I received a postcard with some good news the other day. If you live in Arcata, you probably got one too, a promise from the garbage company that, from now on, they won't crash around picking up our trash so damned early. I’ve been jerked out of dreamland many times.
A received another note via email and Facebook messenger. My longtime friend, the songwriter Joanne Rand has a show coming up Saturday, April 8, at the Sanctuary, marking the release of her latest album, Roses in the Snow & Drought, with a title song about a timely subject: “continuing to create against all odds.”
Did I perhaps want to cover the show? Of course, since she is a truly fine songwriter and one of Arcata’s treasures. Maybe chat about it? Certainly. We had a chat. At this point, I’m going to shift into Q&A mode starting with our talk about Joanne’s early life goal: not to be a freewheeling superstar, to become a freewheeling garbage collector.
Joanne: I was awakened at 5 a.m. by the sound of the garbage trucks, and remembered being a kid and seeing a garbage man at dawn, and wanting to be one when I grew up because it seemed so FREE.
The Hum: Really a garbage collector?
The life goals changed through the years. I'm happy with the one I settled on.
How would you describe the job you settled on?
Healer, teacher, cajoler, mystic, entertainer, storyteller, weaver…
When was it, what time in your life, when you decided this is what you wanted to do?
I wrote my first poem at six, my first song at 16 (about enviro-justice and Native American wildness)…
I think I always knew. My grandfather knew, when he bought me my first good guitar at age 12.
And now you’re on album #16?
What was #1? Maybe a cassette tape?
It was called "Home" and was released in 1988. I was living on the Smith River then — you had to hike a mile in and canoe to get there. I still have the [original] reel to reel and plan to digitize it. All the others are on CD.
The new one is with a new band, right?
Yes. I love playing with [keys player] Tim Randles, [guitarist] Piet Dalmolen and [fiddler] Rob Diggins. There’s a real chemistry between us. I feel fortunate.
How did you put your band together?
I first worked with Tim several years ago on a project called “Hurricane Party” with myself, Tim Gray & Marla Joy. From there, he and I went on to make several CDs. I met Piet because we were working in his studio, Universal Balance. I met Rob last year when he recorded on my last CD.
It's definitely an all-star crew. Every one of them has their own band, actually each of them plays in several bands.
That's right. They all have booming musical careers. I feel fortunate to have found them.
Is working with them collaborative?
I write the song, or arrange them, but when we come together, we figure out how to fit together and where to leave room for each other...a nestling in or a sparking off, however it goes. I intentionally left long instrumental sections so they could jam and we recorded live, with Piet playing and engineering at the same time.
Would you say you are still writing about the same things you were in the beginning? Things like ‘home,’ respect for Mother Earth, the power of song…
I first felt the courage to perform in the '80s when I was writing enviro-activist music. In the '90s I was my brother's caregiver for AIDS, and the songs became more spiritual/philosophical. They became more story oriented over time. I tell stories about peoples’ lives and some are very personal. I write about my love of my mom, about characters I see, about Humboldt County. I also work up Appalachian traditionals in a twisted kind of way. I never know what's coming next. Ultimately, yes, it’s the same thing: the songs are about empathy.
I was thinking how appropriate it is to be playing a place called the Sanctuary with the lack of empathy we’ve seen coming from Washington lately. What your the plan for the show?
My longtime bass player, Ken Braziel, is coming up from Santa Rosa to play with us. And one of my students, Frida King, will be doing a song. [No relation.] Greg [her husband] just lost his dad this year. A couple of the songs are for him — the partiarch — the fallen old growth tree, Tom King. And we will play lots of songs and stretch out. I look forward to playing with these guys whenever I can. And playing at the Sanctuary is perfect — music, in itself, is a sanctuary.
Years ago (I’m not sure how many years), I went too see Joanne sing at a now defunct restaurant called Avalon. At the door, I met a young lady with a musical name, Melody Walker. She knew Joanne from HSU, one of many women drawn by her power. Melody was clearly someone who wanted to make her way in the world of music.
We became friends and I’ve watched the trajectory of her career following that difficult path, through several local bands including Aka Bella (focusing on international a cappella), the folky Vintner’s Daughters, a world beat band Womama, and so on. At some point she met Jake, who was playing in the Bay Area Afrobeat band Albino, but was equally interested in Americana and something-grass. They joined forces, Melody graduated from HSU and eventually moved back to the Bay Area where she was from.
As she put it at the time, she, “loves Humboldt but couldn't make the musical connections I needed there, might not even be able to do it here in the Bay, might need to be in LA, Nashville or NYC.” Melody and Jake assembled a band of pickers calling it Front Country (the opposite of backcountry) and found a vehicle for her Americana-grass songs.
