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The whole enchilada

Amy Lavere has it all: acting chops, musical prowess, and heart-stopping beauty

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Cool that's the best way to describe Amy LaVere's approach to music. She's like a glittering, breakable piece of glass that when rubbed the right way delivers a perfect sound like a Tibetan prayer bell. She's fragile and glorious-sounding.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAT :  Country, gypsy, cool jazz, pop chanteuse Amy Lavere will perform with her band on June 23 at Steynberg Gallery. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY LAVERE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY LAVERE
  • BEAUTY AND THE BEAT : Country, gypsy, cool jazz, pop chanteuse Amy Lavere will perform with her band on June 23 at Steynberg Gallery.

# The veteran performer recently released her newest album, Anchors & Anvils, a stunning collection of 10 songs featuring her emotionally potent voice set amongst songs that waver between genres: country, gypsy, cool jazz, pop.

The raven-haired beauty also has a budding acting career. She played rockabilly wildcat Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash bio-pic Walk the Line, and more recently she had a supporting role in writer-director Craig Brewer's newest film Black Snake Moan, playing "Jesse" opposite Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake.

LaVere was born in a small Texas/Louisiana border town, nurtured by musical parents with a passion for traditional country. Her family moved 13 times by the time she entered high school (her dad worked for General Motors and oversaw new plant openings and re-toolings), ultimately landing in Detroit where she fronted the infamous punk band Last Minute while still in her teens.

This Saturday, June 23, Amy LaVere (upright bass/vocals) plays with her band (violinist Bob Furgo of Leonard Cohen fame, guitarist Mark Miller, and drummer Paul Taylor) at the Steynberg Gallery for an 8 p.m. show (call 547-0278 for ticket info). New Times spoke to LaVere by phone.

New Times Your voice would probably be considered a bit thin by most standards, but like Billie Holiday who also had a little wisp of a voice yours is total expression. Is that something that came naturally or something you had to cultivate?

Amy LaVere I think it was organically cultivated. I don't think I consciously worked on it. I don't have a huge range but sort of figured out what was going to sound best. It was basically developed out of necessity, because I'm no belter.

SAVAGE SAX :  Smooth jazz sax man Bryan Savage plays the opening concert of Paso Robles Concerts in the Park summer series on June 22 in the City Park Bandstand. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRYAN SAVAGE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF BRYAN SAVAGE
  • SAVAGE SAX : Smooth jazz sax man Bryan Savage plays the opening concert of Paso Robles Concerts in the Park summer series on June 22 in the City Park Bandstand.

# New Times Your sound also reminds me a little of Julie Crise, who did a lot of soundtrack work on David Lynch films. You penned three of the album's tunes, including "Killing Him," a song about homicidal love. Your promotional materials also refer vaguely to a relationship you were in that imploded. I guess my question is what "inspired" this song?

Amy LaVere Not at all. It actually came about when a friend called me to tell me about something she saw on TV. A woman had murdered her husband after 30 years of marriage, and she was being led away in handcuffs, and she kept screaming that killing him didn't make the love go away. She was screaming it over and over.

New Times You played Wanda Jackson in Walk The Line. Were you aware of her music and career before you got the role?

Amy LaVere Very much so. The way I got the job was because I often covered a song or two of hers, and a casting director in an audience saw me and approached me right after the show.

New Times I love your new album. The sound is just really emotionally affecting. Is your live sound pretty true to the sound captured on your albums?

Amy LaVere Well, this time, it is. I really wanted this tour to represent the album, so I handpicked musicians I thought could pull off the material with integrity.

 

One for the kids
Listen up, moms and dads, because there's a great show coming for your wee ones. This Saturday, June 23, Downtown Brew will present Hip Hop Harry, a performer perfect for your 3- to 6-year-olds.

GRIN AND BEAR IT :  Hip Hop Harry, the rapping bear aimed at kids 3 to 6 years old, plays Downtown Brew for a special 11 a.m. show on Saturday, June 23, delivering edu-tainment that's sure to get the kids hopping. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HIP HOP HARRY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF HIP HOP HARRY
  • GRIN AND BEAR IT : Hip Hop Harry, the rapping bear aimed at kids 3 to 6 years old, plays Downtown Brew for a special 11 a.m. show on Saturday, June 23, delivering edu-tainment that's sure to get the kids hopping.

