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Picks for the week of May 7-13, 2008

Friday May 9
Montalvo's Carriage House Theatre
15400 Montalvo Rd

Erin McKeown

WITH AN abiding love of Judy Garland wedged deep in her bones, the indie folk songstress Erin McKeown used to work the retro angle hard with her crystal clear chanteuse's voice, classic guitar licks and roomy production. But over the past 10 years, the 29-year-old ethnomusicologist has figured out how to blend the old with the new by sticking to pop forms of swing, folk, jazz and rock.

Steel Pulse
Friday May 9
Moe's Alley
1535 Commercial Way
Santa Cruz

B-Side Players

THERE ARE plenty of acts exploring the interplay of Afro-funk and jazz, to varying effect; what can be transcendent in skilled hands can come off as a cheesy exercise when attempted by those less talented. The die-hards in the B-Side Players undoubtedly fall into the first camp, specializing in Latin-tinged, Afro-Cuban jazz that doesn't hesitate to rock when necessary but displays the imprint of consummate players who have made the study of music their life's work. With a passionate, politicized message and a charged sound that draws upon the finest of the world traditions that inspire the group, the B-Side Players handily deliver the goods.

Steel Pulse
Sunday May 11
Little Fox
2209 Broadway
Redwood City


ARTISTICALLY SPEAKING, Hawaiian son Makana is more accomplished than most musicians twice his age. At 29, the Oahu native is considered one of the greatest living players of slack key guitar, a style of music indigenous to Hawaii and older than the blues. Like most child prodigies, Makana's desire to cultivate his talent led him to enroll in music school at the tender age of 9. But forget institutions like Berklee and Juilliard—Makana received his training from the one and only Roy Sakuma Ukulele School. At age 11, he took his act public, performing at a school talent show, and let's just say the other little kiddies felt a little less talented after Makana's act. A year later, he was featured on a local TV show, and by 14, Makana had landed a regular gig at the Pier Bar in downtown Honolulu. Now Hawaii's rising star has earned deep respect from mainstream artists, opening for big-name acts like Sting, Santana, Elvis Costello, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. Though his music transcends classification by mixing elements of pop-rock, folk, classical and jazz, to name a few, Makana's Hawaiian roots run deep, resulting in a breathtaking fusion of world sound. If you're thinking of making the trip over the 17, be prepared for a dazzling display of guitar mastery, island style— Makana's remarkable showmanship and diverse repertoire (which features everything from slack key standards to a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Going to California") deserves one great big mahalo (thank you).

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