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America through their eyes 

Hear a sneak peak of Still Time's forthcoming new album

Ever since the members of former Cal Poly act Still Time graduated, they’ve been immersing themselves in the rocker lifestyle, living on top of each other in a cramped apartment, touring the country in a custom Ford Econoline van, and using their respective degrees as toilet paper. That’s rock’n’roll, folks.

click to enlarge CHANNELING MORRISSEY :  Downtown Brew hosts The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a Smiths and Morrissey tribute band, Jan. 9. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS
  • CHANNELING MORRISSEY : Downtown Brew hosts The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a Smiths and Morrissey tribute band, Jan. 9.

This Saturday, Jan. 10, they want to share a little of the hard-won road magic by previewing tracks from their upcoming CD See America at 8 p.m. in Downtown Brew. Forrest Day will open the all-ages show ($10 presale; $12 at the door).

The band plans to release the new album in May 2009, and once again they’re recording with Avalon Digital Recording guru Kip Stork, though this time, in order to capture a more raw and live sound, most tracking is going to be done at Downtown Brew and a band member’s relative’s house in San Francisco.

So how has the band grown since their debut album Stream of Consciousness?

“Since the last album, our harmonica player T-Bone has gone from a frequent guest musician to another band member who has had a huge impact on this batch of songs,” explained drummer John Vucinich.

“Personally, a lot of my inspiration lately has come from my recent experience with slide guitar,” added lead guitarist Nick Bilich. “I’ve been listening to guys like Robert Johnson, Derek Trucks, and Rocco DeLuca, which have added a much more bluesy/folky influence in my playing.”

 For those unfamiliar, Still Time’s sound owes much to Dave Matthews and Ben Harper, in part because of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Dan Curcio’s voice and songwriting chops.

“The lyrics and themes in this album range from manifest destiny, to childhood monster friends, a search for sunken treasure, and an apocalyptic fantasy based on MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” reveals Curcio. “It’s largely based on the American spirit we’ve seen in the past and that we’re seeing now again with Barack Obama coming in as President—the American resolve that promotes progressive ideas and action as well as acceptance and hope. I’m still a somewhat young man, but I’ve never seen the nation this anxious and distraught yet infectiously hopeful as I feel it is now. There will always be shitty news rolling across 24-hour news channel headlines, but keeping our heads up and maintaining the human connection is primarily what the album is about.”

Guitarist Haircut (not his real name, natch!), credits the band’s roustabout free spirit as influence: “I’ve noticed that our touring experience over the summer and fall has influenced our songwriting for this album. Just simply being in new surroundings changes our mindsets when we’re jamming, whether it be in a guest house in Santa Cruz, an abandoned boxcar in Oregon, or a dining room with great acoustics in San Francisco.”

For bassist Paul “Slapmaster” Smith-Stewart, exploring alternative instruments has been his epiphany: “Since the release of Stream of Consciousness, I’ve been working extensively on upright bass and fretless electric bass. I think these two instruments will bring some interesting new soundscapes to See America.

See—and hear—for yourselves this Saturday.

Music to brood to
Ah, the joys of gloom rock! Lucky for me, this early predecessor of emo came just as my early 20s ennui settled on me, allowing countless moments to listen to The Smiths and languish in my maudlin thoughts.

“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “Girlfriend in a Coma,” “The Boy with the Thorn in his Side,” “Panic,” “Shoplifters of the World”—what’s not to like? Of course, just as all good things must end, so too must all depressing things, and yet right around the time The Smiths went their separate ways in 1992, up rose The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a Smiths tribute act fronted by lead singer Jose Maldonado (sometimes called “The Mexican Morrissey”).

This Friday, Jan. 9, see the “Ultimate tribute to The Smiths & Morrissey” at 8 p.m. in Downtown Brew. This 21-and-older show costs $10 in advance.