# Hip Hop Harry, to my untrained eye, appears to be a big yellow bear in urban hip hop gear. He has an Emmy Award-nominated morning show on the Discovery Kids channel, and he won the Parent's Choice Award last year.

According to Downtown Brew co-owner Korie Newman, "This is the club's and Numbskull Production's first kids show ever, and shows of this caliber for children are typically only available in very large cities, in an arena. Stuff like The Wiggles or the like. Hip Hop Harry's messages are extremely positive songs about washing your hands, table manners, and so on. We are very excited about this show."

Using hip hop music, Harry creates a curriculum that includes experiences and activities related to social/emotional skills, cognitive/educational skills, physical/health skills, and artistic/creative skills. Your kids will have fun and learn something too.

Tickets are $15 in advance (at Boo Boo Records) or $16 at the door. Doors open for the show at 11 a.m. Learn more about the rapping bear at www.hiphopharry.com.

 

I love Paris in the summertime

NO LOAFERS :  Experience a bit of the old gay Paris of the '30s and '40s when Baguette Quartette plays June 23 at Castoro Cellars. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BAGUETTE QUARTETTE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF BAGUETTE QUARTETTE
  • NO LOAFERS : Experience a bit of the old gay Paris of the '30s and '40s when Baguette Quartette plays June 23 at Castoro Cellars.
# Thanks to SLOFolks, we're all going to Paris sort of. No, the local folk music society isn't paying our airfare, but it is giving us the opportunity to experience a bit of the old gay Paris of the '30s and '40s when Baguette Quartette plays Saturday, June 23 at Castoro Cellars (7 p.m.).

Okay, I know those of you with a passing recollection of history are thinking, Paris wasn't really that gay in the '40s what with all the Nazi occupation, but despite that, Baguette Quartette manages to present a fine old time.

If you own the Putumayo CD French Cafe or saw the movie Monsters, Inc., you've heard the music. Now experience it firsthand in Castoro Cellars' beautiful outdoor concert venue.For reservations, call 238-0725. Tickets are $20. There's also a catered 6 p.m. dinner available, and Sonnie Brown will interview Baguette Quartette on her "The Minstrel Song Show" at 3 p.m. at 90.1FM.

 

Russell up some fun
It might be easier to list who multi-instrumentalist legend Leon Russell hasn't played with, but here's a short list of a few notables he has done sessions with: Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, George Benson, the Carpenters, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Willie Nelson.

MUSIC DEMIGOD :  Leon Russell is nothing short of amazing. Experience his genius on June 24 at Downtown Brew. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LEON RUSSELL
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF LEON RUSSELL
  • MUSIC DEMIGOD : Leon Russell is nothing short of amazing. Experience his genius on June 24 at Downtown Brew.

# This Sunday, June 24, the famous session man and amazing country/blues/gospel performer plays a 6:30 p.m. show at Downtown Brew ($25 advance at Boo Boo's $30 at the door).

He trained as a classical pianist from ages 3 to 13, learned the trumpet at 14, then started a band and lied about his age to get a gig at Tulsa nightclub (playing with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, which later became The Band), toured with Jerry Lee Lewis while still a teenager, moved to L.A. at 17 and learned guitar from Rick Nelson sideman James Burton, did studio work with Dorsey Burnette, Glen Campbell, and more, played on nearly all of Phil Spector's hit sessions, played on Herb Alpert's A Taste of Honey and the Bryds' "Mr. Tambourine Man." Hell, I could go on he's 66 now and I've barely scratched his early 20s but you get the point.

Local alterna-folkie Joe Koenig opens the show, which promises to be memorable indeed.

 

Your Grassroots are showing
For my money, the best live music deal in town is the semi-regular Grassroots series at Downtown Brew. Entry is only $2, and usually there're three bands. Throw in $1 pints and you've got an unbeatable way to spend a Tuesday night. These evenings showcase some of the Central Coast's best musicians and offer a place for local musicians to meet and hang out.

