Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.5.09

Smooth as Snake Oil

Several years ago, I came to know Joanne Rand as a transformative singer-songwriter who draws much of her inspiration from nature — Oregon’s Siskiyou River, which she found after leaving her home in Georgia and where she lived for years; Northern California, where she is now. And after a career spanning 20 years, I can say that Rand is still fierce, still insightful, and with the release of a brand new CD, her 10th, still inspired. 

Rand and her Rhythm of the Open Hearts band will be in town to celebrate the release of Snake Oil and Hummingbirds, a 13-track CD filled with Appalachian traditionals, originals and blues-rock that reveals her roots in the gospel and feminist folk of her youth. 

Her version of “Maid of Constant Sorrow,” a soulful riff on the traditional song, raises goosebumps when she lets her voice soar on “I’ve seen trials all of my days / I’m going back to California / The place where I was partly raised.” Rand takes on three other traditional songs: “Shady Grove,” “Shenandoah” and “Tennessee Waltz.”

On her rocking numbers, Rand’s powerful voice and insistent guitar are a rare cohesion of passion and intention. We get a different sense of her on quieter numbers, like “Shenandoah,” but she can’t be held back for very long. In “Prayer For The River,” she sings about running wild and free and long, leaping in wild abandon. Though she’s singing about flowing water, it’s just as easy to imagine she’s singing about herself, wild and free for a long time to come. Joanne Rand plays at 8 pm Friday, Nov. 6, at Tsunami Books. $10. — Vanessa Salvia

ILL Is Well

Those familiar with pre-hip hop Beastie Boys are well aware of their punk rock roots. Their style, both before and after their genre-hopping in 1986, heavily influences the sound of The ILLlustionists, a punk and hip hop group releasing their new album ILL IS ALL.

With three original members consisting of Sammy Warm Hands (Sam Wartenbee, vocals), Web the Free Range Human (Gabe Morley, samples and arrangements) and E Ville (Evan Vaught, vocals), the trio put together an album after being together for only two months, titled Sleep Rocking and given away for free. Then the band added new members Crosby Kneale (bass and synthesizer) and Mike McCarthy (keyboards, synthesizer and guitar), filling out their sound and creating new layers for live shows and their most recent album.

And for those worried this could come off as some horrid amalgamation of genres like the rap/metal phase America experienced less than a decade ago from bands like Limp Bizkit, Wartenbee assures listeners this isn’t the case. “Killing in the Name,” originally performed by Rage Against the Machine, is the ILLusionists’ only performance from that era.

With all the sampling and quirky lyrics, the band’s sound can also bounce between early Zebrahead (like their song “Diarrhea Fight”) or thrash and blister (like their song “Robert Pattinson Can Suck My Dick”). Either way, their sound is fast, never boring and almost always funny.

The ILLusionists play with Aerodrone, Of Mountains, The Last and Mascot at 7 pm Friday, Nov. 6, at the WOW Hall. $5
Shaun O’Dell

Piedmont Pluck 

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are three African-American musicians from the North Carolina area (okay, one member actually hails from Arizona, but no matter) who’ve chosen to adopt the regional old-timey tradition from their native Carolinas ­ specifically, Piedmont blues— rather than the popular Appalachian sound recently (and mercilessly) appropriated by American hipsters all over the country. Banjo-driven Piedmont string band music differs from the Appalachian tradition in two ways: its unique guitar picking style, and the role of fiddle, which often plays a central role in Appalachian folk music. In the Carolina tradition, banjo takes center stage and fiddle, if there’s one in the band at all, stays in the background. Though roots music ­ not just blues, but bluegrass and string band music as well ­ has been appropriated by a largely white audience of youths who have tired of the jaded pop that dominated the ‘90s indie scene, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are on a mission, not just to pay homage to black Carolina roots musicians who have largely passed unknown, but to bring a less prevalent playing style into the foreground. A relatively new band that only began releasing albums three years ago, the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ pleasant twang just might be the right band to bring their banjo-dominated sound into the fold of popular music. The Carolina Chocolate Drops play at 7:30 p.m. Tues., Nov. 10 at the Shedd Institute. $10.50-$29. ­Sara Brickner

Vinyl Faves

How does that song go? “Put your records on, tell me your favorite song”? Thank you, Corinne Bailey Rae. 