Classical rascal
Music Department Chair and pianist W. Terrence Spiller knows a little something about playing the piano, and he knows a little something about great classical composers, which is why he’ll give a benefit recital of works by Mozart, Ravel, Bartok, and Liszt at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, in the Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly.

click to enlarge MAGIC FINGERS :  Cal Poly Music Department Chair and pianist extraordinaire W. Terrence Spiller will deliver an evening of Mozart, Ravel, Bartok, and Liszt on Jan. 9, in the Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY MUSIC DEPARTMENT
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY MUSIC DEPARTMENT
  • MAGIC FINGERS : Cal Poly Music Department Chair and pianist extraordinaire W. Terrence Spiller will deliver an evening of Mozart, Ravel, Bartok, and Liszt on Jan. 9, in the Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly.

Mozart will occupy the concert’s first half, opening with the “Sonata in F Major,” K. 280, followed by the “Fantasy in D minor,” K. 397, and concluding with the “Sonata in D Major,” K. 311. The second half opens with Ravel’s stunner “Menuet Antique,” then Bartok’s “15 Hungarian Peasant Songs,” and finally Liszt’s “Tarantella” from his “Venezia e Napoli.”

Tickets are $6 for students and senior citizens and $10 for the public, available at the PAC Ticket Office or by calling 756-2787. Proceeds benefit the Cal Poly Music Department Scholarship Fund.

Bridging two worlds
The folks from the Música Del Río House Concerts series have something special lined up for this Saturday, Jan. 10. That’s when Randall Williams plays an intimate house concert in Atascadero.

click to enlarge FROM OPERA TO FOLK :  When classically-trained opera singer Randall Williams decided classical music lacked the inclusiveness of folk music, he switched, and now he’s ready to show why at a Música Del Río House Concert series on Jan. 10. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDALL WILLIAMS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDALL WILLIAMS
  • FROM OPERA TO FOLK : When classically-trained opera singer Randall Williams decided classical music lacked the inclusiveness of folk music, he switched, and now he’s ready to show why at a Música Del Río House Concert series on Jan. 10.

“Randall is a former opera singer who felt that classical music lacked the inclusiveness of folk music, and that the inevitable division between performer and audience was unbearable to him,” wrote concert organizer Fred Munroe. “Two hours after informing his voice teacher that he was leaving the world of classical music, Randall Williams graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Mons, Belgium at the head of his class.

“So here is our try at the simple, yet nearly impossible, explanation of Randall Williams and his music: Every song he writes is a story worth telling. Many are from history and many more are from last Tuesday. Some have made us smile. Some have touched the depths of our souls.”

Stryngs will be opening for Randall at 7:30 p.m. For info and reservations, call 466-6941 or visit musicadelrio.org.

A $15 donation is requested at the door.

NYC virtuoso
Vicki Genfan has been recognized among the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians at festivals such as the International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany’s Open Strings Guitar Festival, Italy’s Soave Guitar Festival, as well as at venues and performing arts centers across the U.S. and abroad. In 2005, she was also one of the featured artists on La Guitara, the first compilation CD featuring female guitarists from around the globe, released by Vanguard Records.

click to enlarge STRING GENIUS :  Virtuoso guitarist Vicki Genfan plays Jan. 13 at Steve Key’s songwriter showcase at The Clubhouse, and Jan. 14 at Santa Maria’s 3rd Coast Café. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VICKI GENFAN
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VICKI GENFAN
  • STRING GENIUS : Virtuoso guitarist Vicki Genfan plays Jan. 13 at Steve Key’s songwriter showcase at The Clubhouse, and Jan. 14 at Santa Maria’s 3rd Coast Café.

Just how extraordinary is she? Get this: She uses 29 different alternate tunings in her compositions as well as a percussive technique she calls “slap-tap.” Audiences around the world have been mesmerized by the rich sounds she makes with just two hands and her voice.

Still not convinced? This October at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Genfan won Guitar Player magazine’s Guitar Superstar competition, beating out nine men in a contest whose judges included Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Elliot Easton of the Cars.

