Scottish-born and London-based, KT Tunstall has achieved a swell of success across the pond with emotional folk rock songwriting and a strong, sonorous delivery that rocketed her to the top of the charts. While this may the point where a lesser talent hits cruise control, Tunstall two years ago did the opposite, putting her musical pedal to the metal and roaring headlong out of the dreary, cloudy skies of England straight for the hot, dry deserts of Arizona.
The result of her sojourn was the critically-lauded album Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon. Tunstall is a gem of a songwriter, lyrically raw while poetically sublime. Her deft guitar melodies and her ethereal voice, with just a slight Scottish brogue popping up every so often, is one of the sweetest in this or any hemisphere.
Tonight and tomorrow, Tuntall brings her globe-trotting style to Napa for two nights of dusty, shimmering indie folk rock before she joins pianist and bandleader Jools Holland back in the United Kingdom. Check out the music video for her single “Feel It All” below and pop on over to City Winery to catch Tunstall before she skips town.
The wildest variety show this side of the Golden Gate Bridge, the North Bay Cabaret usually hosts their monthly events at Santa Rosa’s Whiskey Tip, but this month the bands and burlesque dancers are storming another castle of sorts, when North Bay Cabaret comes to the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square for their “Hot August Knights” show tonight.
Organizer and host Jake Ward once again gathers a troupe of belly dancers, artists, spoken word and standup performers as well as live bands and DJs in the lounge. This month’s theme incorporates all the RenFair goodness of medieval days, with just enough Monty Python thrown in for fun.
New this time, besides the location of course, is a lower age limit (18 and over) and high-flying aerial acts performed by Amanda Grace and Katie Nicole. They join Gypsy jazz troublemakers Hot Club Beelzebub and DJs Aspect McCarthy and True Justice along with others, soundtracking a night that also includes local poets like Susanne Dugan, William Lyon and even the AFC’s own Bruce Alan Rhodes.
There’s much more to be had at “Hot August Knights” tonight, so head on down and show Jake Ward, who just had his laptop stolen (boo!), some much needed love. Arlene Francis Center is located at 99 Sixth St, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $10.
Still not convinced? Check out the awesome trailer that Donald Husman put together.
Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol is consistently one of the best live music venues around, showcasing local talents and traveling bands alike in the intimate space of the tavern’s Abbey and outdoor courtyard. One of the highlights of the venue’s schedule is always the “Songwriters-in-the-Round” series, happening the last Thursday every month, and always featuring a bevy of North Bay musicians performing solo, original songs.
This month is no different, as songwriter Jon Gonzales hosts a night of folk, rock and throwback pop music presented by four players, Jeremy McCarten, Jen Tucker, Ken Risling and Georgia Ruth, rotating on stage for an eclectic night. If you’re not familiar with these songwriters, click on the videos below to preview what’s sure to be an engaging show.
First up is Jeremy McCarten, best known as the front man of Sonoma County indie rockers Manzanita Falls, a singer with deep emotional reservoirs and a magnetic stage presence.
I just couldn’t get going this morning. Between the cloudy skies and my comfy bed it took all my might to move. So, before I even ground up the coffee, I put on Bucc Nyfe.
The Santa Rosa punk rock trio gets my blood pumping and head rocking with their high energy rock and roll. Tight beats and heavy distortion shake the sleep from my eyes, while the emotionally-driven lyrics and nostalgic themes take me back to the days before I needed coffee to get going in the morning.
If you’re still sleepy, hit the track below and thank me later.
Tonight, Bucc Nyfe headlines an electrified show at 775 After Dark in Sebastopol with the help of rockers Bang! Bang! and Bumblin’ Bones. 7pm. $4.
Born in the United States and raised in Paris by a French father and Chinese mother, Jessica Fichot is a multicultural chanteuse, singing in several languages and playing a worldly blend of pop, jazz and folk. Her latest album, “Dear Shanghai,” is a collection of 1940s Chinese jazz. Fichot and her band perform at the Cotati Accordion Festival, this Saturday, Aug 22 at 11:30am.
Now based in Los Angeles, Fichot spoke with City Sound Inertia about how she tunes into her musical heritage for an authentic, yet accessible, chanson sound.
City Sound Inertia: So Jessica, you grew up in Paris?
Jessica Fichot: “I was born in upstate New York, but I moved to France when I was two years old, all my memories of childhood are from France.”
CSI: What was your relationship to music like as a kid?
JF: “I played piano, but growing up, I didn’t really listen to music in French, it was considered lame to be listening to French music when I was a kid, so I listened to a lot of music from the United States; Tori Amos, Madonna.
It was only after I moved back to the United States and went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, that I re-discovered French music, because I wanted to so something different, try to find my identity. And of course France is very much a part of my identity.”
CSI: And how did you start playing the accordion?
JF: “After college, I moved to Los Angeles and I put a band together performing my own French songs. I sing mostly in French, recently a lot more in Chinese, and a lot of different languages. And when I put my band together I was looking for an accordion player, but I couldn’t find one, so I bought an accordion and just played the right hand. I just got more and more into it and, to be honest, I barely play the piano now.” (more…)
He’s got a baby face, but there’s nothing infantile about blues guitarist Jules Leyhe, except maybe his band name. Along with the Family Jules Band, Oakland’s own Leyhe is blazing a trail of true blues music in the vein of legends like Buddy Guy, who he has already shared stages with in his young career.
