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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

County Originals

A bumper crop of releases from local bands shows new music is thriving.

January 01, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Classic rock cover groups are proliferating and music venues are dwindling, but somehow local bands dedicated to original music seem in no more danger than the California sea lion--and a few of the bands even sound better.

Without further exposition, here is an opinionated guide to the top dozen local band releases of 1997. At the top of the list is Southern Cross, a Ventura band named for a constellation in the southern hemisphere that we can't see from here. The band is far more accessible.

*

Southern Cross, "Southern Cross" (Mountain Tribe)

This is an acoustic band that really rocks, fueled in no small part by guitarists Jon Raffetto and Stuart Orlinsky. The album is produced by Dwight Yoakam's drummer and Ventura local Jim Christie. Troy Dixon has a powerful, clear voice--hear him wail on their showstopper "Red Sky Rain." Not Deadheads by any measure, Southern Cross does have that groove thing working real hard, and thus Jerry's Kids and Phish Heads alike duly love this band. Imagine a younger version of the Rincon Ramblers without the twang.

*

Acadiana, "Can't Not Dance"

(Feedback Productions)

After leaving widespread dancing in their wake for years, these rockin' Realtors from Oxnard have finally come out with a CD. With the addition of Teresa Russell on guitar and vocals and Phil Salazar on fiddle, the lineup has become sort of a West Coast gumbo explosion of zydeco, Cajun and country music, making Oxnard the westernmost parish of Louisiana.

*

Jimmy Adams & Friends, "There Comes a Time" (Community Issues)

One of the nicest living Americans, Adams is a transplanted Texan who sings songs of optimism, belief and trust--well, except for "Blues for Malibu," about the narcs who shot rancher Don Scott in his own house. It's a country and folk album with a standout lineup of musicians backing Adams, who plays the last Tuesday of every month at Cafe Voltaire in Ventura. The best description of Adams comes from Jon Wilcox of Marley's Ghost and the Rincon Ramblers: "Jimmy Adams looks like Jimmy Buffet on a bad day and sings like John Prine on a good one."

*

Bloody Mary Morning, "Rise and Shine"

After four long years, the most popular band in east Ventura finally has a CD, and as they say, it's "music for the girls to dance and the boys to drink to." It's raucous rock, reminiscent of the Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and old Neil Young. Live, BBM attracts scores of single women who dance to the originals as well as covers by the Clash and even Jimmy Buffet.

*

Cadillac Angels, "Live" (Radar

Records)

Formerly the Roadhouse Rockers, this tight trio--featuring the big hair and big guitars of Tony Balbinot--still puts out lots of roadhouse-roots rock. Lotsa Link Wray and Duane Eddy influences on this one, including a reverent cover of Wray's "Jack the Ripper." Live, they even do "Hot Rod Lincoln"--the real one by Johnny Bond, not the Commander Cody version.

*

JuJu Eyeball, "All Systems Go!" (Telstar Records)

Frank Barajas has been in more than a few local bands, such as Film at Eleven, Crashing Plains, the Strangers, Durango 95, the Tijuana Hound Dogs and now, JuJu Eyeball. The thread running throughout all these bands is Barajas' love for the three-minute pop rock gem, of which he is a master. "I always try to put a little sadness in the songs," he said, "the love-lost kind of thing because people can relate to that."

*

majority DOG, "As the Day Is Long"

This is the third album by the best band in all of Newbury Park, but it's only available on tape thus far. It's folk rock featuring all sorts of heavenly harmonies by songwriter Brian Wurschum and April and Laurel Hoffman. The DOG band hasn't been playing live much lately because Wurschum and Laurel Hoffman have been performing a lot as an acoustic duo, Zelig, which by the way, will play the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks on Benjamin Franklin's birthday (Jan. 17). Best cut on this one: "Never Have I Seen Anything Like You."

*

Guy Martin Group, "In This Together"

Martin's vocals are adequate, but his guitar-playing on this collection of bluesy rockers is out of this world. Imagine Stevie Ray Vaughan at the beach. And Martin doesn't take the easy way out on cover songs. He more than pulls off "Voodoo Child"--originally by that Hendrix guy.

*

Overground, "Overground" (Suggs)

Not only is this the greatest band in all of Somis, but these guys could hold their own anywhere. This is a talented trio that does the space-jazz-jam rock thing, not unlike Phish when it comes to getting a relentless groove working. "Nobody" will blow your mind more than most. Local comparisons: Euphoria and Tri-Wop & Whitey.

*

Papa-Nata, "Papa-Nata Live"

(Reset Records)

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