Thursday, August 13, 1998
There are some weeks when looking for good music stories is like looking for chicken teeth. Other weeks--like this--they''re as obvious as the nose on your face.
Let''s do it like this. There''s something old (live music returns to McGarrett''s), something new (The Gibson Brothers'' bluegrass in PG), something borrowed (Rosalie Sorrels benefit taps top-name talent) and something blues (John Lee Hooker, Jr. is back in town).
Once upon a time, kiddies, back in the old days when McGarrett''s was The Club, it was probably the hottest venue in town for live music. Most every Thursday night a national act took the stage; more often than not it was a rock act, but blues and jazz acts also were represented on The Club''s stage over the years.
If things work out, McGarrett''s owner Brooke Lewis and manager/consultant Dan Miller say they''re charging forward into the past.
"It doesn''t seem like anybody else in town wants to take up the cause of doing national acts in town," says Miller. "So, where there''s a void, you fill it; and that''s what I''ve decided to do."
Miller joined forces with McGarrett''s about three months ago and, as producer of the Thursday shows, is putting his money where his mouth is: If the shows fizzle, the bucks flow from his pocket.
Of course, this isn''t the first time someone in town has promised to bring in national acts, and then backed down as soon as they experienced a slow night; other MoCo idealists, waking up on the hard, cold bottom line, have sworn off the stuff.
"That''s one of the problems I''ve seen in this town," says Miller. "When things aren''t immediately successful, they [other producers] sort of throw up their hands and walk away.
"The commitment I have with Brooke is to take it through the end of December. We''ll re-examine it at that time to make sure it''s beneficial to both of us. If there isn''t a demand, we won''t continue."
Miller and Lewis say they hope to book their first national act by mid September.
Starting on Aug. 28, the two say they''ll also reinstate live music by local bands in the smaller back room on Friday nights. The first bands booked are The Mudskippers and the Amazon Mollies.
Rosalie Sorrels, one of the old-time, traveling troubadors who link the traditional, activist, Woody Guthrie-style folk music with the present, needs a little help. A couple months ago, she underwent a radical mastectomy and is continuing treatment for her cancer. It''s expensive. And, as concert promoter "Sleepy John" Sandidge puts it, "She''s a folksinger; she didn''t have anything to begin with, really."
On Friday, at the Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville, you''ll have a chance to chip in and help--while enjoying some damn good music at the same time. Headlining the show is singer/songwriter Greg Brown, who is flying in to town just for this benefit. Also on the bill are Mary McCaslin, Nina Gerber, and Kristina Olsen.
Everybody''s performing for free--and that, by itself, tells you what kind of respect the music community has for Sorrels.
Greg Brown and friends, benefit for Rosalie Sorrels, Friday, 7:30pm. Mello Center for the Performing Arts, Watsonville. $20. 429-7663.
So it was with great pleasure that I listened to the Gibson Brothers'' CD Another Night of Waiting. It was like hearing what country music might have been, if it hadn''t gone bad in the late ''60s. The band''s got a good buzz going on the bluegrass circuit, where they''ve become favored festival performers, but they''re much more than a bluegrass outfit.
I grew up listening to country music at a time when you could still sometimes hear the music of the old soulful guys like Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers on mainstream country radio. This was before the music was obliterated by big hair (on guys and gals), glitter and pointless onstage antics. The Gibson Brothers recall a lot of the true, real feeling of country''s roots. What particularly stands out about their music is that, although they''re solidly based in traditional styles, they''re also songwriters working with a contemporary lexicon of language and issues.
Joining Leigh (guitar, vocals) and Eric (banjo, vocals) Gibson on Another Night are Junior Barber (dobro) and Mike Barber (upright bass). The sound they make, from "Breakthrough," the lead cut on the album, is tight and bright. The second cut, "Another Night of Waiting," is Everly-Brothersesque--but more soulful and twangy--in its vocal harmonies. After a couple of dynamite country-style love songs, the brothers deliver "The Next One is Me," a dirge-like song, with a high-lonesome edge. Brother Leigh has the vocals on this one, and he''s able to create the same kind of spinal chills that Hank Williams did as he sings: "Another auction today, another farm/ And the papers keep saying it''s the way things are/ So why''s Jimmy Franklin on the ground/ He''s shaking real hard, but not making a sound...Young men with old backs, they hobble around/ Their eyes will with anger as the bidding slows down/ Then somebody cries out ''Hell it''s going for free''/ And I know sooner or later the next one is me..." And first time through "Travelin'' Blues," I could have sworn I heard the ghost of Jimmy Rodgers in the music; it was confirmed when, at the end of the song, there was a yodel that served as ample tribute.
If you think country music is just about rhinestone and wretched excess, these guys''ll change your mind. This is good music: intense, soulful, technically exciting--it''s damn-near perfect. Get out and see these guys.
The Gibson Brothers, Thursday, 8pm. The Media Room. $15/advance; $18/door. 372-5641.
Back in mid-May, when last we saw John Lee Hooker, Jr., he was tearing it up at Doc''s Nightclub. Right after that, he embarked on the first tour he''s done under his own name. It''s a tour that''s taken him to Alaska and the Midwest, and which will ultimately take him up to Canada and down to Florida. In the meantime, he''s stopping back by here for another show at Doc''s.
"Everything''s going good," Hooker told me early Sunday morning. "You get your bumps and your bruises, but everything''s going good.
"I''m between management, right now. Me and my good friend, because of family and business reasons, we mutually consented to depart. So I''m doing a lot of hustling. But I''ve got a lot of help, and we''re negotiating with another booking agency and management, and they''re taking over. That''s giving me time to be on time with the CD, On the Hook, that I''ve promised to have out at the beginning of next year."
If you missed John Lee last time he was in town, you don''t want to repeat the mistake. He delivers a high-energy blast that blends traditional blues structures with contemporary lyrics and stylings; there''s more than a little rhythm creeping into his blues, and the music is as soulful as a Baptist preacher on Sunday morning.
John Lee Hooker, Jr., Saturday, 9pm. Doc''s Nightclub, 649-4241.
In New Orleans, when you get a little something extra, it''s called lagniappe. Here, in brief, is this week''s lagniappe:
1960s folk-singing songbird Carolyn Hester is playing The Media Room, Saturday, 8pm, courtesy of Portofino Presents. And folk/bluegrass trio, The Judith Edelman Band does likewise on Tuesday, 7:30pm. Phone 373-7379 for more info.