Intrepid Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin
Friday, September 19, 2014
A festive occasion. The Strawberry Music Festival took place last weekend at its new location at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley instead of at its longtime home at Camp Mather near Yosemite. I was there from start to almost-finish, and many have been asking me how it went. The GV locale was not new to me, as I have been going to the CBA Father’s Day Festival for about 25 years. Experiencing Strawberry at the same site was okay, but it had a different feel to it. The fest had the same tie-dyed hippie crowd, albeit much smaller than for Mather, but perhaps similar to CBA numbers. Since it was a whole new situation for most Strawberrians, getting a good camping spot and being able to hang with friends was, to say the least, a bit challenging. There was no real Camp Carltone as there had been in days of yore, as I just set up on the edge of a camp of some other friends. It was a veritable Carltone diaspora, as my usual campmates were everywhere. There was a lot of grumbling about such, but this abated after the first day. The Breakfast Club – of which I am one of the on-air hosts – took place on an outdoor stage, as opposed to being inside the dining hall at Mather. The stage was quite a distance from the food booths, and it was more of a BYOBreakfast affair, with a very sparse audience turnout. The main stage was set up similarly to CBA Fest, but moved forward about 15 yards, so there were no trees in the way of the audience. And the music selection on the main and satellite stages was very good with the usual mixed Strawberry styles. The Kathy Kallick Band, Hot Rize, the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Keith Little & The Little Band, Steep Ravine, The T Sisters, and Hot Buttered Rum were highpoints for me. And it was great to get a new bridge put on my standup bass by Matt Bohn, The Bass Doctor. Coolest part about both fests taking place in Grass Valley? The Lazy Dog ice cream concession! All in all, the fest seemed to go pretty smoothly, and as far as I am concerned, it was better to have Strawberry take place in Grass Valley than not at all. As to what the future holds for the fest? While there continues to be rampant speculation among festgoers, time will tell…
Take two. As mentioned above, Kathy Kallick and her hot band played the main stage at Strawberry, and she posted her take on the fest too. If you are on Facebook, you can read what she wrote here. Otherwise, click on this link. Today also happens to be her birthday, so if indeed you are on Facebook, drop her b-day wishes. KK is headed to the IBMA blowout in Raleigh in ten days to perform the Vern & Ray Tribute with Laurie Lewis.
Upstaged by a bug. The Interweb has been abuzz this week with reports of the praying mantis that jammed with Hot Rize at the fest. It was a pretty funny situation, and frontman Nick Forster really handled the situation well. You can watch the video here. It is too bad that, after the bug was dispatched, the band didn’t go into a version of Bay Area fiddler Paul Shelasky’s song “Praying Mantis Love Affair,” which you can watch here being performed by LeRoy McNees. And hey, here is a movie to check out on Netflix.
All roads lead to Plymouth. This weekend, on the 19th-21st, most everyone is either already there or they are headed out to Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills outside of Plymouth. You can see The GrassKickers, The Bladerunners, Ron Spears & Within Tradition, Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers, Reno & Harrell, Blue Moon Rising, and Adkins & Loudermilk. MOLD readers are anxiously looking forward to Mold Man’s report on the fest here next week, as he has been embedded there since two days ago.
Old-time is not a crime! At least, not in Berkeley. The Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention started on the 16th, and it runs through the 21st, with concerts, dances, jams, workshops, and more. And speaking of being an “old timer,” organizer Suzy Thompson will be celebrating her 60th birthday tomorrow on the 20th. Congrats to another Year of the Horse honoree!
Mouse music. Last week in this space I referenced this story in the San Francisco Chronicle about Chris Strachwitz, the owner of Arhoolie Records and Down Home Music in El Cerrito. There is an excellent new documentary about him called This Ain’t No Mouse Music that opens today in Bay Area theatres, and if you want to read my review of it for Movie Magazine International, simply click here. While the Chron promo piece from last week is quite good, the official review in today’s paper should be ignored, as the reviewer seems to know, or care very little, about music.
