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Cool like a fever

Rita Coolidge lights up the Clark Center for a special holiday concert

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Versatile singer and two-time Grammy winner Rita Coolidge first hit the national spotlight in the ’70s, as both a solo recording artist and a hugely in-demand session vocalist for the likes of Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Leon Russell, and Joe Cocker, among others. She was invited to join Joe Cocker’s famed Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Leon Russell, one of the hottest tickets in rock music at the time.

Born in Lafayette, Tenn., she first sang in the church where her Cherokee father was a minister. After moving to L.A., she married country singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson and recorded two duet albums with him before releasing her own recording, Anytime, Anywhere, which climbed into the Top Ten and sold more than a million copies. “Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher and Higher,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and “We’re All Alone” were some of the featured songs on that release, all delivered with her clear, pure, sensual voice and a strong R&B bent. Other hits she made her own include “Fever,” “One Fine Day,” and “Superstar.” She became known as “The Delta Lady” and also by the nickname Raven.

Recording more than a dozen albums, Coolidge continued to land hits on the adult contemporary charts—including “All Time High,” recorded for the James Bond film Octopussy— and released an album of well-loved traditional jazz standards, And So Is Love, in 2006. She’s admired jazz singers such as Nancy Wilson, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, and especially Peggy Lee, since she was 3 years old, according to her website.

“I’ve always felt singing is about the spaces left, the spaces not taken up, about breathing space,” Coolidge says.

Along with her sister Priscilla and Priscilla’s daughter Laura Satterfield, she formed a Native American music trio, Walela, which means “hummingbird” in Cherokee. Walela, which features the lush, close harmonies Coolidge grew up with, has released several studio and live albums.

“In my nation, the Cherokee nation, women are revered as they age. I am in the middle of the process, and I’m trying to embrace it with grace and dignity. I am making a conscious effort to give back everything I’ve learned,” she writes on her website.

Over the years, Coolidge has been committed to various social issues, giving concerts and writing songs for issues including teen suicide, AIDS, and homelessness, along with her continuing commitment to the Native American community.

“It’s good to know that people who like what I do for all these years still like what I do, and at the same time it sounds good to people who weren’t even born when I started out. How can you ask for more than that?” she said.

Tickets for A Rita Coolidge Christmas at the Clark Center (487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande) cost $36 to $48; call 489-9444 or log onto clarkcenter.org.

’Tis the season at SLO Brew

Downtown San Luis Obispo’s biggest live music venue, SLO Brewing Co. (1119 Garden St.), is revvin’ it up before the students head home for the holidays, so catch some great live music while you can! First up to get your heart beating double time is the Travis Larson Band and Gary Hoey on Thurs., Dec. 9, “Ho Ho Hoey’s Rockin’ Holiday Show.”

World-renowned rock guitarist Gary Hoey has a collection of 16 albums and five Top 20 Billboard hits under his belt, so it’s no real surprise that he’s listed in the top 100 greatest guitar players of all time. Whether it’s rock, blues, surf, or even Christmas, Hoey’s command of each style brings a full dose of excitement to his live shows. His “Ho Ho Hoey” series of Christmas CDs and on-air station visits have become a staple at hundreds of radio stations nationwide, and his live rock’n’roll Christmas shows continue to attract new admirers each year. Even Hallmark is among his fans, with two of his Ho Ho Hoey classics featured on musical greeting cards.

A guitar lover’s dream, Larson’s dynamic power trio burns with heat and light. This is instrumental progressive-rock fusion that’s like a thick, smoking musical stew, just right for the season. The band has been working on a new recording that Larson says is the best record yet. In fact, he even wants to call it The Best Record Yet, but the band thinks that’s lame, so we’ll see. No release date yet, but they’ll let us know as soon as they know.

“Since we’ve been cooped up in the cave, we’re gonna let our hair down for one last show in good ol’ 2010 at our old hometown stompin’ grounds,” Larson says.

The Travis Larson Band is considered an impressive example of the whole being greater than the parts, with blazing bassist Jennifer Young and drumming chops master Dale Moon carrying equal weight in creating the band’s full-throttle sound.

Tickets for this 7 p.m., 21-and-older rockin’ holiday show cost $16 advance (Boo Boo Records and ticketweb.com) or $18 at the door.

“Ho Ho Ho Ho: A Holiday Drag Show” livens up the SLO Brew stage with glitz and glamour on Fri., Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. Featuring stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race and presented by GALA, this is a 21-and-older show. Tickets cost $20.

