Close To The Heart
Alisa Fineman, Sista Monica and Mountain Heart highlight music that gets up close and personal.
Thursday, May 18, 2000
What''s Up, Chuck?
It''s been a while since we''ve seen Alisa Fineman on a local stage. Although she''s been doing some private, and church-related gigs, she''s been careful to ration her local appearances. It''s probably a wise move: Although it''s tough to imagine anyone finding much to fault about the gentle singer/songwriter, you know what they say about familiarity and contempt.
For those of you who are new to the community, Fineman sort of appeared out of nowhere (actually from the forests in Big Sur, where she spent time as a fire spotter) about 12 years ago and immediately became a coffeehouse favorite. Spreading her wings after a couple years, she took to touring and hitting the folk festival circuit. In the early ''90s, Fineman took top honors for Best New Artist at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
Fineman did a stint with Martin Simpson''s Band of Angels, and is working on her third album with Windham Hill guitarist Alex de Grassi. In recent years, Fineman has frequently performed with former Band of Angels bandmate Kimball Hurd, the multi-instrumental (guitar, mandolin, dobro) founder of the now-defunct City Folk.
When Fineman first walked through the Weekly''s doors, we were struck by her compassion, honesty and innocent quality. A dozen years later, we''re impressed that she retains those same qualities in her personality and her music. Look for an introspective, heartfelt evening.
Alisa Fineman, Kimball Hurd, Saturday, 8pm. Morgan''s Coffee & Tea, Monterey. $12, 373-1479
Talking about Monterey Bay artists we have seen grow over the years, Sista Monica is back to celebrate the release of her newest CD, People Love the Blues. Although it seems like she''s been around forever, Monica Parker didn''t begin singing professionally until 1992. A one-woman powerhouse, Sista Monica combined hard work, both on and offstage, with commanding vocals and irresistible charisma (ask anyone who saw her at Doc''s Nightclub or the Monterey Bay Blues Festival) to jump start her career. In eight short years, she''s gone from singing in small Santa Cruz clubs to headlining main stages at blues festivals and clubs around the world. People Love the Blues provides ample evidence why she''s become so popular.
Sista Monica wrote or co-wrote eight of the 14 tracks on the mostly up-tempo, funky People, and she delivers the music with bold, powerful vocals that make comparisons to Etta James all too easy. But the good Sista achieves a certain intimacy, even on her recorded works, that sets her apart from other blues belters--she''s not just singing, she''s testifying from the blue alleys of her soul. Even so, as forceful and compelling as the album is, it doesn''t compare to seeing Sista Monica live.
If you haven''t yet seen a Sista Monica performance, get off your butt and go check her out. If you have seen her in the past, you''ve probably already made plans to be there.
Sista Monica, Saturday, 9pm. Sly McFly''s, 649-8050.
Bluegrass band Mountain Heart has only been together for about a year and a half, but it''s already making waves in the high-lonesome department. The band got together, more or less informally, at the 1998 International Bluegrass Music Association''s trade show; a year later, it left the ''99 trade show carrying the top honors for "Emerging Artist of the Year." What makes the award particularly impressive is that the band won the award on the strength of it''s live performances--it hadn''t released its first album before balloting for the award was closed. So...it might not be accurate to judge its live performance by its recorded work. But if it is, you''re in for a treat.
Based on its self-titled debut release, Mountain Heart displays a soulful reserve and depth. The band obviously has the musical chops required of any bluegrass outfit, with spirited instrumental work winding around each other like a Celtic knot. But if you were to pick out any one thing that sets the band apart, it would have to be the unabashed, heartfelt romanticism that''s particularly pronounced when guitar man Steve Gulley takes his place as lead vocalist, as he does on eight of the album''s 11 songs.
If the band is half as good in performance as it is on the album, this ought to be a standout show.
Mountain Heart, Wednesday, 7:30pm. Morgan''s Coffee & Tea, $16.50/advance; $20/day of show. 372-5641.
Don''t forget, coming up right around the corner is the Santa Cruz Blues Festival on Memorial Day weekend at Aptos Village Park. Saturday''s lineup includes Boz Scaggs, Nina Storey, Lucky Peterson, Lil'' Ed and the Blues Imperials, and the Delgado Brothers. As has become the tradition for this fest, Sunday''s lineup goes heavy on guitar slingers including Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Coco Montoya, Tommy Castro, Lonnie Brooks and Bernard Allison. The word is that tickets for the Saturday show are going fast.
Santa Cruz Blues Festival, May 27 & 28. Aptos Village Park, $28 and $45/day; $50 and $80/two-day tix. 479-9814, www.santacruzbluesfestival.com.