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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #206, June 25, 2009

San Francisco Bay Area Twang Calendar Highlights
Bands / Clubs

The Polka Cowboys @ Champa Resturant, 3550 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante 730pm free

David Allan Coe Band/ShitKickers/The Wiggle Wagons @ VooDoo Lounge, 14 S. 2nd St., San Jose 9pm $25/$30

The Hi-Rhythm Hustlers @ Peri's Silver Dollar Bar, 29 Broadway, Fairfax 9pm free

The Blue Diamond Fillups @ Peri's Silver Dollar Bar, 29 Broadway, Fairfax 9pm free

Jinx Jones & the KingTones @ Jillian's, 101 4th St., in Metreon, SF 8pm

Kit & the Branded Men/The Buckshot Boys @ Garage Ink, 1525 Lincoln Ave., Napa 2pm free

Rancho Deluxe/The Cowlicks (CD release)/49 Special @ Café DuNord, 2170 Market, SF 8pm $12/$15

Big B & his Snakeoil Saviors @ The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa, SF 10pm $10

The Chop Tops/The Pendletons/The RevTones @ Blank Club, 44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose 10pm $10

Red Vic Benefit: Tango #9/Toshio Hirano @ Mercury Café, 201 Octavia St., SF 7pm $10

The GoldDiggers @ Peri's Silver Dollar Bar, 29 Broadway, Fairfax 930pm free

Yard Sale (CD release)/The Happy Clams/The Low Rollers @ Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berkeley 9pm $10

28th Annual Western Swing Hall of Fame Music Festival @ The Machinist's Hall, 2749 Sunrise Blvd., Rancho Cordova

Full Calendar



'60s country covers are the mainstay of the Country Casanovas repertoire, and what other reason but fun can there be for playing songs like "Honky Tonk Man,"  "Heartaches by the Number," "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," and "Live Fast, Die Young"?  The band delivers a variety of vocal looks from the front line of Norm "The Uzbekistani Elvis" Collins,  Emily "The Czechoslovakian Songbird" Hayes and Scott Hill.  These vocal change-ups add depth, hold interest and make the Casanovas more than a jukebox band.

The band's live show is particularly recommended since leader Collins is happy to share the stage.  If you're lucky, you'll hit a night when Bobby Martinez drops by to sing "Kansas City," but you never know who will be sitting in at a Country Casanovas show.  Maybe even you?  


The phrase "keeping it real," however shopworn, is still an apt description for Misisipi Rider's debut CD since its songs come from direct experience and the tracks were recorded live in the studio.

"Born Again," is the most misunderstood, and one of the best, on the CD.  Many who hear the hook think it's about finding religion, but Misisipi Mike Wolf wrote it to describe losing a friend who fell into taking Jesus too seriously.  "I don't have a thing against Jesus/I just don't think that he is/The only thing to put your faith in."  Cree Rider wrote "Plain Jane" when he was suffering a dry spell in the girlfriend department.  Not particularly into Match.com, he thought he'd use the stage to let the regular gals know they're okay by him.  Doug Blumer wrote "Bessie's Song" in memory of his former octogenarian landlady who experienced quite a life as chronicled in the song. 

The strength of the CD is that a listener can connect with any one of the songs and think, "I know someone like that," or, "That happened to me once."

There's also much to be said about cohesion in this CD.  The band started as a duo, hence their name.  Then Blumer and Katy Rexford (Burning Embers) came on board to play bass and fiddle.  The band seasoned their songs and worked on the arrangements until everything was just right.  When the moment came, they were able to go into the studio fully loaded.  The result came out as real and cohesive as a CD gets, and a treat for fans and newcomers alike.  


Live recording of CDs has become a trend because CDs are no longer mass market items, they are souvenirs. 

Even into the '90s it was standard for music fans to buy a CD based on music they heard on the radio.  Then they would go to a concert expecting the band to sound like the CD, and most bands would oblige because those were the days when CDs served mass markets.

Radio is no longer a big factor in music, and stores that sell CDs are disappearing faster than you can say "Tower Records."  Mass merchandising of hardcopy music has been replaced by single-song softcopy sales on iTunes and MySpace.  For most bands, the once mighty CD is now on a par with t-shirts, posters, and stickers, and CD sales are tied to live performances instead of CD outlet stores.  Audiences want to take home what they heard on the stage rather than what they heard on radio, so the CD needs to sound like the band instead of the other way around.

RomanowskiMastering Engineer Michael Romanowski, who has recorded the Rock Soup Ramblers as well as Misisipi Rider live, is seeing and increase in demand for live in the studio and live in the clubs.  Cost is the driving force, and there doesn't seem to be much incentive for recording studio wizardry, extensive mixing and overdubbing, without a mass market to pay for it.

