Hey, Jewel: Please Call!

Some years ago, Steve Poltz called my answering machine and left a message wherein he was finger-banging some moaning young babe with admirable gusto. "Does that feel nice?" he asked her.

"Ooohh, OOOOHHH! Play with my sugar pot," this particular moaning young babe cooed back. All this amidst squishy-squishy noises that told me the woman in question was indeed enjoying herself quite a bit.

When I next spoke with him and inquired as to the identity of the handjob beneficiary, Poltz asserted that it was one JEWEL KILCHER. The name meant nothing, this being years before Jewel had saved anyone's soul or become an angel, everyday or otherwise. At the time, our towheaded, yodeling lass with the fetching, Grammy-exposed nipples was a struggling singer/songwriter who held down a waitressing job at a San Diego-area coffeehouse.

Everyone has their embarrassing famous-person stories—there's one of mine. I have just earned untold hordes of new enemies by recounting this sordid little tale for you, dear readers. I sacrifice myself at the altar of your deviate gossip jones. Disclaimer: I have no proof this was indeed Jewel. Maybe Steve was lying. Maybe it was a Jewel impostor. Perhaps he asked her to moan exquisitely, seductively, ever-so-sweetly into my answering machine and she did so because she was perhaps also an aspiring actor. Assuming it was Jewel. Which maybe it wasn't. Please don't sue me, Jewel. You once thought enough of me to moan into my answering machine, remember?

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Unlike seemingly everyone in San Diego, I neither revere nor repudiate Jewel. Mention her name to the locals, and they'll either go off into flights of worship worthy of the bodhisattva or hateful, small-minded professional jealous fits because Jewel made it as big as it gets while they continue to live in roach-infested shitholes with cross, B.O.-afflicted spouses who would never be good enough sports to moan seductively into anyone's answering machine.

There seems no middle ground when it comes to Divine Lady Jewel. Personally, I think she's a damn fine singer/songwriter as far as that stuff goes but certainly not the figure of holy inspiration she's made out to be by her most ardent supporters. Her voice is a versatile, soulful instrument, at once girlish and coquettish, but muscular enough to perform admirable stunts of falsetto and melisma. No one can deny that her songs are catchy and burn themselves into your consciousness. Her prose, though . . . Well, let's put it this way: when Jewel's poetry book was released, I picked it up and browsed through it at Borders—and I wound up belly-laughing loudly enough that people stared as if I were quite insane. Her messiah-complex pose makes my flesh crawl, even as it elicits involuntary sniggers.

For all that, I'll always have a warm place in my heart (and lap) for Jewel, who plays at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on Sunday night. She means well. She's talented. She's a fine-lookin' little morsel of flesh, and once upon a time, she squealed and moaned delightfully into my answering machine. Assuming that really was Jewel. Which maybe it wasn't. So don't sue me.

A good week for locals: Huntington-based JAMES HARMAN plays on Friday at Hogue Barmichael's. A world-class talent by anyone's standards, Harman is a 'Bama-born-'n'-raised singer/songwriter/ harp master who can, by turns, drag his blues through swamp mud with the best of 'em or wax as urbane and sophisticated as Big Joe Turner or Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. A titan of West Coast blues, Harman's dance-happy music swings like a bitch without sacrificing anything in the grit or authenticity departments.

Also on Friday, DEL NOAH & HIS MT. ARARAT FINKS burn rubber at the Foothill. Equal parts hot-rod music, punk rock, surf vibe and greasy sax squeezin's, the Long Beach-based band wallows in enough different retro pop-culture obsessions to be fodder for a dozen disparate fanzines, and they do it all with a sense of humor that throws it over the top rope like an airborne wrassler on the receiving end of a flying clothesline. Prepare for a good time.

Tuesday night, one of the area's most misunderstood and underappreciated bands appears at Linda's Doll Hut. DYNAMO HUM's new CD, Fallopian, underscores the group's myriad strengths—a lyrical feel for the theatrical, seemingly inspired by Alice Cooper; a sense of personal outrage la Romeo Void and Marianne Faithful; a hypnotic, hallucinogenic drone derived from the Doors and X; an ultrasexy, charismatic front person in Jen Hung; plus all-around musical excellence on a level almost unheard of in contemporary rawk music.

So why is it that so many people I talk to hate this group? Lack of trendiness? Balding, paunchy band members who proudly admit to being nerds? The very idea that rock needn't be played prestissimo to be effective? Whatever, dood. . . . I'll quote Kris Kristofferson and say, "You're the only one that you are screwin' when you put down what you don't understand" to those who dis the Hummers. It's clear to anyone who reads this column regularly that I'm a roots-music guy, not a rock guy. Dynamo Hum isn't a roots band, but I honestly believe that on the level of inspired creativity, this may be the single best unsigned group OC has to offer.

Don't laugh, motherfuckers: I also love DONOVAN, who plays the Coach House on Sunday night. Dig this litany of essential folk-rock hits:"Universal Soldier," "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine Superman," "Wear Your Love Like Heaven," "Catch the Wind," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," "There Is a Mountain," "Season of the Witch," "Jennifer Juniper," "Lalena," "Atlantis"—few can boast a string of singles so successful, so melodic. This guy's songs are pure and lovely, and Donovan exudes an enlightened sincerity that might seem clichd but actually personifies the gentle spirit of the '60s without any of the bullshit excess. I saw him during his last go-round at the Coach House and was astonished to find that the old guy can also pick an acoustic guitar like no one's business, and his new songs stand up real well next to the old hits. This is much more than an oldies act; check him out and you won't be sorry.

Oh—and Jewel? If you wanna try calling me again and leaving your phone number, I promise I'll call you back.

Jewel performs with Steve Poltz at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-6111. Sun., 8 p.m. $30-$40; James Harman plays Hogue Barmichael's, 3950 Campus Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 261-6270. Fri., 8 p.m. $10. 21+; Del Noah & His Mt. Ararat Finks perform at the Foothill, 1922 Cherry Ave., Signal Hill, (562) 494-5196. Fri., 9 p.m. $7. 18+; Dynamo Hum play Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams, Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Tues., 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+; Donovan performs at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Sun., 8 p.m. $25.

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