Think of the New Times Music Awards as the local Grammy Awards, but without future President Kanye West spewing things like, “I am Warhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney, Nike, Google,” or, “When someone comes up and says something like, ‘I am a god,’ everybody says, ‘Who does he think he is?’ I just told you who I thought I was. A god. I just told you.”
- PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNY LEE LEWIS
- SPECIAL GUEST: Kenny Lee Lewis, long-time guitarist and bassist for the Steve Miller Band, is the special guest at the seventh Annual New Times Music Awards on Sept. 25 at the Fremont Theater.
Instead of Kanye, we have someone humbler but more talented: Special guest Kenny Lee Lewis, guitarist and bassist for the Steve Miller Band.
Do you believe in prescience? If he didn’t before, Lewis should. He joined the Steve Miller band in 1982 and shares songwriting credit on several songs from the album Abracadabra as well as subsequent albums. But as a 13-year-old aspiring musician, who clandestinely attended a Steve Miller concert in Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, Lewis had his Cassandra moment.
“I got as close to the stage as I could, and at one moment, I thought I made eye contact with him,” recalled Lewis during a recent phone interview. “I pointed at him and told myself, ‘I’m going to work with you someday.’ I had been abandoned by my friends and had to walk 5 miles along the railroad tracks to get to the concert. I was in a weird state, the brunt of jokes; I didn’t have a girlfriend. I was just a fat kid from Sacramento who’d been playing ukulele since 7 years old, but after that concert, I went home and just started woodshedding.”
Music came naturally to Lewis, and his skills on guitar and bass quickly grew. Then he was introduced to jazz in college. His musical prowess soon landed him in LA, where he was a sought after session player. At the same time, he was working with percussionist and keyboardist Gary Mallaber, and they were cooking up some demos.
“We were in the studio and Gary got a call from Steve Miller, who was looking for some songs for a new album,” Lewis explained. “Gary wondered if we should send him our demos, and I said, ‘Sure, send them all.’ Steve freaked out and loved the material so much that he used all eight of the songs.”
Lewis and Mallaber had recorded their demos on an eight-track, but Miller provided a 24-track and they transferred the songs over, and with Miller’s songs there was enough for an album.
“I’d forgotten all about that concert moment until right then, and when Steve said, ‘I dig your guitar and bass playing. Why don’t you come down to the studio and help me do this record.’ It all came flooding back.”
From there, Miller asked Lewis to “come out on tour,” but the decision wasn’t an easy one. Lewis was a double-scale session player, meaning he was getting paid double union wages for his studio work. Luckily his girlfriend at the time, now his wife, talked him into it. He’s been with the Steve Miller Band ever since, though he’s continued to work with a who’s who of music giants.
Brian Wilson, Steve Stills, Tower of Power, Branford Marsalis, Boz Scaggs, Ringo Starr, George Thorogood, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Sheryl Crowe—the list goes on and on. And Lewis does his own side projects. He recently released New Vintage, an instrumental jazz album on the New Folk/Allegro label. He also has his rock band the Barflyz.
- PHOTO BY ELLIOTT JOHNSON
- SOUL MAN : Joe Koenig and his band are competing in the Americana-Country-Folk category for their song 'Little Miss Kir,' for Best Live Band, and their album 'Bleed Like You Bleed' at the New Times Music Awards, Sept. 25 at the Fremont Theater.
Lewis’ philosophy about music is simple: Talent is a God-given gift and must be shared regardless of monetary compensation. How did he come to this realization?
“Because I knew this gig on the 25th was coming up and I wasn’t going to get paid,” he joked about his upcoming guest appearance at the New Times Music Awards this Friday, Sept. 25, at the Fremont Theater (7 p.m.; all ages; $10 at Boo Boo Records and New Times). “No, I just had this attitude when I younger about getting paid for everything I do, and I realized that was unhealthy. I also realized how easy it was for me to learn to play. People struggle their whole lives, and for me it was easy. I started doing charitable work and it spilled over into my professional career. Sometimes you have to do things because they’re fun and you just do it for the art.”
Lewis plans to bring his acoustic guitar and “bang out a couple of songs, maybe a Steve Miller song and an original. I’m just going to share my craft.”
You’ll also witness members of the local music community receiving their awards, and five acts—Wynn, Joe Koenig, James Kaye, Nothing Ever Stays, and the Captain Nasty Band—will compete for Best Live Band. The Bucket Busters, a youth percussion group, will open the show. Doors open at 6 p.m., and beer, wine, and other refreshments are available. Come on out and support local music!
Dulcie does it again!
One of the best things to happen in local music is when Southern Belle and Mesa/Bluemoon recording artist Dulcie Taylor moved to the area. She’s a welcome and talented addition to a scene already fat with great songwriters.
