North Idaho might have a reputation as a bastion of all things white, conservative and close-minded. Yet when Laura Love showed up for her gig as part of the Festival at Sandpoint last August, the crowd went nuts for the dreadlocked African-American woman who danced like a dervish while singing songs about her butt and getting busted for growing pot.
"It was great," laughs Love from her home in Seattle. "We call the Festival at Sandpoint our show at the Grand Old Osprey."
Love returns to the Inland Northwest on Friday with a show at The Met. Although she hasn't been in Spokane for years (her debut was at ArtFest in 1993), she's looking forward to coming back.
"It's very last minute, but we really wanted to do this show," she says. "When they called and asked us, I thought, man we haven't been there in years and I really wanted to go there. We had such a great time the last time we were through."
Love is still touring in support of Fourteen Days, the album she released last spring. Her sound, which she calls 'Afro-Celtic', is as influenced by electric guitar funk as it is by Appalachian folk, and lends itself well to her blithely confessional material. While audiences who attended the show in Sandpoint will recall songs like "In Seattle" and the title track "Fourteen Days," one thing about this show at The Met will be different.
"I'm doing a duo show with Jenn Todd," Love says. "I don't go out solo, it really stresses me out to play without the band. They're my comfort zone. But Jenn and I just did four shows on Patty Larkin's tour and it was a blast. I think we've got the bugs worked out."
On tour, musicians often find that certain songs resonate more with the audience than others. Case in point, "Sometimes Davey Wins," in which Love wears her political heart on her sleeve. The true story of how the residents of Eureka, Calif., successfully lobbied for a city park to be built at a site zoned for a new Wal-Mart store is one of Love's favorites.
"The thing that really bugs me about Wal-Mart is what it does to a community. The whole thing where they can outlast anyone with their underpricing, how they do everything they can to annihilate the competition, which are these great little mom-and-pop stores with a lot of individuality, is just wrong to me," she says. "Driving across the United States it makes me sick to see what a homogenous environment it's become. It's like one big Starbucks or Red Robin. We need some of these big corporations to put their pricing to work for the common good and to enhance that community."
Love is already hard at work on her next project, a book generated from her wide-ranging life experiences.
"This last winter I had a chance to have a few moments of quiet reflection, and it gave me a chance to think about what it would be like to publish a book about growing up a 'po black child in Nebraska.'" And I'm writing the CD to go along with it, You Ain't Got No Easter Clothes."
While performing in Florida, Love met bluegrass great Tim O'Brien, who will help her produce the next record, as well as taking a turn at the mike himself.
"After talking with him for a while, I said 'you are one funky Caucasian,'" she laughs. "He's one of my big bluegrass heroes -- a musician and a man of his word. I just want to sing with him and stand next to his fire."
Laura Love performs at The Met on Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15; $12 seniors and students. Call: 325-SEAT.
The Jazz is back in town
Ever since the demise of Hobart's just over a year ago, the jazz faithful in Spokane have been looking for another venue to settle into. Now, thanks to the efforts of local musicians and tireless jazz boosters, Jim Templeton and Gary Edighoffer, a new performance hall has been secured. Starting with a grand kick off show on April 6, the Neville Auditorium (located behind Miracles Books and Gifts near the corner of Mission and Argonne) will host live jazz every other Friday night. On tap this week is the Jim Templeton Quartet featuring vocalist Cheryl Hodge, Noel Waters on bass, Tom Schager on drums and Edighoffer on sax.
OK, so the location -- inside a strip mall, next to a Rite Aid and behind a bookstore -- seems a bit unlikely. But what the heck. After all, just like your mom used to say, it's what's on the inside that counts.
"You go through the bookstore to the back and here's this big room that you never imagined was there with a stage and a grand piano," says Templeton who has officially accepted the mantle of "Jazz Club Operator" from Edighoffer (the driving force behind many a local jazz venue including Hobart's). "The interior has been all re-designed. It's really beautiful inside."
The club will be open to all ages. Young people and students will appreciate the non-smoking, casual atmosphere. But the drinking crowd will be catered to as well, as beer and wine will also be available. And there's no denying the quality of the top shelf acts scheduled to perform here in the coming months including the Arnie Carruthers Trio, Kenny Harkin and Edighoffer's popular salsa combo, Desafinado. Templeton expects to expand this modestly ambitious performance schedule very soon.
"We've got six dates chosen right now. We're going to break for the summer and then hopefully in the fall; it will have been successful enough that we will do it every Friday and possibly Saturday."
Though optimistic about the future success of jazz at the Neville, Templeton is familiar with the hurdles the Edighoffer faced in clubland.
"Gary has been a promoter of music in this town for 20 years now," he says. "And he was just burned out. We've been friends for years and so I said, 'Well, I'll do it'. It's a thankless task. We're counting on the musicians and we've got volunteers from the center to help us with setup and take down and cleaning. I think it's going to succeed in big style. People have been waiting for something like this. Now I guess we'll see if they'll put their money where their mouth is." -- Mike Corrigan
The Jim Templeton Quintet featuring vocalist Cheryl Hodge will perform at the Neville Auditorium on Friday, April 6 from 8-12 p.m. Tickets: $10; $7, for students. Call: 891-0745.
Showcasing the scene
Spokane's coffeehouse scene has been slowly percolating for years. It's tucked away in cozy, sometimes out-of-the-way hangs. It's not flashy or aggressive and therefore gets frequently lost in the spotlight glare and electric drone of more confrontational music. Most coffeehouse performers rely on minimal, often acoustic, instrumentation and the simple, sublime quality of the human voice to invoke mood. The music is generally not intrusive, complementing conversation rather than overpowering it. The musician can be a focal point of interest or fade into the decor, becoming almost invisible.
This Saturday night, seven of Spokane's top coffeehouse acts will come creeping out of their Java dens, bringing their eclectic sounds to The Met -- and to a much wider audience. Coffeehouse Creatures is the brainchild of Michael Millham of the acoustic guitar and vocal duo Sidhe.
"This is something that I've been wanting to do for some time now," says Millham. "We actually have a great acoustic music scene and I don't know if a lot of people are aware of it."
Millham and his wife Kelly have been gracing the scene for years with their beautiful mix of folk, classical, world and Celtic sounds. But as Millham is quick to point out, the show would not have been possible without a pool of obliging local talent.
"The scene is already in existence. I was just tapping in to what was already there. I'm not the creator. I'm just the channel through which it flows."
Then he laughs, "That sounds like something Alanis Morissette would say."
In addition to performances by coffeehouse regulars -- Sidhe, Tiana Gregg, LaRae Wiley, Don Kush, Paul Brasch, Calliope's Burden and Sam & amp; Bob -- treats, beverages (ahhh yes, coffee), prizes and info will be supplied by the sponsoring venues including The Shop, Quinn's, Hastings and the Rocket.
"The whole idea is to say to Spokane, here are the venues and here are the artists. It's like a sampler, a bite of Spokane music. People that don't normally get into some of these underground art scenes are going to find good music and good coffee, too."
The performance will be recorded by Robert Hartwig of the Shop with the possibility of a live CD of the show being made available for sale at a later date.
"We'll see how many tracks we get," says Millham. "If we get enough from enough of the artists, The Shop will do what The Shop always does and put out a compilation disc. If it doesn't happen, that's OK. There's always next year." -- Mike Corrigan
Coffeehouse Creatures featuring the music of Sidhe, LaRae Wiley, Tianna Gregg, Don Kush, Paul Brasch, Calliope's Burden and Sam & amp; Bob will be at The Met on Saturday, April 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10.00. Call: 325-SEAT.