Thursday, November 5, 2009

My first tirades and comments!

Hello folks: I am curious if anyone will find or read this - so let me know if this might be of some amusement or interest to anyone!

Recently I heard three local Bay Area bands at the new and super modern Freight & Salvage here in Berkeley:

First was the huge Western styled swing band: Lost Week End - with 3 horns, lead guitar, steel guitar, 2 fiddles, singer and rhythm guitarist Don Burnham, piano, bass, and drums! They were very tight and played good dance music and at times as many as a dozen couples were having fun on the dance floor which is a real asset for the New Freight! It was a fine program and the music was very good - my only complaint is that due to the size of the band very few of the excellent musicians really get a chance to solo at length and really get hot - especially I would have loved to hear much more from the 2 fiddlers!

On another night at the Freight & Salvage I heard two very different bands on the same bill - Devine's Jug Band opened and did a nice job with some old time jug and novelty tunes from the late 20s with the jug player, Pete Devine, and the wonderful hot and amazing fiddler, Mayumi Urgino, being the outstanding players to my ears. They are especially strong on the fast and hot instrumentals. In the case of this band I felt their CD on the Porto Franco label is actually better than their live performance. The second band was the California Honeydrops who put on a killer live performance featuring leader, vocalist, guitarist, & trumpeter , Lech Wierzynski - who offers an unusually broad spectrum of superb rhythmic music from contemporary New Orleans sounds to Blues, to almost country type songs done with just Lech on guitar acc. by his tub bass player and the drummer playing washboard - to what delighted my ears perhaps the most, a wonderful version of the "Weary Blues" (also known as "Shake It and Break It") done in really rough, old New Orleans style with of course Lech on tumpet dishing it out a la Kid Shots Madison and his soprano sax player sounding like Sidney Bechet - with the entire rhythm section of piano, tub bass, and drums falling being in total synch in real old time black NO style! They also did a fine version of "Junko Partner" - anyway pure delight from start to finish. The band under Lech is unbelievably tight musically but their personal interplay is delightfully casual and informal - just the perfect mixture in these days of super egos on stage or boring singer song writers! However their CD I felt was disappointing - it lacked the drive and power of their live show - I hope they can appear again at the Freight and make a live recording - Arhoolie would love to issue it!

I made the mistake to catch James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin at the Hebst Theatre in SF - part of the SF Jazz Fest. This nice concert hall is simply not the place for an electric bass player to drown out the entire proceedings with his constant overly loud drone and rumble - it was atrocious!

If you are interested in what is happening in Mexico I would strongly urge you to check out on YouTube: Los Tigres del Norte and their latest hit "La Granja" - it is a most remarkable protest song but written by Mexico's # 1 composer who is illiterate but has the uncanny ability to come up with a corrido in this case - which can be interpreted many ways - but basically as far as I can detemine, accuses the Narco trafficers, the Mexican government, and the US and it's Berlin style Wall, for ruining not only Mexico's farmers but the entire country. You will also see on that YouTube site a remarkably informed Mexican comentator wearing a black mask who gives his interpretations of that corrido as well as of many other corridos by Los Tigres Del Norte - and the blogs are amazing! Viva Los Tigres - the voice of the underclass!

That's it for right now - let's talk up some of the best we have heard or seen!

While I have your attention: The Down Home Music Store, like all record shops is going through tough times and they are in the process of letting folks know what's available from them - so check out the Down Home Music Store on EBay - they are auctioning LPs etc - including many of the Mexican LPs I am selling. I will also auction off many of my 45s of Blues and Cajun Music via the DH E-Bay site! Check it out - I will not have the time to do this on my own and hope it will help Down Home survive.

The Savoy Family Cajun Band - Marc, Ann, Wilson, & Joel - are coming to the Bay Area! One night only in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall - Friday November 27th - right after Turkey Day - get on your dancing shoes - direct from Louisiana - a rare treat with this authentic family band - with meistro Marc on accordion, wife Ann on vocals and powerhouse rhtyhm guitar, Joel on fiddle and Wilson on hot piano, accordion, fiddle and real Cajun yells!! You never know what interesting combinations will appear - all four also play fiddle - maybe a 4 fiddle tune? Or accordion duets? Jerry Lee Lewis style piano romps - Wilson is guaranteed to rock the joint!