LOVE GOES ON FOREVER :  Downtown Brew presents husband and wife duo The Wedding Industrial Complex (pictured) along with The Shamblers and Joe Koenig (who also opens for Leon Russell on June 24) playing the next Grass Roots concert on June 26. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WEDDING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WEDDING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
  • LOVE GOES ON FOREVER : Downtown Brew presents husband and wife duo The Wedding Industrial Complex (pictured) along with The Shamblers and Joe Koenig (who also opens for Leon Russell on June 24) playing the next Grass Roots concert on June 26.

# This Tuesday, June 26, the Brew presents The Shamblers with openers The Wedding Industrial Complex and Joe Koenig.

The Shamblers play in a jangly, upbeat, breezy style the sort of music you want to hear while sitting on your back porch drinking a hard lemonade.

The Wedding Industrial Complex is husband-and-wife team Derek and Melanie Senn, who keep threatening that this (or this one or that one) is their last gig since Mel is knocked up again. Soon she won't be able to sit behind her drum set. Derek plays acoustic guitar, harmonica, and sings, and sometimes he goes electric and when that happens according to Derek "We rock so hard (or suck so bad it all hinges on the stars and the libations) that it is very, very, very, very, very scary."

Joe Koenig plays his own grungy brand of folk and roots music, stripped-down songs that are all guitar, voice, and soul.

Support live local music.

 

More music
Don't forget former local act made good Scissors for Lefty, which plays an album release party on Thursday, June 21 at 8 p.m. (16-and-over $8 advance at Boo Boo's or $10 at the door free in-store at Boo Boo's at 5:30 p.m.). Their new CD, Underhanded Romance on Eenie Meenie Records, is the band's second full-length. Nothing Ever Stays and Geisert 8 will open the show.

FACE TIME :  Inner Faces draws influence from jazz, rock, classical, and bluegrass, and they perform June 22 at Coalesce Bookstore. - PHOTO COURTESY OF INNER FACES
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF INNER FACES
  • FACE TIME : Inner Faces draws influence from jazz, rock, classical, and bluegrass, and they perform June 22 at Coalesce Bookstore.

# This Friday, June 22, the Downtown Association's second Concerts in the Plaza show features local indie rock juggernauts The New Longview, a band that performs amazing originals in the same vein as Jack Johnson or Ben Harper (plus the occasional juicy cover thrown in for good measure). They'll play the Mission Plaza from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and then they'll pack up their gear and haul it over to Downtown Brew, where the show will go on. First Iration and Tropo will open the 8 p.m. show (gotta give The New Longview boys a bit of a rest, eh?), after which The New Longview hits the stage to close out the night. The cover is just $5 at the door. Learn more about the band at www.thenewlongview.com.

The City of Paso Robles, REC Foundation, and J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines will kick off the 10-part Concerts in the Park summer series with smooth jazz recording artist Bryan Savage this Friday, June 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the City Park Bandstand. Having played sax and flute on over 20 albums, including Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steve Martin's King Tut and others, his solo career skyrocketed in 1992, and Bryan has been called the "Saxiest" blower in the business. For more info, call 237-3988.

Rob Burpee of Strike Fire Productions e-mailed to say, "I just wanted to let you know that on Friday, June 22, Strike Fire is having another kick-butt concert at Mongo's Saloon in Grover Beach. It's 21-and-over and there's no cover. From 9 to 10 p.m. will be The Pants (a SLO pop/punk act) from 10:15 to 11:15 will be Two Dollar Pistol (a 5 Cities punk rock act) and from 11:30 to 1 a.m. will be Malo Culo (a Grover Beach rock/punk/indie band). This will be an excellent show with three really good local bands. The local music scene is continuing to explode in the 5 Cities area with excellent fan turnouts." I recently heard a 5-song demo from Malo Culo and can attest to this power trio's ability to ROCK! Lead singer Ben Lima has a potent voice, and though they've yet to release a full-length CD, they managed to get a song on the Clear Channel Radio's local affiliates' compilation SLO & Dysfunctional Vol. III. Let the moshing begin.

LISTEN AND LEARN  :  The Rentals, fronted by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, plays June 27 at Downtown Brew. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RENTALS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RENTALS
  • LISTEN AND LEARN : The Rentals, fronted by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, plays June 27 at Downtown Brew.

