Oy, Chihuahua! Bob & Wendy’s new album The Ghost of Guadalupe is a stunner! It opens with the country romper “Trace of Longing,” filled with the kind of amazing lyrics Wendy Liepman is known for: I’ve been shaken to the core/ I can’t take it any more/ I’ve lost my nerve/ I’m in no shape to be showing you/ The kind of love I know that you deserve/ Well you wear a trace of longing on your face/ Though you’re trying not to show it/ When I’m in the mood for love again/ I promise you, you’ll be the first to know it.
- PHOTO BY BARRY GOYETTTE
- TAKE A BOW: Americana duo Bob & Wendy got a few of their closest friends together at Guadalupe’s Royal Theatre to record a stunning new album, The Ghost of Guadalupe, debuting on Dec. 7 during an album release party in the Steynberg Gallery.
The very next track, “Mother Love,” has a Beatlesque sound; then we get a dose of rockin’ country in “Blue Grotto.” Don’t look now, here comes “Legacy,” a haunting ballad. And so it goes. The Ghost of Guadalupe is a tribute to remote, forgotten little towns like Guadalupe, semi-sad places filled with people whose stories are as interesting as they are heartbreaking. It’s the sort of Americana milieu Bob and Wendy Liepman have traversed their entire career, but this album feels special for a couple of reasons.
For one, there’s sound magic at work in their recording process.
“To reach the studio, we drove southwest from San Luis Obispo, over the Nipomo Mesa and through agricultural fields,” said Wendy. “Looking out at the open space and long stretches of patchwork colors, my mind was in the proper mood to sing those high, lonesome songs. And the best part was that after a productive session we were rewarded with enchiladas from La Simpatia or lobster tacos from Garibaldi’s.”
The album was recorded over two years at the Royal Theatre in Guadalupe, a deco-ish movie house that’s fallen on hard times. Imagine a lovely cake left out overnight. Inside, the room has a rich, warm sound, and the musicians just set up on stage and let fly.
“We did the normal process,” explained Bob, “laying down basic rhythm tracks and playing over them. In other words, we weren’t all on stage at once.”
Still, the cavernous room itself gave the recording a different sound.
“It was sort of like doing a soundcheck before a concert,” explained Bob. “It had that live hall sound. In traditional recording studios, they try to get rid of that sound and get the cleanest recording possible, then add that sound back in.”
Wendy also noticed that recording on stage, looking out at the empty theater, offered psychological resonance as well as sonic: “Being on stage, you could just imagine all the people in the audience. It felt more like a performance. We also tracked vocals upstairs in the isolation booth next to the projection room. It was formerly the ‘Crying Room’ used by mothers with noisy babes in arms.”
The empty theater and frequently empty town also inspired the title of the CD.
“Looking out at those empty seats, it was easy to imagine all the people through the years that occupied them,” said Wendy, “and Guadalupe itself is an interesting town. Except for payday, it’s pretty empty, but on payday the town and the restaurants fill up. Some days we’d get down there and except for ag trucks, we wouldn’t see a soul.”
“If you listen to the album closely,” quipped Bob, “you can hear ag trucks coming out of the left speaker and Amtrak trains in the right.”
Another reason this recording really shines is the session players. In addition to Wendy’s lilting voice and solid guitar skills, and Bob’s gorgeous cello, mandolin, keyboard, and backing vocals, you’ve got a who’s who of local talent: Virgil Cane members Butch Boswell (guitar, vocals), David Radmacher (guitar), and Adam Farber (electric bass); as well as Tim Novoa (drums), Jude Johnstone (vocals), Bette Byers (violin), Piper Heisig (upright bass), and Sal Garza (violin) play on the record.
“The other thing that was really cool about this was the energy of working with these younger guys,” added Wendy. “Bob and I have been doing this a long time, so working with and hearing the ideas of Butch and David (Radmacher, who also produced the record) was great.”
See Bob & Wendy (with Tim Novoa and Travis Harms) this Sunday, Dec. 7, at 3 p.m. in the Steynberg Gallery during the album release party for The Ghost of Guadalupe. Butch Boswell will open. The show costs just $10 and includes a copy of the new CD. If you miss the show, pick up the album at Boo Boo Records.
