Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Alex Richards Band, Greg Wiggins and Alturas @ Neurolux; Whitaker and Oliver @ the High Note Cafe (12/7/12)

At least a couple of people have asked me recently, "Have you seen the Alex Richards Band?"  Considering the people who were asking, I figured that I should make some time to do so.  I'd made plans to check this group out a couple of times before, but they fell through for some reason or another.  When this last Friday rolled around, however, everything finally aligned.

There were only about twenty-five people at Neurolux when I arrived.  A few more folks trickled in, but I still wondered for a while what the hell this town was coming to ("The Lux can't even attract thirty reprobates on a Friday night?  WTF?").  Then I remembered that John Waters was at the Knitting Factory this same night.  That's a perfectly acceptable reason, but it's still kinda too bad that there weren't more people here.

Local blues group Alturas opened up the night.  I didn't know how this group was going to turn out when I saw their washboard player and bongo player setting up.  Thankfully, my fears were alleviated when I heard their slinky grooves, sly harmonica, elegant guitar solos (courtesy of Alex Richards) and pleasantly rough vocals.  Their originals sounded good, but their taste in covers was superb: Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning," Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere."

Up next was local musician Greg Wiggins.  I can't tell you how many times I've had a beer with this guy at Neurolux over the years.  He emailed me a few of his songs a while back, and it made me smile to hear him play them live.  The man looked and sounded pretty awkward--he told me later he got asked to do this at the last minute--but his raunchy humor made up for it.  With his gruff vocals, crude guitar and songs like "Steady Loving Man" ("We can't work no more?  Well, that's all right with me./ Roll around in bed collecting disability.") and "Kiss My Country Ass," he came across as one part Lightnin' Hopkins and one part Blowfly.  He told one groan-worthy joke about the Japanese holding "erections" in November, but that's just par for the course with Greg.  Besides, his growling cover of Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" made up for that.

The Alex Richards Band closed out the show at Neurolux.  It makes me happy when my friends don't steer me wrong with their recommendations.  This group's catchy tunes, surging basslines, fluid drumwork and jangly riffs made me think a little of the Old 97's.  Alex Richards had a strong belt-and-drawl on him, and his guitar shot off more than its share of fireworks.  The modest crowd got some good whooping and hollering going.  That made me happy too.

After the Neurolux show, I stopped by the High Note Cafe for some food and got to hear part of a set by local folk duo Whitaker and Oliver.  I swear, sometimes I feel as if I can't fall on my face without coming across good music.  Mary Beth Whitaker's warm, tender vocals called to mind Sandy Denny, and she found able support in Scot Oliver's sharp guitar and low, thoughtful harmonies.  They played some solid original songs, and while a LOT of people have done "Hallelujah," how often are you gonna hear a Michelle Shocked cover?  A fine coda to my evening.

You can find info about some of these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Whitaker and Oliver are set to play the High Note Cafe again on January 4th.  If you get the chance, stop by and give them a listen.

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