# Inner Faces draws influence from jazz, rock, classical, and bluegrass performing their original brand of string music on the Central Coast since 1990. The trio featured at the Live Oak Music Festival, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, National Public Radio and numerous coffee house venues performs Friday, June 22 at Coalesce Bookstore at 7 p.m. ($10 call 772-2880).

The Second Annual Village Summer Concert Series continues on Sunday, June 24, at the Rotary Bandstand on the Village Green in the Historic Village of Arroyo Grande. Classic rockers The Usual Suspects and the Bluz Dogz will offer a free concert beginning at 1 p.m. The Usual Suspects have nearly a century of combined performing experience and a repertoire that covers the spectrum of rock, pop, funk, oldies, disco, new wave, fusion, rockabilly, metal, and Motown. The Bluz Dogz came together about three years ago and specialize in classic rock and blues.

Pocket Productions is back with another essential concert this Sunday, June 24 at the Steynberg Gallery at 8 p.m. Titled "The Grass Roots Record Summer Revue Tour," this showcase features five amazing performers: Alela Diane (myspace.com/alelamusic) Mariee Sioux (myspace.com/marieesioux) Lee Bob Watson (of Jackpot, myspace.com/leebobmusic) Aaron Ross (of Hella, myspace.com/aaronmanuelross) and Benjamin Oak Goodman (myspace.com/benjaminoakgoodman). The show costs just $6.

This Wednesday, June 27, The Rentals play Downtown Brew at 8 p.m. The band is fronted by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp and has released two albums, Return Of (The Rentals) (1995) and Seven More Minutes (1999). Tickets for this 16-and-over show are $13 advance (at Boo Boo's) or $15 at the door. Golden Boy will open.

The San Luis Obispo County Band will present a series of outdoor, twilight concerts on Thursday evenings beginning Thursday, June 28 through August 9 at the newly constructed Mitchell Park Bandshell in SLO. These free concerts run from 7 p.m. until dark. The SLO County Band is celebrating its 133rd birthday in 2007 and traces its origins back to the SLO Military Band, founded in 1874.

Back by popular demand is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of New Orleans' best traditional brass jazz acts. Get your ticket today for their concert next Thursday, June 28, at Downtown Brew (8 p.m. $15 advance at Boo Boo's $18 at the door).

 

CD Reviews

The White Stripes - Icky Thump

After briefly side projecting with Brendan Benson and cohorts in the Raconteurs, Jack White re-unites with his sisterly other-half, Meg White, to outfit themselves in their red, white, and black costumery and return to their drum-guitar garage aesthetics.

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# While there is still the blues swagger that enriched much of their early albums, now their sound has become so ferociously thick, Jack's guitar so dense with distortion, that the pop garage-rock gets swallowed by metal riffs and the enormous cymbal crashes. Not that you'll ever hear a whole album of redundancy. "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" merges Scottish bagpipes and mandolin with sharp angular guitar shredding, as if Riverdance was co-opted by punk rockers.

Some tracks are instantly recognizably White Stripes: the Jack's Thor hammer punch on "Little Cream Soda," Meg's tribal drumbeat opening "Rag And Bone." Never as straightforward as their dogmatic approach would imply, the White Stripes continue to have fun with the simplest of tools, to our benefit.

Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and KCBX's "Night Train."

 

 

Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds

The investigation of folk music in all its worldly forms didn't begin with John Fahey, but his guitar workings rampant with un-Western like chord structures and his intense aural survey of a guitar's acoustical limits still find new devotees today.

Existing between this departed wizard and the recently emerged

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# freak-folk scene is an equally vivid crew of elder guitar dazzlers: Jack Rose, Stephen Basho-Junghans, and Sir Richard Bishop. As the shortest piece (just under seven minutes) of the trio of tracks, "Zurvan" is a Flamenco influenced by the cinematic theatrics of a spaghetti Western full of flashy runs and precise fingerpicking, like a skilled gunslinger's showboating his hip cannons.

"Smashana" is vigorously avant-garde. If ever the world heard the recorded exorcism of a bedeviled instrument, here lies its evidence: a darkly arranged composition haunted with stabs of feedback and ghoulish tonal moans. The record closes with a 22-minute Middle Eastern raga, as trance-inducing as turkey on a Sunday.

Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and KCBX's "Night Train."


Glen Starkey will leave you black and blue any chance he gets. Ask him for a ride to Med-Stop at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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