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Country Crowd: Red Meat are so cute you almost want to pinch them. Almost.

Country Comfort

Red Meat is back on the menu

By Greg Cahill

They call it high-cholesterol honky-tonk, and the members of Red Meat take their food as seriously as their country-fried song selection. The Oakland-based band's website--a shrine to authentic country music à la George Jones, Hank Williams, Pasty Cline and Buck Owens--features a page entitled "Meat Eats" that recounts, not the band's high-energy performances of twangy country fare, but the tangy Texas barbecue and other vittles encountered during their numerous road trips.

It's a sign that these down-to-earth country-music fanatics have their priorities in the right place: cold beer, hot-spiced rub on a sizzling slab of slow-cooked pork and jukebox hits bristling with plaintive pedal-steel guitar just cryin' to be cried to.

These days, the rest of the world is catching on to Red Meat, a longtime cult favorite on the Bay Area neo-honky-tonk scene since forming a decade ago in a Mission District garage. The inclusion of the band's song "Broken Up and Blue" on the soundtrack to the 2002 film Monster's Ball (which featured roots-music fan Billy Bob Thornton) was quite a coup. Suffice to say, the band was ecstatic when they heard the song scored and played by maestro Bill Conte and his Oscar orchestra for co-star Halle Berry's acceptance speech for the Best Actress award, the moment immortalized when presenter Adrian Brody put a lip lock on the actress. Meanwhile, the subsequent European release of the band's 1995 debut Meet Red Meat scored a Top 5 hit in France.

The band boasts a pair of other great albums--1998's 13 and 2001's Alameda County Line, their second and third discs respectively-- produced by Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Dave Alvin of the Blasters. Fresh from shows this month with Buck Owens and Ralph Stanley, Red Meat perform Saturday, April, 24, at Rancho Nicasio, on the town square, Nicasio. 8:30pm. $12. 415.662.2219.

Random Notes

Not to be outdone in the twang department, Sweetwater Saloon will play host to Telecaster master Bill Kirchen, formerly of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and more recently heard dishing up red-hot country licks on Nick Lowe's acclaimed Impossible Bird album and tour. Look for Kirchen at the Mill Valley nightspot on Saturday, April 24. 153 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 9:30pm. $14. 415.388.2820. . . .

The next night, the Dusty 45's, a roots-rock and jump-blues band from the Pacific Northwest, make their Rancho Nicasio debut at a special 4pm early show (you can't party forever, can you?). 415.662.2219. . . .

Texas singer and songwriter Hal Ketchum, the King of Love, sails into the Mystic Theatre on April 30 with his chart-topping Americana. 23 Petaluma Blvd. N. 8pm. $23. 707.765.2121. . . .

Alterna-folk artist Robert Earl Keen, best known for co-writing "This Old Porch" with Lyle Lovett, returns to that Petaluma venue on June 17. That same weekend, on June 19, country-music group Sawyer Brown (nothin' alterna about them; they landed a recording contract by winning Star Search) will co-headline the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma.



Spins Du Jour

One of the brightest spots among recent country-music CDs is Scena Records' Live from the Louisiana Hayride series, which has already delivered great new historical recordings by Johnny Cash and June Carter captured during their formative years. Now this tiny Lee's Summit, Mo., label has blessed us with another pair of winners, featuring rare live concerts originally broadcast over Shreveport radio station KWKH on the nation's second most popular country-music showcase. One finds Beaumont, Texas, native George Jones, the King of Broken Hearts, honky-tonkin' through 16 rarities recorded between 1956 (the year he joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry) and 1969 (just two weeks before he married Tammy Wynette). These vibrant performances are a window into the evolution of one of the genre's greatest singers.

A separate disc finds Johnny Horton, who scored 11 country hits (including six pop crossovers) that included such novelty songs as "Sink the Bismarck" and "North to Alaska." The songs included here should strike a chord: the opening track, Horton's classic "Honky Tonk Man," was covered by Dwight Yoakam on his debut album. Horton clearly knew a thing or two about the honky-tonk life; he was married to Hank Williams' widow, Billie Jean. Kick up your boot heels on this gem.

--G.C.

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From the April 21-27, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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