Local indie rock’n’rollers PK will be punching out their award-winning sound on Sat., Dec. 11. This band is attracting new fans since its full-length release earlier this year, Into the Roaring. PK’s members are Travis Hawley on lead vocals, Nick Fotinakes on guitar and vocals, Mikel Van Kranenburg on bass and vocals, Matt DePauw on lead guitar and vocals, and Kevin Menesez on drums. Tickets for this 6:30 p.m., all-ages show are $10, available in advance at Boo Boo Records and ticketweb.com.

More music …

“Cute, catchy, sexy”—how’s that for an attention-grabbing description of a musician’s original songs? That’s the way people have referred to the music of Normandie Wilson, a featured singer/songwriter at the next Songwriters at Play showcase. San Diego-based Wilson grew up in rural West Virginia, listening to the music of the Beach Boys, the Carpenters, show tunes, and a heavy dose of Motown and American soul music. She delights in playing as many different instruments as possible, but when she comes to SLO County she’ll probably stick with piano, trumpet, and percussion. Check out her tunes at myspace.com/normandiewilson. Sharing the featured set at the showcase will be Sofa City Sweetheart, the music project of multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter J. Lopez. He describes his music as sounding “as if the Kinks and Elliott Smith had a baby.” As usual, this showcase includes these featured acts and up to eight others playing three-song sets. There’s no cover for this Thurs., Dec. 9, showcase at the Porch in Santa Margarita (22322 El Camino, 438-3376), but as always, tips are most welcome. And the pizza is tasty! The all-ages show runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

The Porch heats up again the next night for a solo acoustic performance by guitarist and singer James Hurley, described by Folkworks Magazine as “one of the top 10 live acoustic male singer/songwriters in L.A.” This internationally touring musician is known for his signature blend of jazz, pop, blues, rock, and folk. He’s been featured on NPR, and is a winner of the “DIY Award.” Hurley projects the ease and friendly confidence of a seasoned performer in his natural element, laughing and joking with his audience and telling the stories behind his songs, according to his press materials. Drawing from a diverse catalog of original material that shows influences ranging from the swing era, through the British invasion, to Saturday morning cartoons, James Hurley creates an evening of pin-drop intimacy, whimsical storytelling, wry humor, and entertaining tales of life lived. Find out more at jameshurley.com. His performance at Santa Margarita’s the Porch starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, with admission by donation ($10 suggested).

There’s a new band in town, jazz musician Mike Raynor is happy to report. Trio 14 and saxophonist Karl Welz have joined forces as the West Coast Jazz Cartel. They’ll be performing at the Inn at Morro Bay—always a comfortable bayside setting for live music—on Fri., Dec. 10, from 7 to 10 p.m.

Are you ready to party? Who isn’t this time of year, especially with all those extra calories to dance off? Head down to Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach for a funky, good-time dance extravaganza when the California Honeydrops take the stage on Sat., Dec. 11. This refreshing Bay Area band was voted the Best Soul and R&B Band by SF Weekly readers last year, and was nominated for this year’s Best New Artist by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. The California Honeydrops’ many influences include New Orleans R&B, old-school soul, old-time Piedmont blues, zydeco, swamp pop, gospel, and trad and modern jazz. Band leader Lech Wierzynski was born in Poland and raised in Chicago and Washington, D.C., studied at Oberlin College with onetime Ray Charles trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and has played gigs with Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, and Jackie Payne. You wouldn’t want to miss a one-of-a-kind combo described by Zigaboo Modeliste of the Meters as “a breath of fresh air,” now, would you?

It’s been ages—since summertime, to be exact—since Too Late for Roses has come to town, but they’re heading this way again. They’ll be playing at the Clubhouse in SLO on Sat., Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m., when Adrian and Karl will be joined by the fearsome Kyle Batty, drummer of the Giant Squid Show. “Hope to see you California denizens at our show,” writes Karl. “It’s been five months since our last outing, and we’re chomping at the bit. We’ll be giving away some free singles and whatnot; it’s the holidays.” Check ’em out at toolateforroses.com or at tlfr on Facebook. Chad Schmid of the Wadsworth Bluff Rats will rev up the show with a set of his original mountain-surf music.

How’s this for holiday spirit? A free concert called “Songs of the Spirit: A Multicultural Holiday Celebration” will be presented at Unity Church of SLO (1490 Southwood, corner of Southwood and Johnson) on Sun., Dec. 12, at 2 p.m. All ages are welcome to come to this performance from a local church that’s gained quite a reputation for its musical prowess.

