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Guitarist Finds Time to Make His Own Music

Carl Verheyen, in great demand for session work, squeezes in a new album, 'Slang Justice,' and a visit to Smokin' Johnnie's.


Carl Verheyen, who is performing Saturday at Smokin' Johnnie's, leads a double life.

In one, he's like a lot of guitarist-singer-songwriters in this town: He recently released a self-produced CD. In the other, Verheyen is one of a handful of top session players in Los Angeles.

He's been doing the session scene here for about 15 years. In April, Verheyen was featured in a Guitar magazine article on the "10 Best Guitarists You've Never Heard Of." Besides records, Verheyen is also in demand for commercials, television and film scores.

Verheyen works on all kinds of music. He even did a session with pop crooner Robert Goulet. Some recent films he has worked on include "The Crow: City of Angels," and "Mr. Wrong."

Verheyen is in such demand now that an average day can include two or three separate session gigs. But last week he took time out to call from the studio where he was laying down tracks for yet another TV project, the new CBS sitcom "Pearl," starring Rhea Pearlman and Malcolm McDowell.

"It's kind of like Jimi Hendrix mixed with 'Cheers,' " he said of the music he was working on. "It's kind of fun."

Verheyen's also working regularly in the studio with the rock band Supertramp, with whom he's scheduled to tour later this year.

A California native who grew up in Pasadena, Verheyen has only been out of the Golden State for work and to pursue an education--at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston and at the University of Massachusetts.

"Slang Justice" is his third album. How did Verheyen like the switch from being a hired gun to having creative control?

"It's a creative challenge, but there's a whole lot of freedom involved and that's fun," he said. "But it's a whole lot of work."

Even a cursory listen is evidence enough why this guy is in such demand. His playing is fast and sweet, and he moves easily from one style of music to the next. The album's production, by Verheyen and Pat Colgan, is slick and polished. Verheyen's vocals are not bad, but not up to the level of his guitar work.

Although Verheyen called the latest album blues-oriented, "Slang Justice" is a pretty eclectic mix of styles. Harmonically, Verheyen's playing is a bit more complex than most blues players. Most of this stuff is more than just three chords and an attitude. Rhythmically, the material goes from funky, syncopated grooves to hard-rock numbers to some soft, folk-pop tunes.

Even with the cover of Muddy Waters' "Two Trains Running," there seems to be more jazz-fusion things going on in this album than the old 12-bar forms. The music is more evocative of Steely Dan's jazzy stuff than anything by Waters or B. B. King.

Verheyen is trying to limit his local appearances to once or twice a month. Catch him this time. He's well worth a listen.

* Guitarist Carl Verheyen plays Saturday night at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. Call (818) 760-6631.


A Dog's Life: Continuing their quest for rock stardom, Hair of the Dog has, of late, been barking loudly in the Midwest.

The band's record "Cadillac Jack" has been getting some radio airplay in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri. That's good news for the band, and the good news for Valley folk is that we don't have head east to hear them. They're playing at FM Station on Saturday night.

Hair of the Dog is a tight, well-rehearsed unit that plays straight-ahead rock that's metal-sharp around the edges. The band's music and attitude are upbeat. The group will have none of what it calls "complaint rock."

"A lot of rock right now is so full of attitude; we like to have a good time," says lead singer Ryan Cook. "We're trying to bring the fun back to rock 'n' roll."

All the members of the band have Midwestern roots, and while they say they love L.A., it warms their collective heart that their music is finding acceptance back home.

"In L.A., you're playing for players and industry people," Cook says. "Everybody's a little too cool to have good time. But in the Midwest, from Note One people are up and having a good time."

* Hair of the Dog and Love Hate play Saturday night at FM Station, 11700 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. $10 cover. Call (818) 769-2220.


Once in a Blue Saloon: The Blue Saloon reopens this weekend after a two-week closure due to a major remodeling job. The Raging Honkies are scheduled to perform Friday night.

The power-rock trio, featuring near-legendary guitarist Michael Landau, is also slated to perform Monday at Fender Guitar's 50th anniversary party at Billboard Live club in West Hollywood. Friday, you can hear them closer to home, but call first.

* Blue Saloon, 4657 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Call (818) 766-4644.

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