Cheers from Chris Strachwitz


  1. Glad to see you started a blog Chris! looking forward to future posts! well done.

  2. Thanks, Chris. Good work, as always. One suggestion: perhaps you could provide links, for instance to the Los Tigres Youtube page and to the Down home ebay store.


  3. Los Tigres:

  4. Hi Chris

    Wondering who you are identifying as Mexico's #1 composer? Teodoro Bello maybe? Check out Espinoza Paz--songwriter and recording artist too. He is writing diverse material and hit after hit for a whole range of artists.


  5. Great to see you've started a blog!

    Looking forward to being informed --
    and having my ears opened even further --
    by you.

  6. This is great, Chris! And, I agree with Jim's comment about adding links to Down Home Music, etc. I think you should even have permanent links to Arhoolie & Down Home in your "About Me" section, or put permanent ads for them on this blog. Makes it easy for people to click over when they want to buy or find out anything.

  7. Nice Blog, great label, nice to hear from you, and read your astute comments. Bass overload - I saw Gogol Bordello 3 times in Vermont here, and the third time (club named Higher Ground) the same thing you talked about happened with the bass. A real shame. Does someone like it that way, or do they just not check? Or care?

  8. Well, Chris, if nothing else, you have come up with at least one real doozy of a run-on sentence in your first post! heh heh. On a sad note, the great Savoy Family Cajun Band is making two appearances in Ohio this weekend, I think, and I will miss both ot them, due to other activities! I also saw James Cotton this summer, and it was outside and pretty good.

  9. I think I recall being told Los Tigres came from Santa Clara County - now, of course, they belong to every West Coast town where you can get a plate of chilaquiles.

  10. Hello Chris,

    Great to see you blogging--really enjoyed reading it! I love the new Freight, looking forward to leading a Cajun jam for their community open house in a couple weeks. Yes, do add links and keep those posts coming.

  11. Agree that Weekend has such hot players lengthier soloing is in order. Also agree with your description of the Honeydrops. Had a sitdown with Lech in front of the French Hotel. He is a rhythm dog with a wondrous crowd pleaser instinct. They make me go out. Haven't been to the new Freight yet--usually prefer other venues--only go when I must to support a friend. Dancing that is good--I won't be able to call it the wax museum anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. hey Chris--love your blog !--keep it up--will put a link to your blog on my bog...

  13. It's about time, boss! We need your wisdom.

  14. The economy is beginning to close the space between all of us by way of the technoshpere. I am pleased to be guided to this blog and look forward to visiting often. Thank you for your work and contributions to the community. Paul Kealoha

  15. Hi, Chris, Haley alerted your FB friends and fans about your blog... great news! I've posted on my Facebook page how people can help the DownHome records folks via EBay buys... we need all the great indie labels we can get, so I hope my FB page, radio show and blogposts can assist you in your quest to assist them ...
    You're the best!
    Clair DeLune

  16. Hello Chris. I have never been able to decide if Arhoolie or Trojan is the best record label ever. I think your blog may have just tipped the balance. Now I will have FOUR different websites that I actually look at; eBay,, and your blog. Thanks for making my life 33% more interesting.

  17. Great source of information! I really enjoyed following all the links on your blog, Chris, especially appreciated the Los Togres del Norte clip. Interesting too to follow what is happening in the Bay Area, removed by light years and deprived of good music,as we are, up here in the unpopulated, rural hinterlands on the Idaho/Oregon border

  18. Chris=Content.
    That's the stuff!Keep on.
    And for those of you who need more Savoy Family Cajun Band, we are bringing them here to Sacramento on Saturday, Nov. 28.
    Very cool place, Beatnik Studios with dance floor and seats--intimate--220+.
    Details @
    Cheers, Mindy/Swell Productions

  19. Hey, Chris,
    This is a fantastic idea!!! I love that you're doing a blog!!! Can't wait to see what you come up with next.

    Sandy Miranda

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  21. Chris,
    I always enjoy listening to your interview of Willie Mae Thornton from the '60s. I would like it if you wrote more about your experiences with her in a blog entry, if you get inspired to do so. I saw you at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in 2008 introducing a Mexican-American band, and as much as I wanted to walk up to you and thank you for the time you spend recording her music, I never got the chance. I figure this blog is a comparable way of thanking you.