Beyond cost, Romanowski also talks about an artistic incentive.  He notes that live in the studio recordings pack more emotional punch than "canned in the studio."  Live in the studio sessions allow band mates to hear each other in a new way.  He calls it playing the song instead of playing their instruments. Bands don't use headsets in his sessions which pushes them to listen to each other and balance each instrument's volume because there is no remix on a live take.  If an instrument is too loud or too soft, the band has to do another take.

The studio room itself is another factor.  Texas Steve and the Git Gone Trio got the vintage rockabilly sound that they were looking for by recording in a garage studio.  Misisipi Rider needed a more dampened room to bring out the acoustic-driven emotions they wanted to capture.

There's more on the technical end, and there can be post-production in live recording that can raise costs if a band hasn't done its homework before going into the studio.  Still, for a cost-effective recording alternative, live in the studio works as long as the band members know their parts and the songs have gelled before their studio concert begins.


Www.Pandora.com and www.Slacker.com want to be your radio stations because satellite radio is, like, soooo '90s and MP3 players are soooo 2007.  Radio and webcasts are about stations providing music to their listeners.  MP3 players are about listeners providing music to themselves.  Pandora and Slacker start with "stations" that are really playlists from their databases, but as the listener rates each song, Pandora and Slacker give the listener more of what it believes the listener will like.  Brian Ford compares these free listening sites in this Newsvine article. 

MFA Cowboy
Paul ZarzyskiMoving on to low tech, the old west is nothing if not overly romanticized, and nothing compares to looking at the old west through rose colored glasses quite like cowboy poetry.  One now forgotten cowboy poet, speaking from a small stage at a now forgotten Strawberry Music Festival, opined that he got into poetry because it paid better and was less work than mendingPin-up 
Oh, yeah! fences. 
CowboyPoetry.com is ground zero for the genre and it features poems, publications, festivals, history, a fine selection of vintage photos and more.

Got a Jones for rockabilly or Bettie Page?  PinUpLifestyle.com will take it to the limit.  Start with the pictures of gorgeous pin-ups on the home page, sign up and dive right in to a site that's a mini-MySpace for hep cats and kittens with groups, forums, listings, events and media.


The recession has accelerated the flight of musicians from the Bay Area.  Austin seems to be the destination of choice with Dallas Wayne, Rockin' Lloyd Tripp and the Mother Truckers already there and others to follow.  Nashville and New York are claiming their share as well.

Rumors were circulating that Johnny Dilks was Austin-bound, but J.D. confirmed that he is in Louisiana on a long-term work-related stint.  He hasn't made a decision about what's after Louisiana, but he sees Austin as higher than the Bay Area on his priority list.  Johnny lost a big part of what he was trying to accomplish musically when Dave Gleason of D.G.'s Wasted Days, who was also JD's guitarist, moved from the Bay Area to Ventura.

Robber Baron
Nik EdwardsYour text here Mike Therieau, who played with Gleason in DGWG, got more involved with his own band and East Bay Grease but those bands also came up against the Bay Area "wall" and now he's moved to Austin.  Nik Edwards of the California country roots band The Robber Barons is planning an immediate move to Austin; so immediate that he might be there as you read this. 

Two of the Bay Area's best twanger-songwriters had to give up on the Bay Area.   There've been welconed all over the world including other parts of the US, but Audrey Auld Mazzera moved to Nashville in 2007 and shitkicker poet A.J. Roach moved to New York this year; both to further their music careers.

Johnny Dilks sees money as a driving force.  Seasoned bands want $100/member for playing a club, but it's a struggle to get half that in the Bay Area.  Teal Collins of the Mother Truckers sees audience appreciation as another factor.  She found that the Trucker's Austin audiences show more appreciation and fan loyalty than the Truckers experienced here.  Bay Area bands that tour Europe echo this sentiment.

The general reaction in Europe and most of the US is, "Wow, you're in a band," where here audiences come to a show, have a good time, then seem to forget about the band as soon as their heads hit their pillows.  This is a concern expressed my musicians across the spectrum of Bay Area music, not just the roots bands.  Sadly, it comes down to the Bay Area being saturated with music.  Pick up a Bay Area weekly and there will be page after page of music.  Go to larger California unban areas like Sacramento, San Jose or San Diego and there will be barely a third of the music that's available here.  Bay Area audiences are fortunate to have so much to choose from, but the careers of Bay Area musicians are paying a price for it.  It's hard to be a hero in your own home town.


