G'bye, Merrill

Mouring the loss of a rockabilly pioneer

A couple of years ago, I would have sworn that local bands Barrelhouse and Soul Candy were on the verge of igniting a soul-music revolution in then-ska-obsessed OC. That never happened, but members of the groups have joined forces to form SATIVA BRAND, which headlines Linda's Doll Hut Friday night. Barrelhouse singer/guitarist Harlis Sweetwater and drummer Joey Ianello are joined by ex-Soul Candy bassist Mike Presley and OC reggae group Crazy Wizdom's former singer, Zhanine Luttrell, to create a rock/ soul group that's less rootsy than the mother bands but has vast potential to continue their respective legacies. Slashing guitar licks and tight, funky-butt rhythm work combine with Luttrell's passionately beefy singing to weave a sound that recalls the James Gang, Etta James and the Clash doing reggae, all at once, over the course of their four-song demo. As I said, the potential is vast, but I have to bitch about something anyway: Why isn't Sweetwater singing, too? Luttrell is an excellent vocalist, but Sweetwater is world-class, and the group would be well-served by letting both crooners strut their stuff. Ever heard of a vocal duet? Get to work, ya slackers!

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL AND KATHY MATTEA AT THE SUN THEATRE, 2200 E. KATELLA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 712-2700. FRI., 8 P.M. $29.50-$38.50; SATIVA BRAND AT LINDA'S DOLL HUT, 107 S. ADAMS, ANAHEIM, (714) 533-1286. FRI., 9 P.M. $6. 21+.

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