“We considered doing the CD release show down at the old Royal Theatre,” said Bob, “but when we were planning it, gas was $4 a gallon; we thought it might be hard to get people to drive 40 minutes. We haven’t killed that idea. We’d still like to invite people to come down for dinner at one of the restaurants, then play a show, and have the reception at La Simpatia.”
Count me in!
- PHOTO COURTESY OF DELTA WIRES
- CRACKLING GOOD: Hear big band blues with the Delta Wires at the SLO Vets Hall on Dec. 6.
Holiday spirit (and spirits) will flow this Saturday, Dec. 6 when the SLO Blues Society brings its annual holiday blues concert to the SLO Vets Hall. This year you’ll hear big band blues with the Delta Wires as well as opening act Pryor Baird and the Deacons, both of whom finished in the top ten in this year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) sponsored by the Blues Foundation. The competition is fierce! It features 100 bands and 60 solo/duo acts that filled Memphis clubs for a four-day competition. To enter, the bands need a Blues Society sponsor; last year the Sacramento Blues Society sponsored the Delta Wires, and the San Luis Obispo Blues Society sent Pryor Baird and the Deacons.
The Delta Wires are a high-energy, seven-piece, harmonica-and-horns blues band from the Oakland area that blends soul and big band “with the urban beat of the ’60s when Mississippi Delta and Chicago influences blended with early rock to create a hybrid urban sound.”
Local favorites Pryor Baird and the Deacons play original tunes and traditional blues in a swinging mix of Chicago, Mississippi Delta, and Piedmont style blues.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDY RIGBY
- BLUE RANDY: This year multi-instrumentalist Randy Rigby, with his band Blue Latitude, headlines the 2nd Annual Central Coast Songwriters Festival at the Clark Center on Dec. 7.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs $17 for Blues Society members and $20 for the general public. SLO Dance offers free dance lessons from 7:30 to 8. All tickets are sold at the door and you must be at least 21 years old.
There’s another killer new CD release afoot this week in a wholly different vein of music. Royal Garden Swing Orchestra is releasing Best Foot Forward, a new 15-track collection of mostly instrumental jazz swing performed by the area’s best jazz musicians.
Dig these familiar names: Marty Wright (alto sax, clarinet), Dave Becker (alto and tenor sax), Bob Sennett (baritone sax), Mitch Latting (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals), Warren Balfour (trumpet, flugelhorn), Craig McNichols (trombone), Gary Drysdale (guitar), George Stone (keyboards), Ken Hustad (bass), and Darrell Voss (drums, percussion).
How’s that for a who’s who?
A few of the compositions are by Sennett, who takes credit for “Gospel Shuffle,” an uptempo horn-driven number, and “Holy Frijoles,” a Latin-flavored piece with a dangerous feel.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF ROYAL GARDEN SWING ORCHESTRA
- SWING CATS: Royal Garden Swing Orchestra plays an album release party for Best Foot Forward at Mother’s Tavern on Dec. 7.
This is an orchestra that harkens back to a bygone era, when musicians wore tuxedos and had an air of elegance about them. Formed more than two decades ago, they’ve played countless gigs. Generally they perform the music of the Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, but the music is arranged by the various consummate players of Royal Garden Swing Orchestra.
You can dance the afternoon away to these dreamy tunes when Royal Garden Swing Orchestra plays an album release party for Best Foot Forward from 3 to 6 p.m. at Mother’s Tavern on Sunday, Dec. 7. Listen for the recording on KCBX, and pick up a copy at the show or at Boo Boo Records.
It’s time again for the Clark Center for the Performing Arts’ 2nd Annual Central Coast Songwriters Festival this Sunday, Dec. 7 beginning at 7 p.m.
This year platinum producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Randy Rigby heads the bill with his nu-jazz ensemble, Blue Latitude, featuring vocalist Nataly Lola. Rigby runs local indie record label Harvest Road Music, which has several CDs in current release, including Uncorked—The Sound of the Wine Country. Blue Latitude’s debut CD, El Encanto, features Rigby’s original compositions that were inspired by the likes of Sergio Mendes, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Cal Tjader. Other guests include Jody Mulgrew of local folk-pop band The Johnny Starlings, Loren Radis of indie-rock trio Each Passing Day, and politically-charged songwriter Devin Wallace.