She’s just released her sixth album, Wind Over Stone, and it’s gorgeous. She’s once again working with musical partners George Nauful and Tony Recupido, among others, creating lyrically rich, musically complex songs that are expertly orchestrated for maximum effect.
- PHOTO BY TREVOR LAWRENCE
- HEART LIKE A WELL: Dulcie Taylor has several upcoming shows to promote her gorgeous new album Wind Over Stone, including a release party on Sept. 26 at Boo Boo Records.
The record opens with “Not Here, Not Today,” a patriotic barnburner that moves from Valley Forge to Rosa Parks to Flight 93. Full of verve and attitude, this is as close as this Americana chanteuse gets to anthem rock. When all the voices come in on the chorus, they’re singing like they mean it: “Here we believe in freedom/ Whenever someone tries to take it away/ Bless the brave who stand up to meet ’em/ Saying not here and not today.”
“Only a Dreamer” captures Dulcie’s softer side, and when Timo Beckwith’s haunting recorder comes in, the song takes on a solemn Native American air. You can also really hear the hand of co-producer Tyler Leonard at work in the layers of violin and synth.
You really get an understanding for Dulcie’s narrative songwriting ability in “When the Cherokee Roamed,” in which she imagines America when it was wild, beginning with Columbus when “The Miami skyline was nothing but trees/ On Manhattan Island the deer ran free.” She mentioned the Trail of Tears, Custer’s last stand, robber barons, and natural beauty of the pre-“civilized” America, but then the song takes an unexpected turn. “I call on my phone, I drive my car/ Love to play my radio, those electric guitars/ They haven’t come cheap, we’ve paid a high cost/ So much beauty has been forever lost.”
And those are just the first three songs on an album that keeps giving its all for every one of its 14 tracks. To promote the new record, Dulcie Taylor has a bunch of upcoming shows. She and co-producer George Nauful will appear on Dave Congalton’s radio show at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24; she’ll appear with Nauful and Tim Jackson at 5 p.m. in Costa de Oro in Santa Maria on Friday, Sept. 25; her big record release party is at 5 p.m. in SLO’s Boo Boo Records on Saturday, Sept. 26; and she’ll play an 11 a.m. brunch show in Pismo’s Shell Café on Sunday, Sept. 27. Visit her website, dulcietaylor.com, for other upcoming shows.
More music …
- PHOTO BY LEWIS MACDONALD
- R&B SHREDDER : Tommy Castro plays the SLO Blues Society show on Sept. 26 at the SLO Vets Hall.
Don’t forget the opening of Sunset Magazine’s Savor the Central Coast this Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. during Vina Robles’ “Strings at Sunset” opening night party ($85 to $150; visit vinaroblesamphitheatre.com) with musical performances by String Theory and DJ Violinist Spags.
LA act The Cherry Bluestorms—a late ’60s/’90s British Pop influenced psych-Mod band—will play a 6 p.m. in-store performance at Boo Boo Records on Friday, Sept. 25.
The 2015 La Guitarra California Festival runs Friday, Sept. 25, through Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Performing Arts Center, presenting three days of classical guitar by 17 world-renowned international artists. Get details at www.laguitarracalifornia.com.
Good Medicine Presents has too many shows to list this week, but the biggest and best is Sunny Daze End of Summer Beach Jam at the Sea Venture on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 11 to 5 p.m. with the Latin jazz act Zongo All-Stars, funksters Captain Nasty, alt-R&B act Próxima Parada, and headliner and surf guru Donavon Frankenreiter. Check their website at goodmedicinepresents.com for other offerings this week.
The SLO Blues Society presents Tommy Castro and the Painkillers on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. in the SLO Vets Hall. Tough as nails R&B is Castro’s bread and butter, inspired by the likes of Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Elmore James. Code Blues opens the show ($25 at the door).
- PHOTO COURTESY OF MAVIS STAPLES
- VOICE OF A GENERATION: The incomparable Mavis Staples (pictured) shares the bill with Joan Osbourne on Sept. 29 at the SLOPAC.
Socially conscious roots reggae artist Mike Love, not to be confused with the Beach Boy of the same name, plays Sunday, Sept. 27, at Avila Beach Resort (2 p.m.; all ages; $40 to $100; visit californiarootspresents.com) with headliner Rebelution, J. Boog, Nahko and Medicine for the People, and opener DJ Mackle. Should be a great day of irie vibes near the beach.
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the Performing Arts Center’s Cohan Center, Cal Poly Arts presents “Solid Soul,” a double bill featuring Grammy Award-winning legend Mavis Staples and multi-platinum recording artist Joan Osborne. This is the first collaboration of these two talented ladies. I expect musical fireworks! Tickets are $32 to $80 at 756-4849 or online at www.calpolyarts.org.
Keep up with Glen Starkey via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.