This summer, Leyhe released his latest album, “Juicebox.” The title track and album single has got a kickin’ rock and roll rhythm and funky organ under Leyhe’s stinging guitars and rowdy sing-along chorus. Named one of Guitar Player Magazine’s 12 Players of Christmas in 2014 as well as the Bay Area Blues Foundation’s All Stars in 2015, Leyhe is a sight to be seen and heard, and your next chance comes tonight, when he plays Silo’s in Napa. James Regan from the Deadlies opens the show.
Listen to “Juicebox” below.
Jules Leyhe & the Family Jules Band gets down and bluesy at Silo’s, 530 Main St, Napa. 7pm. 707.251.5833.
Award-winning Asheville, NC, bluegrass ensemble Steep Canyon Rangers is having another busy summer, touring the country with Steve Martin and finishing up touches on a new LP, Radio, due to be released in early September.
And for your listening pleasure, the band has released the music video for the album’s title track and first single. The nostalgic lyrics and melodic fiddles of “Radio” are presented in a video collage made up from intimate, on-the-road footage gathered from the band’s relentless touring life.
Earlier this year, I caught up with Steep Canyon Rangers banjo player Graham Sharp. You can read that interview here. And click below to hear “Radio.”
Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers perform on Thursday, Aug 20, at the Green Music Center, 1801 East Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park. 866.955.6040.
The new self-titled album by Sonoma County duo HUGElarge is a blistering blend of classic songs done up with garage rock revivalism from two veteran Bay Area musicians. Guitarist and vocalist Robert Malta (Paw Paw Blowtorch / Bermuda Triangle Service) and drummer Matt Norelli (American Music Club) sound as fresh and eager as a couple of teenagers, pounding fuzzed-out riffs and grinding beats that fans of the Black Keys will swoon over.
Since forming in 2005, this stripped-down duo has kept it simple, utilizing vintage equipment and playing in Norelli’s garage for the pure joy of rock and roll. That joy is on display throughout the new record, and HUGElarge sound as big as advertised. It’s a raucous collection of classic proto-punk and glam rock gems, with tracks like T. Rex’s “Motivator” and ? & the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” inventively revisited and invigorating as ever.
Recorded by mix master Karl Derfler (Tom Waits, Roky Erickson) the album sounds amazing for two guys, a guitar and a cocktail drum. Coming soon as a special high-quality collector’s edition, this self-titled album is available next month though Hwy 61 Records and at local record stores. To give you a taste of the album, check out the video for the album’s only original track, the instrumental “D.O.G.”
Over the last year, the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma has risen from the ashes of a spotty concert history and is bringing a slew of exciting and immensely popular bands to the historic venue, courtesy of booker Jim Agius.
This last summer, the venue sold out for 90’s alternative act Neutral Milk Hotel, and in the last month, news of concerts from a variety of acts, like hardcore punks the Misfits and scene-shaking reggae band The Green, have further boosted the Phoenix’s standings in North Bay music purveyors.
Oberst first burst onto the national music scene as the wunderkind behind Omaha-based Bright Eyes. He has also played in hardcore acts like Desaparecidos and, since 2008, has produced several acclaimed albums under his own name.
M. Ward rose to prominence as a solo artist in the Portland, Oregon music scene at the turn of the century before teaming up with actress and vocalist Zooey Deschanel for the poppy indie duo She & Him. His alt-country styling and deep drawl make him an instantly recognizable voice.
Both Oberst and Ward are also part of the Monsters of Folk super group that’s been on-again-off-again since 2004 and also features Jim James from My Morning Jacket.
As if these two powerhouse performers were not enough, the Felice Brothers are opening the show, offering up a country-tinged rock that was born busking the subways of New York City.
Conor Oberst and M. Ward perform on Thursday, Oct 1, at The Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St, Petaluma. 8pm. $30. 707.762.3565.
Marin singer-songwriter Audrey Auld-Mezera died at her home in Stinson Beach after a battle with cancer on Sunday, August 9, surrounded by family and friends. She was 51. Auld was a beloved figure in the North Bay country music scene, a gifted lyricist and vocalist who was generous with her time and talents.
Born in Tasmania, Auld spent most of her music career living in Marin County, until she moved with her husband Mez Mezera to Nashville in 2007 to be a part of the music business there. Though she was never far from Marin, returning often to perform and visit with friends. Diagnosed with cancer last year, Auld returned to her “American home” as she called it to spend her final months in the North Bay.
In the wake of Auld’s passing, the community has praised her music and her character. On the KRSH’s weekly Monday night program ‘Evening Muse,’ host Robin Pressman spoke of Auld’s ” irrepressible and radiant” spirit; and she echoed those sentiments in an email to the Bohemian. “Audrey’s smile entered the room first, followed closely by her laughter, and then that sassy Aussie accent. And she used her joyous nature to help others,” said Pressman.
Auld built up an impressive resume of music over the course of 11 albums and three EP’s on her own Reckless Records label. Her last album, Hey Warden, especially highlights her authentic and generous personality. Released in November of 2014, the album was recorded with inmates at San Quentin Federal Prison, a passion project for the songwriter who had lead workshops and offered performances at the institution since 2006. Her ability to connect to others, no matter the circumstances, and to positively impact those around her will be remembered as fondly as her music.