This Tuesday, Jan. 13, Genfan will perform original songs and instrumental works during Steve Key’s 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. songwriter showcase at The Clubhouse. If you can’t make it, she hits Santa Maria’s 3rd Coast Café on Wednesday, Jan. 14.

The concerts are free, but donations are welcomed.

Folk, fun, and food
For further evidence that SLO County is a music Mecca, a low-population area whose music scene revivals much more densely populated communities, may I turn your attention to the brand new Central Coast Folk Festival scheduled from Thursday, Jan. 15 to Sunday, Jan 18. The four-day event “celebrates the American heritage of music, food, and art” with more than 19 live concerts—many free!—in intimate settings.

The concerts and prix-fixe “vittles” dinners will take place at Boutique Hotel Collection’s five San Luis Obispo County properties: The SeaVenture Resort, The Cliffs Resort, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, Apple Farm, and Inn at Morro Bay.

click to enlarge FOLK-EL POINT :  The Johnny Starlings, featuring Daniel Seeff (left) and Jody Mulgrew, play Jan. 16 at the Inn at Morro Bay as part of the four-day (Jan. 15-18) Central Coast Folk Festival. - PHOTO BY ABIGAL NOVEEN RICKERTSEN
  • PHOTO BY ABIGAL NOVEEN RICKERTSEN
  • FOLK-EL POINT : The Johnny Starlings, featuring Daniel Seeff (left) and Jody Mulgrew, play Jan. 16 at the Inn at Morro Bay as part of the four-day (Jan. 15-18) Central Coast Folk Festival.

“What started off as a celebration of folk music has quickly grown into a four-day food, entertainment, and music extravaganza spotlighting everyone from well-known folk artists such as Jill Knight, to local bluegrass band Cuesta Ridge, to The Creole Syncopators—one of the West Coast’s leading traditional jazz bands,” explained Mike Casola, chief operating officer for Boutique Hotel Collection and co-creator of the event. 

One highlight includes the free Johnny Starlings concert on Friday, Jan. 16 at the Inn at Morro Bay, when Jody Mulgrew leads his band through its paces. They’ve ditched their drummer for this gig, but taking up the slack will be Mayumi Urgino on fiddle, a prominent player in San Francisco’s old-time music and string band scene. Word on the street is that she sings as sweet as she looks. She’ll join Mulgrew and upright bassist Daniel Seeff for this special 7:30 p.m. show.

For details and to make reservations, visit www.ccfolk.com.

Stamey scores again!
I wanted to tell you all about Dave Stamey’s Saturday, Jan. 10, 8 p.m. concert at the Steynberg Gallery, but seeing as how it sold out more than a week ago, it seems like a moot point now—but I can’t help spread the word that once again, Stamey has brought prestige to our community by scoring top honors at the annual national Western Music Association Awards, where he was named both “Entertainer of the Year” and “Male Performer of the Year” at the Albuquerque, New Mexico music festival and awards show in November. Along with the awards, Stamey was presented a brand new Taylor 816CS guitar.

click to enlarge WESTERN HERO :  Nipomo’s own Dave Stamey, who has a sold-out show at Steynberg Gallery Jan. 10, recently won top honors at the annual national Western Music Association Awards where he was named both “Entertainer of the Year” and “Male Performer of the Year.” - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVE STAMEY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVE STAMEY
  • WESTERN HERO : Nipomo’s own Dave Stamey, who has a sold-out show at Steynberg Gallery Jan. 10, recently won top honors at the annual national Western Music Association Awards where he was named both “Entertainer of the Year” and “Male Performer of the Year.”

Stamey is no stranger to awards, having been named “Entertainer of the Year” in 2006 and “Male Performer of the Year” four times, as well as “Songwriter of the Year” twice. He’s also won the “Will Rogers Award” from the Academy of Western Artists. Pretty high praise for a real live cowboy from Nipomo.

