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Acoustic Hellfire

For a second there, when everyone first started calling themselves "singer/songwriter," the word "acoustic" pretty much meant minor chords and bleeding-heart ballads. But that whole folk-revival-gone-wrong, sentimental acoustic thing was destined to cry itself back to sleep sooner or later, making room for more subversive acoustic fare--HAMELL ON TRIAL and ROBBIE FULKS immediately come to mind.

Last Friday night, underground legend OLIVER BROWN gave a ukulele recital at a popular local hangout, re-endearing himself to those of us who've seen him oodles of times. Even though we know all the punch lines, they still sound fresh when the freshest batch of indie college kids is laughing at them for the first time.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Catalyst celebrated their one-year anniversary of "keeping local music alive," a title that, to be fair, should actually be bestowed upon the Mediterranean Club in Aptos, if it had a more certain future. But it doesn't, and the Catalyst hosted a hell of a local lineup, consisting of SHADY GROOVE, ROCKBOTTOM BLUES and THE DEVIL MAKES THREE, who were also celebrating the release of their new CD, Longjohns, Boots and a Belt.

The new release is just as addictive as their debut album, but the production has improved noticeably, almost embarrassingly so. At the show, they exploded out of the gates with a familiar rhythm on "Never Learn," which is also the opener on the new album--and similar in feel to the opener on their previous album, "The Plank." The band's working-class politics are familiar as well ("Yes, I guess I see / They ain't doin' nothin' here but livin' off of you and me"), but the chorus on "Never Learn" is more subversive than anything on their debut, advocating some Boston Tea Party-type shit on an epic scale: "Hallelujah!/ Let it all just burn!/ 'Cause they ain't the type for listening/ And they sure ain't never gonna learn."

Just when you think you've got the new album pegged, they lighten things up with the carefree country heartbreak of "North Carolina" (rather than darkening the mood with the second tune as they did with "Graveyard" on the first album), followed by the klezmer-tinged drama of "Man Tap." The tenor banjo pecks out the lead riff on "Bangor Mash" and livens up "Judgement Day" in rhythm mode, but really makes its mark on a little Riverdance jig called "Black Irish."

The bottles of booze, the bones, the dirt and mud and all the blood are all evoked in the rich imagery of working-class lore; with their lyrics, the DM3 is once again elucidating power inequalities in a way that embraces hardships at the same time that it rejects the entire system that causes them. But unlike academic types who say the same thing, the DM3 make it such an easy pill to swallow.

Capleton Gets the Cold Shoulder

The Catalyst cancelled the CAPLETON dancehall show scheduled for last Sunday night, "due to outcry from the community & concern for public safety"--at least, that's what it said on a note from the management posted on the Catalyst box office. Though the singer himself claims that his lyrics were mistranslated from the Patois dialect, the interpretations circulated by the GLBT ALLIANCE were disturbing to say the least, crossing the line from derogatory to advocating murder. Capleton's "I Shot the Sheriff" defense is weak, considering that BOB MARLEY's murderous song was about shooting a sheriff-gone-haywire in self-defense, not about killing gays because of some whacked-out fundamentalist religious belief. If there is a God, here's hoping it will eradicate all forms of fundamentalism ASAP, before we all blow each other to hell.

Upcoming

For those of you who can't get enough vitamin K in your diet, three of the label's darlings are coming to the Pacific Cultural Center this week. Listen closely for PHIL ELVERUM (a.k.a. THE MICROPHONES) performing as MT. EERIE, along with his wife WOELV and JULIE DOIRON, plus local folkie BIRD BY SNOW, all on Oct. 10 at 7:30pm.

Mike Connor

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From the October 6-13, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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