Everyone, from the record collector in a beret with the gleam of purist music knowledge in her eyes to the fumble-faced college freshman looking for something “ummmm, vintage,” will get a chance to buy, swap and talk music this Saturday and, yes, put their records on. 

It’s the third year running for the UO campus radio station KWVA Eugene 88.1 FM’s record swap. But times, faces and record swaps change.

This year, marketing director Kate Malinoski is calling it a “Music Fair.” It will be a romp of live bands and vendors selling and trading records, cds, band T-shirts, concert DVDs and more — it’s “basically, all music-related gear,” Malinoski said. CD Game Exchange and the WOW Hall are both bringing merchandise.

Collecting records has had a long and glorious history, and over the past few years has experienced a revival among the hip (and sometimes pretentious)  university-age youth. Though perhaps college has always been the proper sphere for record collecting.

“The appeal is finding something unique, something that wouldn’t work in any other medium, and taking that time to find it,” said Roger Bong, a UO senior and a DJ at KWVA. He has been collecting records for nearly six years.

So whether your tastes run more Fleetwood Mac than Mozart, obscure, old, recent, rare or common as the dirt is brown — whatever — you will likely find it at the Music Fair. A love of music is a good enough excuse to show up.

The Fair runs noon-3pm Saturday, Nov.7,  at the Fir Room in the EMU on the UO campus. Admission is free. — Katie Wilson

Time for More

You’d best plan now for next Wednesday’s lunch; it’s possibly your only chance to see Portland’s Loch Lomond on tour for their out-on-Tuesday EP Night Bats. It’s easy (you might even say lazy) to refer to the quintet as “chamber pop,” which makes it sound like they’re deeply restrained, perhaps tightly winding up pop longing in the elegance and refinement of classical strings. But there’s more to the five songs of Night Bats, which from time to time call to mind Loch Lomond’s recent tourmates The Decemberists — there’s that odd medieval tint, like an antique sunbeam reflected through the years. 

“Ghost of an Earthworm” is catchy and joyous, buoyant and uptempo; on “Night Bats,” Ritchie Young’s croon is at its most androgynous, sinking and leaping with disarming ease. Loch Lomond manages to come off like it’s making music for band geeks — countless instruments, constant variation, a clarinet rich and sultry on “Wax & Wire,” a dense thread of harmony weaving in and out — while leaving each song space to expand differently in each listener’s ears. It’s not the only band that can do this, of course, but the beauty is in the way Loch Lomond does it: poppy choruses grounding the sometimes arty vocals or a playful embellishment timed just right against a spare and solemn stretch. By the fifth gorgeous song, the hook is set: More, please. Loch Lomond plays at noon Wednesday, Nov. 11, at the EMU Fishbowl, UO. Free. — Molly Templeton

Reformed Rebels

Like the Sex Pistols, whose gargantuan reputation teeters on a single studio album (Never Mind the Bollocks), the Boston-based band Mission of Burma achieved their now-legendary status on next-to-no output. They formed in 1979; in 1982 they produced one full-length album, Vs.; they broke up in 1983. Sure, they aren’t as notorious as the Pistols, but they are, artistically speaking, the rebellious descendents of Johnny Rotten and crew. Seeking to expand the rigid dogmatism of early punk, Mission of Burma brought in diverse genres and tape effects to create something wildly eclectic and fresh. Yet their raw power and uncompromising style kept them rooted in the punk underground them sometimes blasphemed.

Mission reformed in 2002, and their fourth album, The Sound The Speed The Light, was released last month. Listening to their new work is like taking a kaleidoscopic trip through the ‘80s underground: wonky time signatures and jazzy chords collide with chanting anthems and the exposed nerve of political angst. Their live shows, reputedly hit-or-miss affairs, are always louder than bombs. Like an undetected landmine from some bygone war, Mission of Burma will detonate gloriously when, with Explode Into Colors, they play WOW Hall at 8pm Thursday, Nov. 12. $13 adv., $15 door. — Rick Levin