Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.3.11


Head For the Hall

There’s something cathartic and reaffirming about a good, footstompin’ hootenanny. The smacking of heels on floorboards, the cloy of rye whiskey, the tweak and twang of a mandolin as it seizes and sizzles any leftover brain cells — that’s Head For The Hills (H4TH). 

A newer addition to the burgeoning jam-grass community of Colorado, last time H4TH was in Eugene the quartet showed WOW Hall it could summon a knee smackin’, dirty hoedown at will. But hell, if I had the likes of Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident) and Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon) as mentors and album collaborators I, too, would be melting faces. H4TH rocks traditional bluegrass style with fast, technical mando-picking from Mike Chappell and a solid dose of fiddle.

The band’s ability to create infectious grooves and its prodigious bluegrass tenure would suggest that fiddler “Sloppy Joe” Lessard couldn’t bust out a Macklemore-esque rhyme every now and then — but he can. And he does so backed up by the robust funk of upright bassist Matt Loewen.

Oregon, much like Colorado, has an affinity for its rural folk traditions and music — string music thrives here. H4TH’s songs of mountainous alpine landscapes and its danceable improv are always welcomed in the Northwest. 

Head For The Hills plays 9 pm Thursday, Nov. 4, at WOW Hall; $10 adv., $12 door.  —  Andrew Hitz

Spooky Symphonies

Except for Neil Young, it’s hard to think of another major ‘60s star as consistent as English singer and guitarist Richard Thompson. The former Fairport Convention prolific songwriter has extended the dark English folk ballad tradition into the rock era. Thompson is also capable of wicked humor and sly wit. And, yes, he can still shred quite effectively, as he proved in full-band electric concerts last year.Thompson plays the McDonald Theatre Nov. 4. 

Sunday, Nov. 6, at United Lutheran Church Eugene’s David Rogers and Portland’s Hideki Yamaya perform lute duets and solos by musicians from the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Singers Anna Seitz Rikli and Jim Rich will join the lutenists for songs by composer Robert Johnson.

Also at the UO, the University Symphony plays music by Berlioz, Samuel Barber’s inevitable Adagio for Strings, Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 and revolutionary 20th century composer Edgard Varese’s 1923 Octandre. On Nov. 5, the TaiHei Ensemble will play a free afternoon concert of new works by Mei-Ling Lee, Aaron Pergram, Simon Hutchinson and Young-Sin Choi at Aasen-Hull Hall. 

The southern hemisphere has been a fertile source of influences on North American music, maybe none more than in the Brazilian rhythms that have percolated through American jazz for decades. On Nov. 3 at The Shedd, UO prof, radio host and saxophonist Carl Woideck continues his fascinating examinations of American jazz history with a survey of Brazil-tinged jazz featuring guest singer Simone Da Silva from Brazil and percussionist Kimberly Cullen along with his regular band. — Brett Campbell

Can I Get an Amen?

The UO Gospel Choir is phenomenally talented. With back-to-back wins in national gospel competitions, these Ducks have proven they can go head-to-head with the best of them.

“We want to be where the best competition is, hands down,” says Gospel Director Andiel Brown, who has made national champions out of two separate groups of gospel singers. 

And if you ever needed proof that good music can and does transcend all barriers, the UO Gospel Choir would be that evidence — the choir is comprised of mostly Caucasian singers. Given that gospel music is a traditionally African American medium, it is a notable feat that UO’s singers of entirely different backgrounds have excelled so brilliantly. 

“It has nothing to do with race or anything like that, everything just depends on the song being sung,” Brown says when asked about the choir’s ethnic majority. 

Twenty-two students make up the traveling team known as the advanced choir. Given that each term presents Brown with new singers, it has yet to be determined who will be competing this year. But you can check out the current choir singing the songs that won the Disney National Gospel Choir Championship, live at Beall Hall. All religious affiliation aside, this is excellent music from a truly gifted program — a concert that should not be missed.

UO Gospel Choir plays 5 pm Sunday, Nov. 6, at Beall Concert Hall, with special guests the Eugene Casineros; $6-$8. — Dante Zuñiga-West

How Sweet It Is

What is it about the country music world that means Miranda Lambert plays Matthew Knight Arena and HoneyHoney plays John Henry’s? At this point “new country” and “classic country” having very little in common is talked about to death. But with LA’s HoneyHoney the question of what makes country country is raised again. It’s not that HoneyHoney plays retro-throwback country, like Hank III — a sound more common in punk clubs than on country radio. In fact HoneyHoney, having just released its Lost Highway Records debut Billy Jack earlier this month, would be right at home alongside the big names at the Country Music Awards — but vocalist Suzanne Santo is no Taylor Swift. Santo hoots and hollers like a boozey Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette with a skinned knee, more convincing than Lambert ever could be. She sings about the angel of death, dead bodies in the LA River and blowing paychecks on booze. And Santos sneers “let’s get stoned” on the Billy Jack album track “Let’s Get Wrecked” you can’t help but think of Dylan at his most subversive.

Backing vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jaffe rounds out the duo, making a big noise with relatively few tools. Live, Santo supplies fiddle, banjo and sings while Jaffe does — well, everything else. And this is a sight to see for both rock’n’roll and roots music fans alike. The studio production of Billy Jack smoothes out some of HoneyHoney’s rough edges — the same idiosyncrasies that set the band’s live show apart from the average country act — and aims for a sort of NPR mass appeal. Echoes of gospel choirs mix with slide guitar and a general radio-friendly sheen. But the irreverent spirit of the duo comes through in the searing guitar licks of album-closer “Thin Line.” So count yourself lucky to see HoneyHoney in an intimate venue like John Henry’s. In a just world, Matt Arena wouldn’t be far behind for the group — but don’t hold your breath.

HoneyHoney plays 5:30 pm Tuesday, Nov. 8, at CD World, FREE; and 8 pm at John Henry’s, $10. — William Kennedy






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