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The Fadista Strikes Again

It's not exactly a huge surprise that Portuguese fado starlet Mariza was voted "Personalidade de Ano 2003" in Portugal (that means "Personality of the Year 2003," for those of you not as incredibly multilingual as myself). The cool thing is, she beat out the freaking president of her own country for the award. The last time she performed in town, she made the sold-out Rio Theatre feel as cozy as a congested little Portuguese cafe, if such cafes are in fact as cozy and congested as I imagine them.

Performancewise, Mariza straddles a line between tradition and informality that is totally enchanting--at first she's all perfectly coiffed hair, flowing gowns and polite thank-yous, every bit the next Amelia Rodriguez and an emissary of fado to the rest of the world. Then, out comes the wild striped stocking adorning the leg she bares for the audience, and the teasing manner in which she chides the crowd for mediocre sing-and-clap-alongs. While she was considerably less loquacious this time around, Mariza's performance last Friday night was passionate and powerful, and included an acoustic encore in which the guitar players (three of them, playing Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar and bass guitar) and the fadista performed without mics, which, by chance, I'm told was the highlight of the evening.

But by that point, I was already headed for Moe's Alley to catch the Railroad Earth show. Not that I needed to show up early or anything--they ended up jamming for over three hours. The jam-band vibe doesn't really come across on their newest album, Bird in a House, but it all clicked right away as soon as I walked in the door: Celtic-flavored bluegrass, stretched out with a jazzy sense of freedom like so much String Cheese. The venue was packed, sweaty and even adorned with a giant butterfly hanging from the ceiling. Word is that they've been a huge hit at High Sierra for the past couple years, possibly meaning that they may not be playing smaller venues like Moe's for very long.

Easter With Ralphy

What would Easter be without a heaping helping of Jesus? The folks who made it out to see Dr. Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys couldn't tell you, for the good doctor carries him along in his heart to every show. Unfortunately, the poor ol' fella wore out his voice during a string of recent concerts, so he spent more time introducing his band--which included his son and grandson on guitar and mandolin, respectively--than he did singing. The Virginian legend was hella cute though, all little and sparkly in his black suit, red bow tie and big ol' cowboy hat. Then, during an a cappella performance of "O Death," somebody's freaking cell phone rang four times. Christ on crutches people, will we ever learn to turn 'em off? For that particular transgressor, I'm envisioning an eternity of broken cell phones in the hereafter, ringing forever and ever and ever. Mwoohahahah, sonsabitches!

Upcoming

Americana till the cows come home this Saturday night! The Devil Makes Three performs at the Med on April 17, plus S.F.-based Johnny Dilks and His Visitacion Valley Boys playing honky-tonk and hillbilly music, along with our very own Ten Gallon. Meanwhile, an avocado shakedown will be going on across town, where Strungover! will perform at 120 Union on April 17. And somewhere in between the Med and the Union, the Trailer Park Troubadours will unleash their trashy Americana hijinks on the good folks at the Rio Theatre, also on April 17.

In an unrelated story, for all you fans of the jazz/jam fusion band and the self-described "guitar-slut" Fareed Haque in particular, Garaj Mahal performs at the Kuumbwa on Sunday, April 18.

And not that it's anywhere near May 1, but we thought it worth mentioning that Sista Monica Parker is back on the scene after over a year of cancer treatment. She and Linda Tillery will perform at the First Congregational Church on Saturday, May 1. For more info, visit Sista Monica's website at www.sistamonica.com.

Mike Connor

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From the April 14-21, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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