The concert takes place in the Clark’s Studio Theatre. Tickets are $15 general, $10 students and seniors. For info, call 489-9444.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FALL OF TROY
- WHERE’S HELEN?: Downtown Brew has an ass-kicking show for you on Dec. 5 when progressive/experimental/punk act The Fall Of Troy performs.
Downtown Brew has an ass-kicking show for you on Friday, Dec. 5 when progressive/experimental/punk act The Fall Of Troy headlines with support from either God is an Astronaut, or The Number 12 Looks Like You, Warship, and Black Houses (Punk bands! You can never quite tell whether they know who’s supporting them or not). Troy is doing a short two-week stint on the road to promote Phantom on the Horizon—previously known as The Ghostship Demos, the songs have been circulating for years between fans, but were recently re-recorded for a limited edition pressing of 3,000, only for sale on the road and at Merchnow.com. Cal Poly has a couple of awesome student shows heading your way. First, a “young, fresh approach” to one of America’s great art forms—jazz—will be presented by the Cal Poly jazz ensembles at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, in the Spanos Theatre at Cal Poly. The ensembles include two big bands and a combo. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $8 for senior citizens and SLO Jazz Fed members, and $6 for students. The following night, Saturday, Dec. 6, the holiday season hits the Central Coast early when the Cal Poly Choirs’ annual “A Christmas Celebration” delivers an 8 p.m. show in Harman Hall of the Christopher Cohan Center. The University Singers, PolyPhonics and The Early Music Ensemble, conducted by Thomas Davies, will be joined by the Cal Poly Brass Ensemble, conducted by Christopher Woodruff. In addition, the Cal Poly Barbershop Quartets and the a capella ensemble Take It SLO will also perform. Tickets are $10 students, $16 and $19 seniors, $17 and $20 general admission. Buy them at the PAC Ticket Office or call 756-2787.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NEW 5 CENTS
- NOT THAT NEW ANYMORE: They may be called the New 5 Cents, but they’ve been around since 1981, and they’re playing the Red Barn in Los Osos on Dec. 6.
The New Five Cents—Jim Dyer (guitar), Dave Sullivan (fiddle), Don Mohling (banjo), Geert DeLange (bass), and newest member Michelle Christensen—bring their unique brand of old-time and good-time music to the Red Barn Community Music Series this Saturday, Dec. 6 for a 7 p.m. show (there’s also a 6 p.m. potluck). Hear old-time country classics to country blues. A $10 donation is requested at the door.
Hip hop impresario Murs, the only rapper with his own musical festival, hits Downtown Brew on Saturday, Dec. 6 for an 18-and-older, 8 p.m. show ($12 presale, $14 at the door). Even though he’s an unsigned artist, each subsequent self-released album sells more than the last, and he’s been able to tour the world on word of mouth.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF PLAIN JANE AUTOMOBILE
- DRIVE, BABY, DRIVE: Indie/rock/experimental act Plain Jane Automobile plays Downtown Brew on Dec. 10.
The Yew Tree in association with the Painted Sky Concert series presents Celtic harpist and storyteller Patrick Ball in an intimate acoustic concert this Sunday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. in Cambria’s Painted Sky Studios. Ball, one of the premier Celtic harpers and storytellers in the world, not only plays the ancient, legendary brass-strung harp of Ireland with its crystalline, bell-like voice, but also weaves marvelous tales of wit and enchantment in his own voice. Tickets ($18) are available at The Yew Tree or Cambria Business Center in Cambria, Boo Boo Records in SLO, or by phone at 927-0500.
Indie/rock/experimental act Plain Jane Automobile brings their New York rock sound (I think they’ve since moved to Florida!) to Downtown Brew this Monday, Dec. 10, for a 7:30 p.m., all-ages show ($7 presale, $9 at the door). The band was the subject of a major label bidding war, ending up on Dreamworks. Ours opens the show.
Acoustic pop/R&B singer-songwriter Damon Rey plays the Frog and Peach on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 10 p.m. “I’m currently studying music at Thornton School of Music at USC. I just released an acoustic EP, Pieces,” said Rey on his MySpace page.
Glen Starkey thinks that consciousness is just that annoying time between naps. Wake him at email@example.com.