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She Has Quartet Sound and Takes Requests Too

Whatever the style, whatever the venue, Teresa Russell has the music thing figured out.


Teresa Russell plays enough in a week to tire out a couple of bands. In fact, this weekend when she's standing in the corner of the Shores Restaurant in Oxnard shredding on one of her many guitars, all those reflections in the mirrors behind her give the appearance of a quartet.

And because it's the '90s and she has the programming technology, she actually sounds like a quartet. But as a one-person quartet, there's no question how Russell will split the loot at the end of a night's work.

The Shores is a neighborhood eatery / bar with music on the bar side along with a popcorn machine, two TVs with the sound off, a big dead fish on the wall behind the bartender and lots of people who know each other. And Russell does indeed take requests.

"It's the best music you can hear in Ventura County," said one of Russell's fans.

From rockin' blues songs to torch songs to a raging rendition of "Rocky Top, Tennessee" (complete with yodeling), and even a showoff classical tune, Russell has the music thing figured out, whatever the style. She even plays hits such as "Black Velvet," the Alannah Myles biggie that has become a staple in strip joints.

"My mom and her sister were really into music, and I just grew up playing together with them," said the guitarist during a break at a recent Shores gig. "When I was 10 or 11, I learned Jimi Hendrix songs, a lot of Eric Clapton Cream stuff and just a lot of pop music. I've been playing clubs, restaurants and bars since I was 11 years old."

She grew up in Westlake Village, and at 12, while her cohorts were out perhaps trolling in the mall, Russell was playing at Gazzari's on the Sunset Strip in an all-girl band called Spare Change. She then spent six months playing in Mexico City (her mom went, too) in another all-girl band called Candy. Later Russell earned a music scholarship to Cal State Northridge, then toured extensively with Helen Reddy, among others.

These days, the thirtysomething Russell has pretty much seen it all. She has played solo or with bands in practically every club in the county, including the Lobster Trap in Oxnard where she's been gainfully employed for the last 15 years.

"As far as local club gigs, that's definitely changed," she said. "Not as many people go out as there used to be--maybe it's funds, DUIs, I dunno; but it's forced me into doing the single thing. But I make a comfortable living. Blues, right now, seems to be my forte. Country music seems to be hot, but blues seems to be happening a lot more."


This, then, is a typical week for Russell. Between the two Shores gigs, she'll play a day gig at Fisherman's Wharf in Channel Islands Harbor on Saturday. Next, it's Sunday and Tuesday at the Lobster Trap. She plays about four or five times per week, and often several times in a day.

She's never had a day job--guess she has to sleep sometime. Mostly Russell plays solo, but sometimes she has a band, sometimes her mom, and a few times a month--such as Wednesday--she shreds on guitar for those rockin' Realtors in the zydeco-blues-Cajun band, Acadiana.

"A couple of years ago, they came to see me play at the Lobster Trap, and they invited me to be a guest artist, and I had a great time," she said. "They asked me several times to join the band, but we always had a conflict of schedules. Then two months ago, they came to me and said they were getting real serious about the band, so I joined."

Currently, Russell is working on a solo album with some of her local musical friends as guests. She plans to finish by the end of the year. In the meantime, Russell continues to build a sizable first-name-basis fan club.

"It's very gratifying to feel appreciated and to have people enjoy what I'm doing," she said. "It's a high I can't explain."

In Oxnard, the Shores Restaurant is at 1031 S. Harbor Blvd. near Wooley Road; the Lobster Trap is at 3605 Peninsula Road. Call 984-5533 or 985-6361, respectively.


Reason to make a timely arrival at the Spencer the Gardener gig Friday night at Nicholby's in Ventura: First, who wants to wait in line in the hallway to get in? An even better reason just may be the opening band, Permission to Breathe, a group from the Valley, where breathing may not require permission, merely effort.

For those who were lagging and missed PTB at the Jars of Clay gig at the Ventura Theatre last week, this is a chance to see them in a club setting and for half the dough (about $6) as well.

Frontman Bryan Broussard, one of the few who actually moved from Ventura to the Valley, used to be in a local band called Echo that played Bombay, Maxie's and the Deer Lodge. PTB has a new CD out on Solid Discs Records, which I'm sure they'll be happy to sell at the gig.

Nicholby's is at 404 E. Main St. in Ventura. Call 653-2320 to find out more about this 9:30 p.m. show.

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