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The Hum by Bob Doran

Sept. 23, 2004

photo and headline -- Greg Brown


YES, IT'S ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE WEEKS WHERE there's too much to do and too much music to absorb, particularly if you favor sounds on the folky side.

Things start rolling Thursday, Sept. 23, at the Westhaven Center for the Arts, where Nova Scotian musicians Wendy MacIsaac, Mairi Rankin and Patrick Gillis play fiddles and guitars at a mini-"Cape Breton Fiddle Festival," which is sure to include some step-dancing.

The Fall Harvest Festival on the Quad at HSU the following day features Marley's Ghost, an unusual band with a name that has a double meaning, making reference to Dickens (they play music from the British Isles) and to Bob Marley (they also throw in some reggae). Their latest disc, Marley's Ghost Live at the Freight, recorded at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage, sees them shifting from traditional tunes like "Shenandoah" played on bagpipes to a cover of "Stir It Up," then moving on to tunes by Dylan (Bob D. not Dylan T.) and Irishman Van Morrison. The Harvest Fest also includes the HSU Circus Club juggling and doing other tricks.

The action moves to the Bayside Grange that night where the Reeltime Travelers will fiddle about, Livin' Reeltime and Thinkin' Old-Time, as they put it in the title of their latest album. The string band from Tennessee is moving towards a higher profile with distribution for the disc being handled by the String Cheese Incident's label SCIFidelity. Local young old-timey band Wrangletown opens the Humboldt Folklife Society show, one of two the Folklifers have scheduled for the Grange.

The second show, featuring another rising old timey outfit, the Foghorn String Band from Portland, takes place Tuesday, Sept. 28. They're bringing along Bill Martin, a Portland square dance caller, so you might want to break out your starched petticoats and bolo ties.

Friday night at the D Street Neighborhood Center the "Jam the Vote" concert series kicks off with a taste of "elevator music for headbangers" by OM Trio, a jazz/trance/metal/funk outfit from Jersey consisting of a keyboard player, a bassist and a drummer. It's the first in a five-concert series in connection with Music for America, a self-described "partisan, political nonprofit" with a goal of registering a million new voters for the upcoming election. Proceeds from the concerts go to local activist organizations Redwood Peace and Justice and Democracy Unlimited. Coming up in the JtV series: RAQ on Oct. 5, Garaj Mahal, Oct. 10; Lotus, Oct. 11, all at the Bayside Grange; and Umphrey's McGee, Oct. 27, at the Arcata Community Center.

Cuckoo's Nest plays their Gypsy jazz at the Arcata Farmers' Market Saturday morning, Sept. 25, and not far away, at the Jambalaya, it's the semi-annual KHSU Music Sale, with box after box of CDs and vinyl, maybe even cassettes, in an incredibly wide range of styles.

And back on the folkish track, that night it's singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Greg Brown [photo above] at the Van Duzer. Mr. Brown's latest release on Red House (a label he founded) is In the Hills of California, a live double disc thing drawing on his many appearances at the Kate Wolf Folk Festival from 1997 until last year. The title comes from the heartbreaker "Kate's Guitar," a song about Wolf he wrote back in '97, the night before one of the festivals, played with Kate's old friend Nina Gerber joining him, probably on Kate's guitar. It's just one indication of his way with words and the way he puts heart and soul into his work.

And speaking of songwriters, every fourth Saturday, this one included, Joel Sonenshein hosts a Folklife Society Songwriters' Circle at the Arcata Yoga Center. Sorry Joel, but my guess is most of our local songwriters will be at the Van Duzer.

Meanwhile at the Fulkerson Recital Hall, the HSU Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra Ensemble play music by various composers including one of my favorites from the '30s, Raymond Scott, the guy whose music ended up as soundtrack fodder for Looney Tunes and more recently, Ren and Stimpy. (Incidentally, I discovered Scott when I bought a reissue disc of his band at a KHSU Music Sale years ago.)

Later that night at Mazzotti's it's former locals the Weary Boys (at least some of them were locals) back from Austin for some rollicking Texas-style alternate country.

As if you haven't been offered enough options for Saturday, there's Surf for Peace, first thing that morning at Trinidad Head, with Humboldt Surfriders and Redwood Peace and Justice Center joining forces for a surf contest, beach volleyball, music, prizes and so on. The after-party at Six Rivers Brewery that evening features groovin' jams by lik'wefi (pronounce liquefy) plus reggae DJ High Grade Sound.

On the bay that day it's Woofstock, a two-day festival for the dogs at Waterfront Park by the Adorni. Sunday has dog activities, but Saturday seems to be all music for and by humans with Sari Baker (at noon) Dr. Squid (1:15), Juce (2:30), Battle of the bands winner Top Dead Center (3:45), and Wisdom (5 p.m.). Proceeds benefit Sequoia Humane Society.

The folk overdose continues Wednesday, Sept. 29, with another CenterArts show, this one with folk icon John Prine at the Van Duzer. On the Web site for his record company, Oh Boy, Prine recalls his first experience with a guitar, "My brother Dave taught me a chord and the first time I held down a chord I didn't muffle it -- well, I just sat there with my ear on the wood even after the sound died feeling the vibrations. From there, it was me sitting there alone in a room singing to a wall." Prine has been writing songs and singing them for several decades now, and you could say he's learned a thing or three; the vibrations continue to resonate.

Before we leave the subject of songwriters, I should mention that Kaydi Johnson is coming to town next week. She opens for Robert Earl Keen (an excellent songwriter) at his show next Friday, Oct. 1, at the Eureka Theater (more on that next week), but first she plays a couple of coffeehouse gigs: Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Muddy Waters and Thursday, Sept. 30, at Old Town Coffee. She's no John Prine, but Kaydi has her own way with words; I just wish she'd get past that Ani DiFranco phase that too many young female folkies seem to be stuck in.

Hip hop heads alert: the Hip Stop/Female Fun crew presents another big underground bash Friday, Sept. 24, this one at Rumours with Mikah 9, C.V.E., 2 Mex and XOXOLANXINXO (what a name), Caveman, plus (of course) DJs Brooklyn Science (from Hip Stop) and Thanksgiving Brown (from Female Fun).

Looking for something quite different? Check out Jana, playing Monday, Sept. 27, at Cher-Ae Heights Casino. Jana recently won a Nammy (the Native American Music Awards equivalent of the Grammy) for "Best Pop Record" for her cover of the Zeppelin chestnut "Stairway To Heaven" set to a driving house music beat.

Thursday, Sept. 30, is another night with a wide range of choices: Midnite plays reggae from another Caribbean island (St. Croix) at Mazzotti's; Rumours Lounge has Eric Levy's Love Lounge, an all-star jam outfit; Old Man Clemins and Lyckitty Split share a bill at Hum Brews; and at Eureka Vet's Hall Lounge you have Spinart recording artists Sunshine Fix plus Saturday Looks Good To Me and local alt. rockers Shaking Hands. Sounds good to me.

Bob Doran



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