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Homegrown

[whitespace] Megan McElroy
James Michin III

Mother nature's child: Megan McElroy

Local artists showcased on new CDs

Megan McElroy
Buzz (Leave My ReMark Music)

MEGAN MCELROY'S music--playful, literate, delightfully inventive jazz-folk-blues songs of womyn-centered politics and lesbian love--are quite intentionally "not for everybody." Not that the Santa Rosan is short of fans; McElroy's electrifying, anything-goes live shows have won her a vast and loyal following throughout the county and beyond. Now the raw exhibitionist exuberance of those performances has been captured in McElroy's first studio CD. Produced by women's music pioneer June Millington, Buzz nicely showcases McElroy's powerful guitar playing and her trademark scale-defying vocals. Especially good are the heart-stoppingly erotic "Sticky Fingers" and the tongue-tangling delight of "Court Jester".
David Templeton


Ruminators
Wild West (Jackalope Records)

Rachel Tree
Water of Life (RT Productions)

AS THEIR NAME IMPLIES, the six-year span since their first CD release has given the Ruminators plenty of time to ponder the songs that make up this fine album. Unhurried and acoustic-based, the superb production by leader Greg Scherer, Doug Jayne, and Jeff Martin (of Joanne Rand's Little Band) allows Scherer's compositions to gently move the pure air on which they seem to float. Jennifer Goudeau shares vocals with Scherer, with instrumental assistance from Spiral Bound's Terry Ann Gillette, former Hijinks' Chip Dunbar and Ted Dutcher, Jim Hurley, and Rob Stinnett, among the collaborators. With Celtic roots planted firmly in American soil, their genuine sound reflects the cross-pollination of the contemporary folk-music scene, from countrified to Parisian cafe jazz. Meanwhile, singer Rachel Tree makes her debut with the Little Big Band rhythm section. Her earnest, wide-eyed vocals and organic songs pitch her in the New Sincerity camp of artists. Zero guitarist Steve Kimock and Terry Keady lend their talents on a couple of cuts to ensure all is solid on the musical front.
Terry Hansen


James K
A Giggle Can Wiggle Its Way Through a Wall (Rivertown)

Jim O'Grady
We Gotta Start Summer! (College Street)

A GIGGLE CAN WIGGLE ... is a strong debut from Petaluma children's music performer James K, a talented singer-songwriter working in the vein of Peter Alsop and Tim Cain, and offering powerful self-esteeming messages in a playful setting. These mostly original folk-oriented songs--melodically catchy enough for preschoolers and kindergartners, and lyrically sophisticated enough for kids up to sixth grade--have struck a chord in young hearts among local schoolchildren. Kid tested, kid approved. Meanwhile, local kiddie music star Jim O'Grady has released his third CD, a collection of hummable pop songs that touch on favorite children's themes, including "I'm Not Made for Homework" and the timely "Summertime Is the Best."
Greg Cahill


Vince Welnick
Vince Welnick & Missing Man Formation (Grateful Dead Records/Arista)

SONOMA COUNTY resident Vince Welnick, Grateful Dead keyboardist from 1990 to 1995, came close to becoming missing-in-action, sinking into a deep depression after the death of guitarist Jerry Garcia from which he thought he might never emerge. Enter Zero guitarist Steve Kimock (recently recruited by Dead members Weir, Lesh, and Hart into the Other Ones), who beckoned Welnick to Kene Eberhard's Studio E in Sebastopol, where he was joined by bassist Bobby Vega and ex-Tubes drummer Prairie Prince in the original version of MMF. They launched into a series of live studio shows that are the genesis of this CD, with overdubs added later by a new version of the band. Some murkiness occurs from this process, but the CD benefits from Welnick's charged vocals and accomplished ensemble performances.
T.H.


Rhythmtown Jive
On The Main Stem (Globe Records)

WITH FORMER Lost Planet Airman, bassist, and bandleader Tim Esch-liman calling Petaluma home, this veteran Bay Area band has been appearing with increasing frequency at local venues. Their seasoned brew of R&B has seen two previous releases, but it's this album that will hoist their recognition factor, with the effervescent presence of Chuck Berry's piano-man Johnnie Johnson on seven of the 12 cuts. Still, it's very much the Jive's show as Johnson blends seamlessly on original tunes (three by Johnson himself) and well-chosen covers, running the gamut from jump and boogie to straight-ahead blues.
T.H.


The Bill Horvitz Band
Dust Devil (Music & Arts)

SEBASTOPOL JAZZ GUITARIST Bill Horvitz, saxophonist and flautist Steve Adams (probably best known for his work with the critically acclaimed ROVA Saxophone Quartet), and drummer Joseph Sabella create rhythmically edgy improvisations that range from the multilayered opening track "Busy Mind" to the free-metal composition "Tic." Horvitz's fret work-- frequently built around short, moody bass lines--is reminiscent of the late avant-jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock. This adventurous ensemble is well versed in the groundbreaking modern jazz of John Zorn, Arto Linsey, and other fusionists. Horvitz shows a lot of maturity as a bandleader by creating a framework in which Adams can really stretch out.
Greg Cahill


Various Artists
That Mean Ol' El Niño (Blue Jake Music)

A SINGLE-SONG CD that benefits the victims of the recent Rio Nido mud slide disaster, this rockin' little tune boasts a landslide of local musicians and recording specialists in a total charity production. Doug Offenbacher penned the lyrics, piano-man Stu Blank composed the music, sang, and produced. this CD epitomizes Sonoma County's cooperative musical spirit.
T.H.

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From the June 18-24, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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