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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #200, October 21, 2008

Hicks with Sticks
San Francisco Bay
Area Twang
Calendar Highlights
Bands / Clubs

77 el Deora/The B-Stars @ Fourth Street Tavern, 711 4th St., San Rafael 9pm

Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Boys/Kit & the Branded Men/Cassidy Crowley @ The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakland 10pm $12

The Country Cassanovas @ Pissed Off Pete's, 4528 Mission St., SF 730pm

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

The Devil Makes Three @ The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific, Santa Cruz 9pm $15/$18


Full Calendar


October 2008 brings Hicks with Sticks News to its 9th anniversary and 200th issue.  Nine years ago there was no HWS site and the newsletter was a brief text-based email that supported the late, great Hicks with Sticks radio show.  Many subscribers from that original list are still with us.  Thanks everyone for supporting twang music which has also grown from 25 bands to over 70 during the past decade. 
                                           - Jose Segue


Jinx Jones would have to be a hit in Finland which has one of the strongest rockabilly scenes in the world.  Once there, he connected with the rhythm section from Los Fabulitos to record Jinx Jones: Live Twang from Finland.

Eight of the CD's twelve tracks are covers and almost all twelve tracks are reprise tunes from his two studio CDs.  He's always done covers well.  He tends to cover former hits, but not necessarily over-covered hits.  He also has an uncanny knack for making a song sound like we remembered it while still making it his own thing as he does with Carl Perkins' "Honey Hush" and the Johnny Burnette Trio's "Tear It Up." 

People in the business respect his playing in ways that Bay Area audiences still need to catch up on.  He has attracted guitar sponsorships, been featured in Guitar Player Magazine, and even played in the popular band En Vogue.  He anchors one of the best gigs going on a Monday night in SF at The Saloon in North Beach where he, Brent Byners, and more drummers than Spinal Tap have played in The Bachelors for well over a decade.  It's inspiring to watch him at The Saloon switching easily between rockabilly, blues, oldies rock & roll, funk and a dozen other styles without missing a note.  He's even got a jazz number for the tip jar passing ceremony.

Whether live or on CD, "Professor" Jones always puts on a guitar clinic.  There are seveal such clinics on this CD, particularly Steve Leonard's surf-trash classic "Penetration" and the late guitar master Roy Buchanan's instrumental "The Messiah Will Come Again."  It all sounds even better considering that it was a one-shot live concert with a pick-up rhythm section in where-the-hell-is-Finland, and Jones still fired off licks and runs that most guitarists only dream about.

When he's not hanging out with The Bachelors at the Saloon or Finnish rhythm sections, you can find him fronting Jinx Jones and the Kingtones.


Just Came Around, the debut CD from Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands, has been a long time in the making and it's been worth the wait. 

There are different sides to this band starting with Miss Gayle herself.  To know her is to know a social, out-going person who is living a full, fun life.  But when she sits down to write a song, she can wring some real weepers out of the ol' cryin' towel.

The band itself has a barroom side and a studio side.  They began playing weepers live, but that just wasn't working in Bay Area bars like the Riptide, Ireland's 32 or Amnesia, so Ms. Lynn wrote up-tempo material for the Friday and Saturday night crowds.  Their CD finds GLHH in a pensive mood, where their live show sounds better with beer.   There are the two sides of the band's bar and studio line-ups: they are a five-piece on stage yet they brought 11 guest players into the studio. 

David "But I'm on Everybody's CD" Phillips plays pedal steel on four tracks, "Where's the Misisipi Rider CD?" Mike Wolf, the man of many bands, becomes a Hired Hand for one tune, Diana Greenberg (Belle Monroe, Whoreshoes) adds her new top secret triple fiddle, Chuck Poling (Jeanie & Chuck's Country Round-Up) plays mando, and the Hired Hands themselves morph into the Shut-Ins to back "Norma Jean," a song about Gayle's dear Kentucky mum and her ham, ham, ham, ham.

These may be sad songs, but they're beautiful songs that have been hand crafted in the studio and are sung with great care.  They don't drag, they don't whine (got that, Lucinda?), and they float easily on a sea of sincerity.


There's nothing like a first CD to let a band stake out its territory.  Their new CD, Texas Radio, shows Los High Tops to be a rockabilly band with a few surf tunes.  No harm in that.  "Surfabilly" is their name for it, though they don't necessarily mesh the two styles into the same songs.   

The title rockabilly track literally jumps out of the speakers.  "I saw my baby's note today in pieces on the floor...".  Yes, it looks like another gal's been lost to "Texas Radio."  This song ticks along through some intricate guitar work, including harmonics.  Harmonics in a rockabilly song?  Why not?  Apparently Los High Tops are not just in it for three-chords and cloud of dust.

The next two tracks are rockabilly songs with flourishes that keep them from being "just rockabilly."  The fourth, "Hotwire," is a surf instrumental for those of us who are tired of surf instrumentals because it is mercifully not a Dick Dale or Ventures rehash; it clocks in at a mere 1:34 but is so rich that it stands up to repeated listenings, a trait that escapes 99% of surf instrumentals.  This track begs to be on vinyl, so the band did the next best thing and tacked the sound of a needle entering a groove onto the front of the song, giving their CD a little hiss and crackle we'd hear on vinyl.