But after so many laurels, have they lost their meaning?

“Oh no,” said Stamey. “If I felt any better about it they’d have to name a dessert after me.”

According to his official biography, Stamey’s been bucked off and stomped by many a horse, stepped on by mules and dragged around branding pens by cattle of many sizes. He’s ridden in the rain, in the snow, in the rain some more, in pretty nasty heat, and in feedlot pens where the air was thick and decidedly fragrant. But these days, aside from a few annual backwoods guided dude trips, he’s given up cowboying for full-time music.

“I had to make the break,” he revealed. “It came down to one thing or the other, because doing both was making me nuts. I was exhausted. Got to where I was on the road so much, so that was it. It was an easy choice to make.”

But does he miss his old ways?

“Yes, I do. I miss having that kind of relationship with that size of a herd of horses, up to 120 head. I do miss that.”

He still saddles up, but these days it’s to guide the moneyed elite on exclusive backcountry horse trips where he sings western and cowboy songs around the campfire.

“The last couple years, I hooked back up with an outfit near Mammoth Lake called Mammoth Pack, and I do trips into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, billed as ‘Pack in with Dave, and he’ll sing around the  campfire for you.’ This June I’m doing two back-to-back 5-day trips.”

As a testament to his popularity, the June trips are already full, but you can always visit Stamey’s web site (davestamey.com) to check his schedule and try to join him at a show, a backcountry trip, or a ride to a ghost town, like the trip he’s taking to Bodie in later June. But back to these recent awards.

“It’s pretty cool in that any award, especially for people like we blue collar, end-of-the-music-biz, room-to-room, venue-to-venue, coffeehouse-to-coffeehouse, scraping-out-a-living-every-once-in-a-while types get an award. It makes me feel like I’m on the right track, that what I’m doing is working.”

Amen, brother.

Glen Starkey took an IQ test and the results came back negative. Test him yourself at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

 

CD Reviews

VARIOUS ARTISTS:  The George Mitchell Collection Vol. 1-45
  • VARIOUS ARTISTS: The George Mitchell Collection Vol. 1-45

It was discovering Muddy Waters as an 8th grader on Atlanta’s only black radio station that transfixed George Mitchell with the blues. In 1962, at the age of 18, he began what would become a lifetime hobby: trolling Memphis alleyways and traversing the dirt roads of Mississippi and Georgia to find and record black musicians with his lone microphone. Here, sprawling across seven CDs, is Mitchell’s accomplishment, and what a feat it is. Spanning 20 years, Mitchell captured many familiar names for the first time (R.L. Burnside, Othar Turner), was one of the few individuals in the early ‘60s to document early blues women (Precious Bryant, Rosa Lee Hill, Jesse Mae Hemphill), as well as chronicle a slew of musicians who were never heard from again. This is an artifact of the rarest kind, a peek back into world that has nearly flickered out, a sound of an American music that mesmerized a teenage boy.


NICKEL EYE:  The Time Of The Assassins
  • NICKEL EYE: The Time Of The Assassins
It seems like all the Strokes are taking a little R&R. When they debuted in 2001 with Is This It, they rode a wave of adulation straight to the covers of what seemed like every music magazines. Now they’re harnessing their name recognition into their own solo efforts. Albert Hammond, Jr. has struck out on his own, as well as drummer Fabrizio Moretti with his laid back collaboration Little Joy. Now bassist Nikolia Fraiture has dipped into a box of old rants and writings, gathered the assistance of Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Regina Spektor, and UK band South, and produced his solo effort under Nickel Eye, a spoof on his name. Sporting a stripped down sound, he builds upon a lot of influences: “Back From Exile” hints at the Violent Femmes in sound and delivery, “Brandy Of The Damned” twists around a lively reggae backbeat, while Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” ends the album with languid beauty. A solid debut effort.

—Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and KCBX’s “Night Train.”

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