However bleak the future my look for Bay Area bands and clubs, new ones keep cropping up.  Cafes seem to be where the action is. 
33 Revolutions in El Cerrito is the newest; it's a combination cafe and vinyl record store that favors jazz and rock, but offers roots and other styles as well.  The similarly named but unrelated Revolution Cafe is across from the Makeout Room, on 22nd between Mission and Valencia in SF.  It ran afoul of S.F. City Hall's music gatekeepers, but they are booking music on the acoustic side once again.  The Blue Macaw, a restaurant that features international music, has opened in the former 12 Galaxies space on Mission.  They may not have a lot to offer HWS readers, but a tip of the hat is due to any live music venue opening in the teeth of a recession...  The Country Casanovas have ended their Wednesdays at Pissed Off Pete's in SF's outer Mission.  By agreement, the band was at the club on an off-night to use it as a practice/performance space, but as the band got better they didn't need a once-a-week practice.  HWS spoke to Pete himself who said the club is open to bands that want to use it.  Talk to Pete at the club, which doesn't have a site...

BAND WATCH: Western Swing favorites
The Saddle Cats have released their first CD, Herding Cats, so look for some CD release parties coming soon... The Cowlicks also have a new CD called Hey, Hey We're the Cowlicks and a release party on Friday July 3rd at the Devil's Canyon Brewery in Belmont...  J. Byrd Hosch, the transplanted Texas songbird with an ultra-low profile is working on a CD to be released in September...  Hang on to your livers because Jimmy Whiskeybrothers Jack Spade and Jimmy Whiskey have (sort of) formed two bands: the Jack Spade Trio and (the return of the) Big Bad Wolves. It's difficult to say if these really are two bands since the bands share members full and part-time, and after a few drinks they like to be one band again.  Huh, what?  Who knows?  These bands may reconfigure themselves 2 or 3 times a night depending on the Jim Beam supply...  Rumors of the Shut-Ins' demise are premature. Mike Roper has been taking time off to work with Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands, develop Cheetahs on the Moon and be a dad, but the Shut-Ins themselves are scheduled for a show in October...  The Blue Diamond Fillups have arrived with their own brand of pedal to the metal rockabilly...  The Jesse Jay Harris Quartet, a side project from the Rancho Deluxe guitarist, played its last show for the foreseeable future.  Work of the day-job variety is taking Harris to LA.  He'll be back to the Bay Area soon with Rancho Deluxe...   The Sweet 'n' Lo's have reorganized from a quartet to a trio and renamed the band Li'l Anne and the Tune Wranglers...  The B-Stars are glad to have released their 6-song CD which provides an excellent taste of what this four-piece is about...  The Blushin' Roulettes hail from Mendocino County with a bluesy/country acoustic mix that provides a tasty listen on their MySpace page...

FESTIVAL WATCH: Part of the Hardly Strictly line up has been announced for October 2-4 at Golden Gate Park.  Many of the H-S greats are returning including Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Gillian Welch, Lyle Lovett & the Large Band, Hazel Dickens, The Del McCoury Band, and John Prine, yet hats are off to H-S for keeping it fresh with acts further off the bluegrass track like Aimie Mann, Mavis Staples, Richie Havens, and Billy Bragg.  Long before he made movies, and even before he did stand-up, his act used to consist of him doing magic tricks and playing the banjo: Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers are also booked for the festival...

The B Stars, Mighty Slim Pickins and others who attended the annual Easter Weekend rockabilly bash Viva Las Vegas report that the event made a smooth transition from the Gold Coast Hotel to the Orleans.  This year's lineup didn't seem particularly strong, but that's a minor issue since live music is only part of the VLV experience.  2009 is also the second year for VLV's sister show, the Rockabilly Rave which is itself a sister show of the annual Rockabilly Rave in England.  A lot more European bands are booked for this one which has fewer side attractions than VLV but a stronger lineup.  

Singer-songwriter Megan Barton sent in her entry for a band and CD randomly created by accessing Wikipedia for the band name, Flickr for the cover art and Quotations Page for the CD's title.  Wikipedia randomly named her band Any Given Saturday after a race horse, and quotations page gave her Will Rogers', "An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh." ... Ted Stevens is known as the long-serving Alaskan Senator who escaped corruption charges when Justice Department prosecutors bungled what was apparently an air-tight case.  He needs to be better known as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation who supports Internet usage fees.  The Chairman's lack of technical comprehension shines in a speech about the "Innernets" which is on YouTube.  That speech has been remixed into this five-star video that has provided over 1 million people with a good laugh a Senator Peabrain's expense. 

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