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The Hum by Bob Doran

Sept. 16, 2004


Photo and Headline of Slim Pickens

At a glance you might think the old timey duo Slim Pickens [photo above] stepped out of a time machine. Fiddler Annie Ford favors dresses from the '20s and '30s and hats to match, and guitarist/vocalist Jake Landry has that timeless casual look, again accented by just the right fedora.

The music they play matches the look: Annie fiddles while Jake picks and sings old blues and country tunes learned from musicians who played roadhouses long before they were born. They call it old timey, but it has less to do with bluegrass than the mountain music you hear from other old timey bands.

I asked Jake what it is about the old tunes that appeals to him. "I think about that all the time," he replied. "I think it's the only thing that strikes me as real. I can understand the stories in the songs and relate to them in certain ways. The way they wrote them back then, it wasn't the sell, sell, sell thing; it was to tell a tale or maybe to retell a tale.

"It's like passing on a tradition. In a way it's something that's getting lost, but at the same time it's coming back. I don't know what else to say but that it's music I love, and I've loved it since I first started listening to it when I was 14. I guess I had heard Dylan before that and started working my way back in time."

Jake and Annie play their biggest show yet at Mazzotti's Friday night, Sept. 17, a benefit for Veterans for Peace's travel expenses, and to help develop the VFP Web site. The duo will be augmented for the night by genius multi-instrumentalist David Isley, Chris Kennedy from Slewfoot String Band on dobro and bearded washtub bassist Tugboat Willie, fine musicians all.

Also on the bill, the Kitchen Syncopators, a "New Orleans washboard country-blues and ragtime old timey band" led by Jake's big brother Gil Landry aka Frank Lemon, who played here last spring. Jake notes that Frank is coming with different musicians from his last visit, some of his old New Orleans crew: Slim Nelson on guitar and harmonica, Woodrow "Woody" Pines on kitchen percussion, Bob Scarecrow on washboards and banjo and Charlie Bean on washtub bass. Jake promises a good time for all in attendance.

Friday night also marks the beginning of the fifth annual Storytelling Festival by the Sea at Patrick's Point State Park, a two-day affair with stories from near and far. It begins with "Stories Under the Stars" told by Bill Lepp and former Humboldter Olga Loya, and then ghost tales later Friday night. Olga and Bill are among a half dozen raconteurs on Saturday's all-day program, which also includes California Indian tales by Wiyot Tribal Chair Cheryl Seidner.

Your best entertainment bet for the weekend is the North Country Fair Saturday and Sunday on the Arcata Plaza. There's food, arts, crafts, dancers, a parade each day at 1 p.m. and lots of music from more than 20 bands. Among Saturday's: the bluesy Clint Warner Band at 12:15 (also playing that night at the Red Lion); Joanne Rand at 1:45 (she's at Earthdance the next day); the Karen Dumont Electric Blues Band plays at 4:45 (and that night at Mazzotti's).

Sunday's lineup includes Gypsy jazzers Cuckoo's Nest Sunday morning at 11 a.m. They then head for Eureka to play at the Morris Graves Museum that afternoon, offering some of their favorites from the American songbook, including tunes by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

Funksters Old Man Clemins play the N.C Fair at 12:15 (catch them Friday at Muddy Waters). The folky Lila Nelson Band plays at 1:45, following a speech by anti-GMO author Jeffrey Smith. Kulica closes things out Sunday with their eclectic grooves. They also play Saturday night at Humboldt Brews.

That night at Six Rivers Brewery it's another self-described "eclectic groove rock" outfit, Groundscore, from Portland, Ore. Vocalist Courtney Sproule notes the collective nature of the band's music. "We strive for listening to each other and poking in at the right spot, complementing each other's parts. That's what we're here for, I guess," she concludes.

Swedish jazz piano combo Esbjorn Svensson Trio plays a different sort of jazz Monday, Sept. 20, in the Depot at HSU. I picked up the E.S.T. album Strange Place for Snow some time last year, and loved it for the pianist's gentle innovative twist on jazz forms. His latest, Seven Days of Falling, is even better, plus it includes a DVD with concert performances and an interview, in which Svensson notes, "The challenge of all kinds of music is to find your own voice, or maybe to relax so that you can be yourself." He has succeeded inasmuch as his music is totally relaxed and absolutely his own. BTW, the Depot show is free.

At Muddy Waters, Tuesday, Sept. 21, jazz trumpet player Michel Navedo continues his weekly explorations into "Future Sounds of Jazz," looking at directions in hip hop. "We'll have DJ State of Mind on turntables spinning between sets and running beats," he noted, "plus Shao Way Wu on bass and Lenny Pattinelli on keys, with Lorenza Simmons, Mahdi's daughter, on vocals."

Meanwhile, Six Rivers Brewery offers more jazz, Scott Amendola´s Chambers of Grace, an amazing combo, with Amendola on drums, keyboardist Art Hirahara (who was with Scott at the Graves last year), John Shifflett on standup bass, and Humboldt's own Jenny Scheinman on violin.

Wait, there's another: At the Placebo that night it's The Roots of Orchis, a truly fine experimental instrumental outfit from Santa Cruz plus Obscura, a new band from Arcata. So much good music, and on a Tuesday no less.

There are more cool choices for Wednesday, Sept. 22: At Humboldt Brews it's KHUM Back Porch Night with old timey mountain music by Wrangletown. (Catch them on KHUM Tuesday night at 7 p.m.)

Jazz bassist David Freisen plays a solo show at Avalon. From what I've heard about his last visit here, it should be great. He's also leading a bass workshop the day before at HSU; call the Music Department if you're interested.

Texas-born country maverick Lyle Lovett hits town Wednesday for a show at the Van Duzer and as of press time there were still tickets available. I don't have to tell you much about Lovett aside from the fact that the concert I saw years ago at the International Beer Gardens with his Large Band was one of the all time best I've ever seen hereabouts.

Like many songwriters, Lovett has strong feelings about illegal music downloading. In testimony before a House subcommittee on music on the Internet, speaking as an ASCAP member, he remarked, "The songs I create mean many things to me. Foremost among them is my goal, and I think the goal of every artist, to connect with and communicate my thoughts, emotions and beliefs to my audience. My songs therefore are truly my creations -- extensions of who I am and what I believe. But, my songs also are my livelihood. If I can't earn a living from them, I'll have to do something else. And if every songwriter is unable to earn a living from creating music, if every songwriter has to do something else to make ends meet, who will write the songs of America and the world?" Think about it next to you sign onto Limewire.

Bob Doran



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