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The Hum by Bob Doran

August 26, 2004

Photo and headline -- Tom Rozum and Laurie Lewis

FIDDLER LAURIE LEWIS HAS BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT of the California bluegrass/mountain music scene for decades, playing with the all-woman Good Old Persons as well as Blue Rose, Grant Street String Band and her own band. Through it all she has managed to put a modern spin on the old time musical forms she explores.

[Photo at left: Tom Rozum and Laurie Lewis]

The key? "I write a lot of songs and I use the template of a bluegrass band -- the way bluegrass instruments work together to weave a sound -- I take the traditional aspects of that and write lyrics that I hope are either contemporary or timeless," said Lewis, taking a break from a music camp in Oregon where she was teaching.

An example of her timeless/contemporary songwriting is the opening track on her latest disc, Guest House, recorded with her old friend from Grant Street, Tom Rozum, playing mandolin and sharing vocals. Described by Lewis as "a contemporary cautionary tale," "Willie Poor Boy" is her variation on Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd," telling the story of a bus driver who ends up in prison after an unfortunate handgun incident.

"I know the guy it happened to," said Lewis, "in fact, he was someone I know well. I saw him right before he went to jail, and he told me the whole story. It just seemed like a Woody Guthrie type tale, one that needed to be written."

Another Guest House track has Lewis and Rozum singing a cappella on "Quiet Hills," a song by Claudia Schmidt about maintaining hope in dark times. Lewis chose it because she sees so many around her feeling hopeless. She feels the song "brings it back to the sense of small community and the earth, holding hope for the future and bringing us through hard times. I thought a lot of people could relate to it right now."

Lewis and Rozum bring their Guest House tour to the Eureka Theater Friday, Aug. 27, with Scott Huffman, who played banjo and guitar on the record, joining them.

There's a major onslaught of reggae this coming week starting Friday night at the Mateel, where former Black Uhuru lead vocalist Junior Reid performs, along with Reggae Angels and Junior's sons, Andrew and Wadda Blood.

They're not reggae legends yet, but local boys Juce play some sweet roots reggae at Humboldt Brews Friday, Aug. 27. Those who read this week's cover story should note: A couple of the guys in the band are also StreamGuys.

Then on, Wednesday, Sept. 1, it's Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, "the original dread," at HSU's Kate Buchanan Room, with his Burning Band. After 35 years in the music business, Spear is following the path of many artists, going independent with his own label, Burning Music, and re-releasing his classic discs. DJ Gideon spins to open the show.

The biggest show comes on Thursday, Sept. 2, at Benbow Lake Recreation Area, a release party for the Reggae on the River CD and DVD celebrating last year's 20th anniversary of Reggae. The concert brings back Toots and the Maytals, who appears on the disc along with the Marley Brothers, Julian, Damian, Ky-Mani and Stephen from Ghetto Youth Crew (also on the disc), plus non-Ghetto bro, Ziggy.

Music overload: also on Sept. 2, funky New Orleans jammers Galactic play the Kate Buchanan with special guest JJ Grey from Mofro opening with an acoustic set. An e-mail from Galactic indicates that this will be your last chance to see vocalist Theryl "The Houseman" DeClouet as part of the band, since by mutual agreement, he's out following the current tour.

Arcata teems with hip-hop Thursday, Aug. 26, with TaJai from Hieroglyphics, Z-Man, Prozack Turner and Marc Stretch and DJ Thanksgiving Brown laying down grooves and raps in the early evening at Hip Stop Record Shop in Sunny Brae, offering a preview of their show at Humboldt Brews later that night.

As mentioned last week, the Wisdom Band is at Mazzotti's that night with hip-hop on the reggae tip and Highgrade Sound before and between. Muddy Waters offers an open mike for freestylers, but my guess is all the hip-hop heads will be downtown.

Hip Stop keeps the party rolling Friday, Aug. 27, a back-to-school bash featuring local MC Caveman, plus DJ Choc1, Rashaad and DJ Brooklyn Science (aka Hip Stop owner Andrew Boehm).

Friday night at Mazzotti's, Albino! is back up from the Bay to spread the Afrofunk message of Feli Kuti.

Meanwhile in McKinleyville at Six Rivers Brewery, Dizzy Reed, keyboard player for L.A. rock giants Guns `N Roses, hits town with his band Hollywood Bulldozer, formerly known by the less P.C. name, Hookers `N Blow.

There's more rock at the Schooner that night: a three-bander with local metalheads Iron Rain, described by drummer Peggy Martinez as "Black Sabbath meets Babes in Toyland, with a chick singer" (her words, not mine) along with Eureka's hipster "karaoke pop" trio, The Buffy Swayze, plus Brett Schuler's "garage folk" band, Brett the Truck, who are coming up from Frisco, where Brett used to live before he moved back home to Humboldt.

The Buffy Swayze also play Saturday night at Eureka Vet's Hall Bar (in the basement) with the Oregonian "psychedelic Americana" combo Silverhawk with Sam and John Densmore, touring in support of a soon-to-be-released disc, Westward. Also on the bill, a band called Chow Nasty, about which I know nothing.

That night in Blue Lake at Logger Bar, it's the town's country rock rebels, The Rubberneckers, plus Que La Chinga. Kyle from QLC has a new baby boy -- ask him to buy you a drink to celebrate.

Ponche! is back in action at Mazzotti's Saturday night laying down that extremely catchy AfroCuban beat. Defy the embargo! Dance!

Political punkers Winston Smith are fresh from a monumental tour, one that included a blown piston up in Oregon that forced them to rent a truck to tow their van back to Arcata. Happy to be home, they're celebrating their latest release, Burn This CD, with a party at the Arcata Bike Library (just off the Plaza, next door to the Post Office) on Sunday, Aug. 29. A new Arcata band, Ape Launcher, opens.

Bassist Ryan Emenaker explained that the new album was recorded at the Placebo, noting, "The title is taken from Abbie Hoffman's, Steal This Book, updated to the digital age, for copying music."

The songs still have a radical political bent, but says Emenaker, "We're starting to incorporate sci-fi images and issues, coming from the whole 1984 dystopian novel thing." (For those who skipped Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith is the hero.)

"The idea for `The Vacation' is taken from a Ray Bradbury story, with the idea of technology gone awry and taking off," he continued. "Other ideas come from Fahrenheit 451; they're incorporated into the songs to make people reflective, as opposed to beforehand, when a lot of our lyrics were more like, `This is the way we see the world.' Our new stuff is more of a critique, allowing listeners to draw their own conclusions."

Another note for those unfamiliar with the band: They are loud. In a press release W.S. recommends picking up the lyric booklet, "The Book of the Machines," describing it as "a must-have for anyone interested in understanding the screams hidden behind the aural assault." You've been warned. Bring those earplugs.


Bob Doran



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