It appears that the Plain High Drifters are preparing for another run. They cover late ’60’s early ’70s country tunes and provide an outlet for Smelley Kelley to sing the songs that there just isn’t room for in his main band Red Meat. This will be the fourth incarnation of the PHDs who date back to the mid-’90s as the East Bay Drifters who, as they’ve evolved, tend to play for about three years then disappear for three years only to return again. Whatever else can be said about the band, they at least have a fine sense of symmetry.
Li’l Anne and the Tune Wranglers emerged out of the Sweet ‘n’ Lo’s in 2009, but soon went into hibernation while waiting for a new bass player to appear. Multi-instrumental Belle from the bluegrass band Belle Monroe and her Brewglass Boys might provide the Tune Wranglers with their bass line.
Eric Embry has confirmed that the fire has gone out of the Burning Embers. Never the most focused of bands when it came to bookings, Embry is likely to resurface in a band where he gets to just show up and play. Tom Armstrong was one of the Burning Embers’ success stories when they pulled him out of retirement to play bass, but with two vocalists already in place, they never really got him into the mix as much as they could have. Meanwhile, the Ember’s fiddler and singer, Katy Rexford, has joined the Whiskey Richards who spent a good portion of ’09 stabilizing their line-up and now appear poised to hit it and git it in 2010.
The Lariats of Fire, who were quiet during most of ’09, have found a replacement for their lost drummer and are back in action again. And the new and improved five-piece B-Stars have hooked up with the new and improved 23 Club in Brisbane where every Wednesday night is now B-Stars night. This provides an excellent mid-week opportunity to get your dancin’ shoes on or just sip a few and chill at this venerable club.
In club news, bars everywhere are changing hands as a result of the recession and among them are three Irish bars: the Abbey Tavern and Blarney Stone in SF’s Richmond district and the Blackthorn Tavern in the Sunset. All of these venues have entertainment licenses, but none have managed to gain much traction with music. Few, and least of all SF’s Irish community, seem interested in the trad side of Irish music and, with the possible exception of Cullan’s Hound’s, the Bay Area’s many fine alt-Irish bands haven’t been finding enough stages to play. The real question is where the Abbey, Blarney Stone and Blackthorn are going with “Irish,” since all now have either non-Irish or second or third generation Irish-American owners with little or no connection to the Emerald Isle. Of the three, the Blackthorn has been the farthest along in booking non-Irish music, but as the economy forces bar owners to seek new markets, we can count these as new opportunities for a wide spectrum of bands.