The CD sags in the middle with "Lemon Drop," an ode to a cocktail so gay that even singing about it could get the band banned from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; and next, the toss-off made-for-TV instrumental "Death Agent 13" doesn't add much.  The CD picks up again with the more intricate guitar work of the Little Richard-based "Hep Cat Jump" and "Wally (Everything)" which recalls the better things about the short rockabilly career of Ozzy & Harriet scion Ricky Nelson.   The CD closes out modestly with two more surf instrumentals, one a 6.5-minute live track that probably sounds great winding up a set in some dive, but just takes up space on the CD.

This is good rockabilly band that could still use a little more distance from surf, but that's no biggie as long as they're having fun, which they are.


As for being well-supplied with music, here are 20 regularly scheduled acoustic and electric twang events in the Bay Area that take place every month.  Ten of these events are weekly which provides the Bay Area with 50-55 regularly scheduled roots Americana shows and jams each month.  This schedule is a keeper and a right click on it will save or print it.

This is just a list of regularly scheduled events.  Calendars
here at HWS, in the NorCalRockabilly group on Yahoo, and the acoustic calendar at the Northern California Bluegrass Association carry both these regularly scheduled and all of the remaining live shows.  Acoustic or electric, there are at least 125 roots music events in the Bay Area every month.


The first CD from San Jose's Careless Hearts was a warm up for the direction they've established on their newest, Heart's Delight.  They've upped the ante and gone for a big, full, though not over the top, alt-rock sound.  The twang influences are still there, but this band's twang influences were holding them back as can be heard on the first CD where its more country-fied songs often sounded like full-bodied rockers wanting to break free.  Heart's Delight has a sound to match the strength of the songs. 

Two, maybe three, of the 11 songs on the CD would fit into a country mix, but the rest are rockers that represent the thinkin' person's alt-rock band that the Careless Hearts have become.  They've followed their muse to a better place

The Careless Hearts will be rockin' at Ireland's 32 for their SF CD release party on Sunday, November 9th (free) with the Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit.


The Polka Cowboys don't play many polkas, but they could if they wanted to.  Trouble is that playing even a few more wouldn't leave them enough time for all the other corny old songs they love to play.  Listening to The Polka Cowboys CD makes it clear how well western swing and country corn go together.  There's no lyin', cheatin', jails or honky-tonks in this music.  Yep, western swing is for down home folks who like "Rose of San Antone," black-and-white era Hollywood cowboys, and looking at the world through Roy Rogers and Dale Evans' glasses.

The CD's first two tunes, "Good Time Momma" and "I'll Keep My Old Guitar" are so old and crunchy that their writers are listed as "Trad."  "Little Red Wagon" is by Rex Griffin; different writer, same corn.  Batting fourth in the CD's clean-up spot, is the inimitable, unsinkable "Sway," and if you know the sound of vi-O-lins, you know "Sway."  The Polka Cowboys version is enough to put a person on the floor, lying helpless, as if having been mugged with a corn stalk.  Rumor has it that on the night it was recorded, the band's fiddle player, Ray Landsberg, actually used a corn stalk instead of a fiddlestick to play "Sway."  Lead Polka Cowboy, Art "Cornsilk" Peterson, sings, wears a white hat, and plays the a-corn-dion.

Now let's not give the wrong impression.   We're not saying corn is bad thing.  Noooo, particularly not when played by guys who know what they're doing.  We wouldn't want to be like those fancy-pants East Coast elitist liberals who don't know a corn patch from a thicket of parking meters.  In fact, Hicks with Sticks News and The Polka Cowboys invite you into the heart of the corn patch at Champa Thai on the 4th Wednesday of every month.  The food is inexpensive and good, and there's a dance floor.  This is the most fun you can have at a free show with Polka Cowboys who don't play polkas at a Thai restaurant in El Sobrante on a Wednesday evening.  Guaranteed.  While you're there, pick up a copy of the CD.  It can keep you company when you're all by your lonesome, corny self, or it can be a smash when you play it during your next hipster cocktail party.  Guaranteed.  


Last month, HWS had this to say about the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, "
It would be easy to fill this newsletter with the wonders of Hardly Strictly's line-up, but let's just leave it with one big question: is this the best festival of any kind, anywhere?"  The deadline has passed and no one has suggested a better one, so SF gets the braggin' rights, as does Warren Hellman who donates it to the community and the crew at Slim's who put it together...  The Pine Box Boys are planning a concept CD for their third release.  If these masters of murder ballads do a concept CD, will it have to be about a serial killer?  Band leader Lester T. Raww tells HWS, "The first two were concept CDs, except that the songs weren't in order."  Say what?...  The recording industry, which is the world leader in being a pain about digital music rights, is backtracking once again as digital music marches ever-faster toward becoming a commodity like wheat or pork bellies. EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and independent labels are offering millions of songs, some free, none more than a dime per Internet-only listen, no downloading, at  Read more here...  Shelley Champine has started a local music web site called  Her plan was to cover a variety of North Bay music events, similar to which tracks the Sonoma County live music scene, but Shelley says the pressure is on to expand her site's reach.  Hicks with Sticks, by comparison, generally covers Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa, S.F., and the East Bay, but just for amplified twang.  It's hard to imagine keeping a calendar for several styles of music for several counties, but the more calendars the better to let people know where the shows are, so good luck Shelley...  If you're wondering what to get the redneck on your Christmas list,  Redneck Life mimics the game of Life only trashier.  Money can be earned through part-time jobs like shooting rats at the dump, neighbors' cars can be stolen, stripped and sold for parts, and various mishaps, like brawls, can cause players to lose teeth.  Whoever finishes the game with the most teeth wins.

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