Known for her deep, sultry voice and scathing comedic wit, singer/songwriter Teresa Tudury pours out her original songs with power, passion, and a disarming humor. Add in her bluesy guitar playing, and it’s no wonder she’s gathered a dedicated following of fans. Tudury has recorded with Rickie Lee Jones, Lyle Lovett, Taj Mahal, and Leo Kottke. A San Francisco native, she’s been writing songs since she was 12 years old and started performing in Bay Area nightclubs at the tender age of 15. Teresa Tudury will be singing her heart out for your listening pleasure at a house concert in Los Osos on Sun., Dec. 12, at 3 p.m. The suggested donation is $15. Call 528-6557 or e-mail Sstern3126@aol.com for reservations and directions.

It’s a “Holiday Festival” with the Cuesta College Wind Ensemble on Sun., Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. on the SLO campus’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center main stage. Conducted by Jennifer Martin, this wind ensemble concert features the music of Dana Wilson, Mozart, Sousa, Annon, and others. You can get your tickets at the door for $7 to $10. Find out more at 546-3195 or academic.cuesta.edu/performingarts.

It’s time for an encore performance of SLO’s own Bill Stapley and Wayne Walcoff, featured at the next Songwriters at Play showcase at the Steynberg Gallery (1531 Monterey St., SLO, 547-0278). Stapley is a frequent guest performer at Steve Key’s showcases, and when he shared the stage with his longtime friend Walcoff, their set was a magical experience that begged for a repeat performance. Stapley released a 10-song collection of originals, William H. Stapley and the Middle Kingdom Band, last year (available on iTunes), with country-flavored songs that run the gamut from a funny barroom sing-along, “Three Fingers of Scotch,” to a hard-driving political anthem, “Afghanistan.” The Songwriters at Play showcase is set for Tues., Dec. 14, at the Steynberg, with a $5 cover and up to eight guest songwriters. All ages are welcome, and the café offers food and libations.

The Tuesday “Pint Night” at the Frog and Peach (728 Higuera St., SLO, 595-3764) is always a hoot, but they’ll be pouring out something special this time around, with Seattle-based musicians Ian McFeron and Alisa Milner on Tues., Dec. 14, at 8:30 p.m. McFeron has already performed around 200 shows this year, all while functioning as his own independent record label, booking agency, and management company. “The music industry and the economy at large are facing a lot of challenges right now and there is a lot of speculation about when things are going to turn around, and what that will look like,” McFeron writes. “I figure that’s a good time for musicians to get back to basics and do what they’ve always done: travel the nation, inspire listeners, and build community. … When we break new ground in new parts of the country, I always feel like we’re out there sowing seeds, getting our roots going, and nurturing strong, healthy stalks. And if we’re successful in doing that, we can come back through and reap the harvest.” McFeron has gained an ever-growing following with his earthy yet sophisticated blend of folk, rock, alt-country, and blues. He’ll be joined at the Frog and Peach by his long-time musical partner Alisa Milner, a Texas-style fiddler, cellist, and harmony vocalist. Check them out before the show at ianmcferon.com or myspace.com/ianmcferonband.

Mark your calendars for Thurs., Dec. 16, when the two-time Grammy winner Blind Boys of Alabama will bring their old-time gospel to the Performing Arts Center on the Cal Poly Campus. They’ll dish up holiday favorites along with sweet harmonies at a 7:30 p.m. concert in the Cohan Center. Student and adult tickets range from $16 to $42, available by calling 756-2757 or online at calpolyarts.org.

The Templeton High School Band and Choral will perform their winter concert on Thurs., Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. at the high school’s Performing Arts Center (1200 S. Main St. in Templeton). Why not celebrate the giving season by helping these fine student musicians and singers maintain what’s left of the school’s arts program?

Hearty congratulations to SLO County’s own legendary Merrell Fankhauser, nominated for a Grammy Award! He tells New Times that Rhino Records recently let him know The Nuggets box set, featuring Fankhauser’s song “Tomorrow’s Girl,” has been nominated for a Grammy. In the meantime, he tells us, he’ll be performing on Sat., Dec. 11 “around 6 to 6:30 on the Kenny Loggins Unity Christmas Show in Santa Barbara on Channel 3. I’ll be playing guitar for singer/songwriter Joe Chavira and also doing ‘Wipe Out,’ just in time for the release of the Rhino Records CD compilation release Surf Hits that also features my version of ‘Wipe Out’ and the Beach Boys and other early ’60s surf groups. The CD will be exclusively released in all Wal-Mart stores worldwide. Happy surfing Christmas!”

And happy listening—and dancing—Christmas, too!

Contributor Kathy Johnston is filling in for Glen Starkey while he’s on staycation. Tell him if you miss him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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