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Business on the Left Side, Party on the Right: Matthew Embry gets ready to try out his new home trepanation kit.

Hometown Heroes

Ain't nothing better than watching the local folk make good. Whether they're just putting out an impressive album or they're movin' on up, warm, peach fuzzies abound in secret places when I see a band like the Rock Bottom Blues Band working their mojo on the local scene. With innumerable gigs around town at the Seabright Brewery, the Crow's Nest and Moe's Alley, chances are you've probably already seen them around town putting together an impressive blend of rock, funk, R&B and, of course, the blues--sounding (to use a couple of comparisons from our most recent blues festival) newer than Buddy Guy but older than Jonny Lang.

Vocalist Codi Binkley delivers a swift sucker punch right off the bat with a big, sturdy, soulful voice that just plain shouldn't be coming out of the mouth of what appears to be your typical Santa Cruz surfer kid--young, skinny and lily white. Scientists would probably scoff at my preconceived notions of what should and should not be coming out of said mouth, saying that there's no physiological reason why nearly any young, skinny and lily-white kid from Sonoma wouldn't be able to belt out gravelly blues laments, but until they can at least explain the Mystery Spot, there's no reason to pay any attention to them. The fact of the matter is, these kids are doing more to make a beautiful art form palatable to a younger generation than cartoons do for symphonies. And they're about to take the show on the road, preparing to embark on their first nationwide tour.

Then there's Paul Davis of the band Mule Train and sole proprietor of Warning Sign Records, who recently compiled 16 tracks from no fewer than nine local bands on the Someday Coming Down: A Deviant Twang Sampler. Mr. Cash would be proud of his young disciples keeping the hard-drinkin', rough-and-tumble independent spirit alive. Catch Mule Train performing with fellow compilation stars The Diamond Star Halos at the Mediterranean on Saturday, July 24.

But getting back to cartoons and symphonies, Electron Salon alumnus/piano genius Matthew Embry has just released a new CD, Live on Tape. It plays like an engrossing short story, not for any consistent narrative running throughout the 12 tracks but rather for the same gleefully twisted ideas that make his live show so captivating. You don't listen to songs like "Bubbles for Iraq" and "A Radical Dodecaphony!" while cleaning the house. No--you sit and listen to every word, and you let yourself be moved into absurdly unfamiliar emotional territory where the human race must rid itself of the scourge of dolphins and whales littering our seas, laughing at the exquisite perfection of lunacy refined.

If you're looking to rattle your neighbor's windowpanes with some bumpin' hip-hop, ex-local producer DNAE will put the finishing touches on his new album Urgent Notice of Disconnection, featuring appearances by Z-Man, the Shapeshifters and N8 the GR8 and local MCs Grunge Toefu and EX-I of the Thunderhut crew--just as soon as he gets back from the Warped Tour, that is.

Mike Connor

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From the July 21-28, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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