Last time I heard from her, Jake and Melody had moved to Nashville, “and made and Kickstarted a record. And then got a record deal, all with a full touring schedule of 150 dates or so.” The deal was with Organic Records, “a very small indie label out of Asheville, very old school, yet ‘organic.’ The move was 6 months of houseless crashing in Nashville a few days at a time between tours until we finally moved into a place. Making a living or any money from your music isn't easy in this day and age. After 5 years of touring at least 60 dates a year, ramping up to 100 and 150 the last two years, we are self-sufficient on the band.”
This coming Tuesday (April 11) Front Country barnstorms through Arcata for a show at Humboldt Brews, part of a West Coast tour behind their Organic album Other Love Songs, officially out this week. Melody says,”I wrote the vast majority of the new record. Pretty proud of that. I wrote a ton of emotional, relational songs will all the ‘feels’ for this new album.” They really sound good, shining like a polished ruby. Front Country is taking her where she wants to go.
The Humbrews show includes Steep Ravine an, “Americana/newgrass/folk-rock” band that got together in Santa Cruz, and now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. Their bio tells us, they have a “Californian sound using elements of folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and pop” to make music they hope you’ll like. They're also releasing a new album,
Elsewhere in Arcata that night, the Redwood Jazz Alliance brings their 11th season to a close with a concert at HSU’s Fulkerson Recital Hall with “New York-based pianist, composer, bandleader and educator” David Berkman, an old friend of the RJA, with his combo Old Friends and New Friends with Dayna Stephens on tenor sax, Linda Oh on bass, and another old RJA friend, Rudy Royston on drums. As usual, there’s a free workshop earlier in the day (3 p.m) somewhere on campus. Jazz aficionados, don’t miss this.
Also on Tuesday, Outer Space has a different kind of music (as usual) with Ian Sweet, a “scuzzy indie pop trio” from a different part of New York with a new record on Hardly Art Records, also Post-Life, a “wonder-punk-gaze-wave” quartet from Los Angeles,
and Mister Moonbeam, the “technicolor cowboy” from Eureka
one of those one-man-bands who never fails to amaze. Sounds like big fun in Outer Space — again.
That same night at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium, the biggest indoor venue in Humboldt, there’s a big ticket show by Shinedown, a band from Florida I knew nothing about until this event popped up on a Pollstar search. According to Wikipedia, “Shinedown has sold more than ten million albums worldwide, and has had 11 No.1 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, the third most of all-time, behind Van Halen and Three Days Grace.” I realize I’m totally out of touch when it comes to the “mainstream,” which, in this case, seems to mean quasi-metal rock. Shinedown is on tour with As Lions, another quasi-metal band, this one fronted by Austin Dickinson, the son of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame (for what that’s worth).
If I had more space and time, I’d tell you about The Brothers Comatose playing Wednesday (April 5) at Humboldt Brews with Lowest Pair.
And The Crow Quill Night Owls, a hip jug band playing Thursday at the Sanctuary
or The China Cats jamming at the Jam Friday. Yes, that's a Dead cover.
There’s also Redwood Raks World Dance Studio taking you around the world via dance at the Graves Museum on Sunday afternoon with bellydancers, hula, samba, salsa, hip hop etc.
And W. Kamau Bell presented at the JVD by the HSU African American Center for Academic Excellence talking about “The Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour,” on Monday. (He’s a comic.)
And also on Monday, punkish Songs for Moms with locals Big Rip and Roman Candles at/in Outer Space.
More, More, More
Damn that space/time continuum anyway. Timing made me miss adding something else to this week's paper, and I didn't squeeze in a bit about the Farmers' Market for this week.
I ran into Kevin Danel and his brother, Greg, at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, Kevin is a long standing board member and Greg is a first time volunteer for rcmf.org
Kev is preparing for knee replacement surgery scheduled for June and is getting in a couple gigs before taking a couple months off from performing (unless another gig comes up between now and then). "I've has been limping around for years and after many nights of heavy wah-wah pedal use (while standing on one foot) I'm getting a repair!" he explained.
Meanwhile, Kev has 2 dates scheduled to perform in April with his bands Vintage Soul and Vintage JAZZ: Vintage Soul featuring Claire Bent on vocals, Tim Randles on keyboard, Bill Moenhke on drums, Eric Hann on bass and Kevin on guitar, perform at the Arcata Farmer's Market on Saturday April 8, from 10am-1pm. ("Had to pass on playing the 1st AFM on April 1st because I was too busy with the RCMF this weekend. Vintage Soul have been playing in Humboldt County since 1999, including a 3 year period performing as Vintage Rock N' Soul.") This vid is from the Farmers' Market in 2008, with a different line-up, but it has a bubbly Arcata feel.
Vintage JAZZ features Baron Wolfe on bass, Bill Moenhke on drums and Kevin on guitar, playing, you guessed it, jazz. they perform at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, on Sunday April 23rd 3pm-5pm at their monthly performance series: Wine & Jazz concert series. "After every performance audience members are invited to bring their instrument and take part in a jam session with the band."
So there you have it. Don't miss the Arcata Farmers' Market, with things to eat or grow now that spring is here, plus, the Mug Library is now going full swing.