzotti's. (More on the Prof next week.) The annual Marley B-day party at the Mateel comes later in the month, Friday, Feb. 24, with Gregory Isaacs plus Dezarie and Ikahba from St. Croix.

Saturday night is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and to celebrate, the folks in HSU's Music Dept. are having a party (concert) at Fulkerson Recital Hall with 13 faculty members performing Wolfgang's chamber music for voice, woodwinds, strings and piano, each piece introduced by readings from Mozart's letters.

It's blues time in Old Town Saturday night with Buddy Reed and the Rip It Ups (including chef Chuck Kirsher) ripping it up at Ramone's. Meanwhile, at the swanky Indigo, the Clint Warner Band takes the stage playing blues and more for dancers.

Looking for something completely different? Check out the evening of experimental films and music Friday, Jan. 27, at the Van Duzer, a benefit for the Humboldt International Film Fest. Samoa's wild noise band Starving Weirdos create a live score on the fly for short films by avant-garde filmmaker Harry Smith, who made abstract films in the '40s and '50s. Pubic Zirconium gives a similar live score treatment to found footage collage films by Arcata filmmaker Mike "Peeplehead" Sargent, then there's live video editing to accompany The Signals and, from Oakland, I Will Kill You Fucker, a comic heavy metal duo with members from Brainoil. I assure you, you'll see nothing like it anywhere.

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