Millpond Music. One more fest of note taking place this weekend is the Millpond Music Festival near the town of Bishop in Inyo County. Some of the acts that will be performing there are The Trespassers, David Bromberg, Vance Gilbert, The Bills, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen, and David Jacobs-Strain.
Future star. This video has been around for about a year, but the staff here at Carltone Headquarters only saw it for the first time the other day. It is a huge “awwww” moment when country singer Luke Bryan invites a cute six-year-old girl from the audience to join him on stage while he is singing. He then gets upstaged by the tyke when she begins singing with him on his own song.
How can we miss him if he won’t stay away? Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam is back in the music biz, and he recently announced a six-city concert tour, his first since 1976. Apparently there are enough nostalgic herbal-tea-drinking 60-somethings wearing Birkenstocks who still want to hear such insipid songs as “Moonshadow,” “Wild World,” “Morning Has Broken,” and “Peace Train.” These same fans have conveniently forgotten that Stevens/Islam also called for the death of writer Salman Rushdie in 1989, after the latter wrote a book of fiction called The Satanic Verses. Oh, you forgot about this too? Then read this here.
Gathering momentum. Bay Area guitarist/singer Molly Tuttle and her trio have been nominated in the Performance Award category at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Awards. The winners will be presented with their awards at a luncheon during the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass on Wednesday, October 1st, in Raleigh, NC. “The Momentum Awards were instituted in 2012 to recognize both musicians and bluegrass industry professionals who, while in the early stages of their careers, have contributed to, or had an influence on, bluegrass music. These contributions can be to bluegrass music in general, or done in a specific part of the industry."
Life’s railway to heaven. Bob Crewe, a prolific singer and songwriter from the ‘60s who co-wrote big hits for Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” died in Maine last week after suffering complications from a fall. He was 83.
Just back from Strawberry. The Bay Area band Steep Ravine – who played on Vern’s Stage at the CBA Father’s Day Festival in June and last week played on the main stage at Strawberry – is definitely going places. If you haven’t seen them yet, they will be playing at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on the 21st. Here is the description: “These local rising-stars picked their name from an amazing spot on Mt. Tamalpais, the Steep Ravine trail. The band has quickly become known for riveting live performances that catch audiences by surprise with the sheer acoustic power of their soulful tunes and fiery instrumentals. Steep Ravine's unique sound, equal parts poetic lyricism and string-playing ingenuity, energetically bends bluegrass and folk music.”
Coming attractions. The KVMR Celtic Music Festival is on tap for the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on the 26th-28th. The annual IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fanfest will be happening in Raleigh, NC, from 9/30-10/5. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will once again be taking place in SF’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, featuring Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwriting retreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick. Mark you calendars for the CBA Fall Campout from the 13th-19th in Lodi. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on 10/23 will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. Go to all of the links for complete info.
Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 20th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Blue is Fallin'. It is the anniversary of the late guitarist Charles Sawtelle's birth, so the show will feature the first new release from Hot Rize since his passing, along with a few favorite recorded moments from Charles.
Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.
Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer. This week he offers his take on the recent Americana Awards show as well as a Judy Henske CD review, followed by some additional commentary.
Randog's Daily Pick 9/18/2014
The Americana Awards Show at The Ryman Auditorium Favorite Moments:
1. 62-year-old Doug Seegers opening the show, proving the adage that if you sing on the streets of Nashville long enough, someone from Sweden will discover you...and Rounder will sign you, proving another Nashville adage that, if one happens upon something good, everybody will line up to get a piece. I sincerely hope Doug survives his "discovery," because he is special.
2. Loretta Lynn, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, singing “Coal Miner's Daughter” and leaving to get on the bus because she's playing "somewhere 800 miles away tomorrow night."
