The Birth of Surf
It's gonna be a good week—a fine week, in fact—starting Friday night, when DICK DALE does dirty deeds at the Coach House. Shred-puppy Dale is the guy who pretty much single-handedly created instrumental guitar-surf music, of course, and he ain't gonna let anyone forget that fact for even a second (check out his Web site—www.dickdale.com—and you'll walk away wondering why Dale's such a Dick). Local legends abound in musician circles of this guy's buttheadedness, but you can't deny Dale the credit he's so adamant about getting.
Surf guitar pretty much begins and ends at Dale's hung 10, and few guitar instrumentals have ever burned with the same fervor as "Let's Go Trippin'," "A Run For Life," and the fully badass "Misirlou" (which was based on a Greek pop song!). The genesis of the style came about when Little Dick watched his Lebanese daddy work over the oud, a Middle Eastern guitar-like instrument. He transposed the furious picking and frenzied fretting of oud playing to the guitar, and a whole new sound was born. Zillions of OC bands have picked up the torch ever since, making this area the worldwide hotbed of surf music—which really beats the crap out of our notoriety for unleashing bad third-wave ska and punk on a hapless world, when you think about it. In the hands of nawsty little towheaded hodads wielding shiny new shortboards and musty old Fender guitars, Dale's legacy will outlive him long after he's gone (insert tasteless Buddy Rich joke here).
Also on Friday night, LAZY LESTER puts in an ultrarare local appearance at the Blue Cafe with TEDDY MORGAN's band. Most folks are probably unfamiliar with the work of the swamp-blues singer/harp player/sometime guitarist, but Lester's status as a second-tier bluesman of little note is due more to the fact that he didn't play for 20 years than to a lack of da goods. The Loozyanna bo-un native laid down some of the most hypnotic, sensuous sides ever released on celebrated Excello Records back in the late '50s and early '60s (where his labelmates included Slim Harpo and Lightnin' Slim), and some of the most energetic as well—indolent nickname aside. "I Hear You Knockin'," "Sugar Coated Love" and "I'm a Lover not a Fighter" (a minihit for the Kinks later on) were some of his better-known singles, all featuring Lester's rich, Sonny Boy Williamson-influenced harp work, slightly off-pitch but commanding vocal style, and pre-industrial-music use of clanky percussion (Lester loved to bang on whatever was lying around the studio and mix it into records).
Born Leslie Johnson, he retired from music in 1966 to work 9-to-5 day jobs, but was coaxed back into action by worshipful British fans in '87. The UK release Lazy Lester Rides Again won him a Handy Award (the blues Grammy) that year, and a stateside follow-up for Alligator Records, Harp & Soul, received great notices in '88. Lester didn't release another album until late last year with All Over You on Antone's Records. His vocals are maybe a little more "pitchy" than they used to be, but at age 65, his stamina and harp mastery remain in full power. The album also showcases Lester as an effective country-blues guitarist in the vein of Lightnin' Hopkins. The bony, slightly Mephistophelean-looking bluesman radiates a compelling intensity onstage, and students of the blues owe it to themselves to check out this most intriguing old soldier.
Sick to death of that insufferable, grunting, pretty-boy, Hanson-looking, Blues Brothers 2000-being-in little fuckweed Johnny Lang and all the hype he gets about being the future of the blues? Hop on another, shinier bandwagon with DEREK TRUCKS, who at 18 is just as young and purty as Lang and, as a bonus, whups Lang's criminally overrated, pea-green boo-tay as a musician. Trucks, the son of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, grew up watching axe-kicking guys like Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes strut their stuff, so he had some pretty heavyweight role models. His debut album, Out of the Madness, was released last October, and if you didn't know it, you'd never in a million years guess this was a teenage boychil' picking that guitar like a full-grown lover's M-A-N. Playing with a maturity way beyond his tender years, Trucks blows out everything from Allman-like slide guitar blues workouts to raunch-o-rific rockers to Mahavishnu-esque jazz extrapolations, with equal measures of cool assurance and raw ingenuity. The kid's a killer diller; smell the glory Sunday night, as Trucks opens for JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUESBREAKERS at the Coach House.
WAYNE "THE TRAIN" HANCOCK, playing the Doll Hut a week from tonight, is aces in my book. A superbly gifted (if derivative) singer/songwriter in the hillbilly tradition (as opposed to polite, mainstream country), Hancock has been a vociferous foe of the countrypolitan, corporate mentality that has dominated Nashville for decades like some creeping evil out of a paranoid sci-fi flick. The diminutive Austinite compensates for his lack of height with a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder that brings a whole new meaning to Little Jimmy Dickens' classic 'tude anthem, "I'm Little but I'm Loud." Hancock is a dedicated disciple of Hank Williams, in particular, for both his maverick attitude and his hardcore honky-tonk sound. In fact, Hancock's piercing vocal style so eerily resembles Williams' that if you close your eyes when hearing Hancock in concert, it's as if Williams' spook is haunting the room. Add to this a drummerless backing group, accompaniment from some of Austin's hottest sidemen (including the magnificent guitarist Paul Skelton), and a nasal, train-whistle yodel that would do Jimmie Rodgers proud, and Hancock seems like he stepped off some vintage Grand Ole Opry time machine to remind the world that country music was once among America's grandest cultural treasures. Dick Dale plays the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Fri., 8 p.m. $17.50; Lazy Lester performs at the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Fri., 9:30 p.m. $8; The Derek Trucks Band performs with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, at the Coach House. Sun., 8 p.m., $18.50; Wayne "The Train" Hancock plays Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams, Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Thurs., June 3, 7 p.m. $7.
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