Friday, December 17, 2004

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: THE GIFT OF LOCAL MUSIC

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 17, 2004

During this hollandaise season, my traditional gift-giving advice is to give the gift of local music. In other words, be New New Mexican, buy New Mexican.

Here are some recent examples of fine sonic produce by New Mexico artists:

*No More Music by The Suckers by Bernadette Seacrest & Her Yes Men. Seacrest, whose last gig was with the Albuquerque rockabilly outfit The Long Goners, has evolved into a tattooed chanteuse specializing in jazzy, torchy and extremely tunes with a band featuring a double bass, sax and trombone.

While Seacrest’s voice is the main draw here, don’t forget The Yes Men, who create the dangerous atmosphere. Grimes’ bass is a major component on most cuts. And sometimes the horn section sounds like they’re engaging in a gang rumble.

Seacrest performs several standards like “Strange Fruit,” “Ain’t Misbehavin'“ and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (“Room service. Here’s your ham sandwich, Miss Elliott …”) and these are fine. -- but her vocal talents are best showcased in the ones written by her sidemen/friends Michael Graves and Pat Bova.

The best of these are Grimes’ “Cold in My Bed” in which Seacrest’s voice sounds like a transmission from the Dark Dimension, and Bova’s slow spooky “Sweet Salvation.” Both these tunes skirt the weird aural hinterlands somewhere along the border between Tom Waits and David Lynch. I hope her next album will be 100 percent originals.

*Circus Wife by Goshen. Goshen mastermind Grant Hayunga, backed here by Jim and Bill Palmer of Hundred Year Flood, does here what he does best -- hard grinding stompers carried by his slide guitar -- with an occasional slow pretty song to give you a breather. When Hayunga gets going on his slide, he’s not trying to dazzle you with hot licks. He plays his instrument more like a percussion instrument. You can only rarely understand the lyrics he sings on the fast and rowdy ones, but it can’t be denied he sings with passion.

*Cavalier by Hundred Year Flood. Santa Fe’s musical double date, featuring the Palmer Brothers (Bill on vocals, guitar, lap steel and keyboards, Jim on drums), singer Felicia Ford and bassist Kendra Lauman, delivers a tasty serving of neo-folk rock. They remind me a little bit of the old Seattle band, The Walkabouts. My favorite tracks here include the slow-burning “Gamblin',” Ford’s quasi-gospel “Jesus Rolled Over” (featuring sweet violin by Hilary Schacht) and a Tom Pettyish rocker called “Peach Blossom.”

*Self Titled by Solfire. The Abeyta brothers, Buddy and Amado, are second-generation Santa Fe musicians. Their dad, Chris Abeyta is a founding member of Santa Fe’s premier Chicano rock group Lumbre del Sol, which has been around for more than three decades. The boys honor their father by performing one of his old Lumbre tunes “Salsa Chicano” (the old man plays guitar on the track). Most the songs are sweet and soulful. “Desparately” is one of the prettiest. But Solfire can rock too, as they prove on “I Don’t Want to Lie.”

*Colorado Belle by Sid Hausman & Washtub Jerry. Sid Hausman’s cool, confident, cowboy voice has been a presence in Santa Fe for more years than he’d probably want to admit. Most his fans picture him with a guitar, but on this album he mainly plays ukulele. Don’t worry, Sid hasn’t gone Hawaiian and this isn’t a Tiny Tim tribute album. It’s “western swing ukulele” -- a concept with which I was unfamiliar, though Sid in his liner notes assures us that then uke had its place here. And it sounds wonderful indeed. Most the songs here are standards like “Cherokee Maid” “Don’t Fence Me In” and “South of the Border.” There also are some good Hausman originals, my favorite being “4,000 Rooms in Amarillo” and a great obscure Marty Robbins eco-ballad “Man Walks Among Us.”

And yes, Washtub Jerry does play washtub bass.

*Round Mountain by Round Mountain. Anyone vaguely aware of the early ‘90s Santa Fe music scene has to remember the band Lizard House, which featured Char and Robbie Rothschild. Since those days, the Rothschilds have gone down many twisted musical paths. What other groups can honestly boast of resumes that include stints with hair-metal icon Kip Winger and a Russian circus?

With the boys playing a huge arsenol of stringed instruments, horns, percussion and even a hurdy gurdy, their music is an enchanting mix of American folk, Celtic, Mideastern, Balkan and African sounds that might remind old timers of The Incredible String Band. (I also hear what sounds like echos of Neutral Milk Hotel in some tunes.)

(The CD release party for this record is Saturday at El Meson, 213 Washington Ave.)

*House to House by Randal Bays & Roger Landes. Taos resident and bouzouki master Landes is best known around here for the annual Zoukfest in Taos, a festival dedicated to the Greek stringed instrument which in recent years has been adopted by Celtic music enthusiasts. Landes teamed up with Irish fiddler Bays to make some fine traditional Irish music. This CD consists of recordings from various house concerts by the duo, so what you have is genuine living room music. Most the songs are traditional Irish instrumentals.

*Snow Angels by The Buckarettes. Here’s some cowgirl Christmas music featuring the sweet harmonies of Katie Gill and Debra Jean Parker Harris and the picking of dobro/steel man Auge Hayes and guitarist, mandolinist and musi9cal saw player John Egenes. Highlights here include covers of The Louvin Brothers’ away-in-the-manger tune “The Friendly Beasts,” the Polynesian yuletide classic “Christmas Island) made famous by Leon Redbone and a western take on Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.” I’m also partial to the title song, a Gill original featuring a roller-rinky organ by Dick Orr.

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