3. Ry Cooder's obvious enjoyment at joining another Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Taj Mahal, in a number. Ry played in the house band all night, and was, for the most part, amazing, albeit way too up front in the mix. It's just the house band, Ry.
4. Cooder's heartfelt presentation of yet another Lifetime Achievement Award winner, the much deserved Flaco Jimenez, and Flaco's equally heartfelt acceptance speech.
5. The Milk Carton Kids winning an award in some category in which they were in competition with The Avett Brothers. The Avetts were seemingly not in attendance to display their disappointment at losing. But keep nominating them, Americana, even though they mostly eschew rinky-dink venues like the Ryman these days.
6. The news that the hideous Mumford & Sons have evidently disbanded. I have been mercifully out of the loop on this one.
7. Helping our house guest, Mary Tilson, remember where she parked her car; there is no truth to the rumor that she is willing to add the letters N and A to her 30-odd-year-old radio show title, America's Back 40, for a price.
8. Seeing my dear friends Emilee and Donica on the world's shortest red carpet. Without Emilee, there would be no Randog...and Donica, I forgive you for the fart machine.
9. The fabulous McCrary Sisters, backing up everybody. C'mon, decision makers and other Americanans...give 'em a song of their own!
10. The gasp of shock when Buddy Miller won Instrumentalist of the Year. Not really.
Randog's Daily Pick 9/15/2014
Judy Henske Big Judy-How Far This Music Goes 1962-2004
Rhino Handmade CD RH M2-7726
"I don't want people to call me a 'folk pioneer.' It's as if I were Ward Bond or Willa Cather crossing the burning desert with my yoke of oxen and a cast iron kettle." This quote from Ms. Henske's website – and you can order this two-CD disc there – indicates something of the woman's irreverent view of life, music, and her place in it and why I consider, to this day, meeting her and listening to her talk and sing when I booked her a couple of times at The Freight and Salvage in the '90s a high point of my days around the folkadoke trade. Known as “The Queen of the Beatniks” during her heyday in the folk clubs and cabarets of the early sixties, and as a pal of Woody Allen – a lot of clubs paired a comic with a folk singer in those days of yore – Judy was, and is, as much of a performer as she is a singer, and although she has always drawn on the traditional repertoire, she has often been as likely to play those songs for laughs as not, and could and would belt a blues, gospel or jazz number with the fervor those kinds of songs call for. She has a voice that, at its best, rivals Janis Joplin's, and she has cited Odetta as an influence. The songs for which she was best known back when I was just a little folkadoke are all here, including "I Know You Rider," "Hooka Tooka (also known as “Green Green Rocky Road”),” "Wade In The Water," Billy Edd Wheeler's "High Flying Bird," which was perhaps her biggest hit – the first time at the Freight she said she was only singing it because "Randy Pitts said I would" in the calendar – and two Fred Neil classics, "The Other Side of This Life" and "Dolphins in the Sea," are all on disc one. Disc two represents the latter part of her career, and is equally worthwhile, but different. Maybe someone someday will make a movie about those bygone days of Greenwich Village folkdom and include a character along the lines of Judy Henske. Until then, there is always Hootenanny Hoot, a "folksploitation" movie of the '60s, a serious grindhouse programmer wherein she performs two numbers. The movie sucks, but it is unintentionally hilarious, and Judy is great in it.
While we're still on the subject of Judy Henske – at least, I am – I just discovered this YouTube clip of her singing the Billie Holiday classic “God Bless the Child” on The Judy Garland Show from 1963. While it is far from perfect – a corny arrangement replete with an embarrassing growling trumpet sucks real bad – it is certainly one of the best things I've ever heard Ms. Henske do, and it takes guts to sing a song Billie owns so completely. Judy should have done more things in this vein, IMHO.
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to email@example.com. For more info than you need to know about Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, go to his Carltone web site. Missed a Friday MOLD? Don’t fret, just click here to read past columns.