What''s Up, Chuck?
Pigeonhole This--A collection of eclectic musicians fill clubs around town this week.
Thursday, February 4, 1999
You want to hear one of the greatest under-recognized guitarists around? Check out Martin Simpson at The Media Room on Sunday.
Here in the Monterey area, we were lucky to have Simpson as a neighbor for a number of years when he was living up around Santa Cruz. So we had numerous chances to see him play both as a solo act and with his Band of Angels (featuring wife Jessica Ruby Simpson and Alisa Fineman, among others). Last I heard, he moved to New Orleans about year ago, so we''re not likely to have as many Simpson gigs in the future. Take advantage of this opportunity.
Like other acoustic guitar wizards who have chosen to interpret traditional styles (guys like Bob Brozman and Ry Cooder), one of the most impressive things about Simpson is his range. The England-born Simpson first came to notice for his adaptations of English folk music, and it still provides one of the staples of Simpson''s repertoire.
But I''ll tell you, he really blew me away with his 1995 release, Smoke and Mirrors, a Delta blues album. His slide guitar work was so potent, so authentic and yet so personal that it was hard to believe he hadn''t been playing the blues in a swamp from the day he was born.
On the other hand, that kind of arrogance on my part doesn''t sit well with Simpson. I once heard a radio interview where he ripped the questioner a new orifice when he was asked how a Brit could play the blues so well. His response was along the lines of ''Look, Roots music is roots music, doesn''t matter what culture it comes from, it''s all connected to this thing called being human. You have to feel it before you can play it, and if you don''t understand that, you don''t understand music.''
Martin Simpson, Sunday, 7pm. The Media Room, $20/advance; $25/door. 373-7379.
God only knows how to define the Bad Livers, who''re appearing at Doc''s on Tuesday. They''re sort of, kinda, mostly bluegrass, sort of. That certainly explains Danny Barnes'' banjo. But it doesn''t explain Mark Rubin''s tuba. Or the accordion/tuba/banjo klezmer song, "A Yid ist Geboren inz Oklahoma," or the polka-ish, "Jalopy," both on their most recent CD, Industry and Thrift.
If you''re a person who gets hung up on putting music in neat little pigeon holes, you''re not gonna feel comfortable the Bad Livers. But if you plain like good music, that ranges from jazz to bluegrass interpreted in mind-bending (and sometimes excruciatingly wonderful) ways. Check these guys out.
Also at Doc''s this week, on Wednesday, is bluesman W.C. Clark. If you''re into a Motown-ish dose of mid-week dancin'' blues, Clark is your man.
Bad Livers, Tuesday, 9pm; W.C. Clark, Wednesday, 9pm. Doc''s Nightclub, 649-4241.
You might want to check out the singer/songwriter about whom Performing Songwriter magazine wrote, "Don Conoscenti is to the acoustic folk world what Prince is to the pop-funk world." He''s at Morgan''s on Friday.
And Hot Club of Cowtown makes a return engagement to Morgan''s on Monday. Their gig last Thursday, Jan. 28, was by all accounts, a rip-roaring success, and the audience wouldn''t let the band leave without promising to come back real soon.
Morgan Christopher was so euphoric about the gig that he was still wearing a Hot Club T-shirt the next morning. Judging from the wrinkles, I suspect he slept in it.
Don Conoscenti, Friday, 8pm. Hot Club of Cowtown, Monday, 8pm. Morgan''s Coffee and Tea, 655-6868.