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Heavy Metal Even Mom Could Love

Sovereign has the genre's sound without the negative lyrics.

January 15, 1998|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Over the phone, Linda Young comes off sounding a bit like June Cleaver as she extols the virtues of her son Drew's heavy metal band, Sovereign. As incongruous as it may seem, June, er, Linda seems to really enjoy her son's band, which is playing this Sunday at the Cobalt Cafe in Canoga Park.

She says they're just "awesome."

In the good old days, young people used to join rock bands just to annoy their parents. But considering the other troublesome alternatives available to teens these days, joining a heavy metal band seems rather sedate.

Drew Young and the other members of Sovereign--fellow guitarist Ryan Melideo, bassist Victor Ramirez and drummer Rama Sobhani--don't care about that. They just want to play their music.

"I don't care who's listening to it, as long as I get to play it," said Drew.

They realize that the popularity of metal has faded in recent years. But this West Valley-based band considers itself at the forefront of a new '90s metal movement--the heavy metal sound without the negative lyrics commonly associated with the genre.

All the members are 19 and newly arrived at local colleges, where they are studying music and film. Sovereign has released a CD, "Immortal Embrace," and the band has its own Web site, which, notwithstanding some spelling errors on the members' bio pages, looks quite professional.

They've played the Whiskey and the Palace, and Sunday you can hear them at the Cobalt.

Linda will be there.

* Sovereign plays Sunday evening at the Cobalt Cafe, 22047 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, (818) 348-3789. $5 cover. Sovereign can also be reached at its Web site: http://www.sovereignmetal.com

*

Smokin' and No Smoking: The law prohibiting smoking in bars does not seem to bother the crowds at some Valley nightspots.

At Cozy's the Saturday after New Year's, smokers who were there to listen to blues and jazz guitarist Roy Gaines found a way to cope. And at Jax, last Thursday night's crowd, out to hear Laurie Melan, did not let the new law get in the way of a good time.

But it does seem a bit strange to have your lungs braced for that first whiff of secondhand smoke, only to discover clear air.

At both places, people would jump up every few minutes, exit the club in groups of twos and threes to light up on the street or in the parking lot, then return to enjoy the music.

Over at Cozy's, Gaines did not disappoint the crowd.

The 60-year-old performer has worked with many superstars, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Della Reese, Brook Benton, Harry Belafonte and Stevie Wonder, but his first love is the blues. A couple of years ago, Gaines released "Lucille Work for Me," a blues album with a fat, jazzy, big-band sound. But Gaines says he's starting the new year with a new concept: country blues. So, gone are the B-3 Hammond organ and horns, and in their places are a pedal steel guitar and fiddle.

The crowd seemed to enjoy his hybrid of Hank Williams-type tunes with a blues sensibility. Gaines obviously enjoyed it too.

Gaines, who usually performs at his own restaurant, called Gainesville, in the Crenshaw district, is closing the place down. He wants to devote more of his time to performing music. So, Valley people can expect to see more of him this year.

At Jax, Laurie Melan gave the cigarette addicts a full pack of the blues to keep them happy. Melan sings and plays lead guitar passionately and in a variety of styles. And best of all, she makes it look easy. The Massachusetts native is recording her first CD, to be released later this year. But you don't have to wait that long; you can hear her this Sunday at Smokin' Johnnie's and Jan. 22 at Jax again.

Melan is one of several blues-tinged players who are now regularly appearing at Jax. The Glendale jazz club has had Preston Smith on Sundays for more than a year, and now Melan is performing two Thursdays each month. Additionally, Gashouse Dave is penciled in for Friday evening.

* Laurie Melan performs Sunday at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-6631, and at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 500-1604. No cover.

*

Gimme Some: It's been hard to miss the Slackjaw Blues Band in the Valley lately. They gigged at Smokin' Johnnie's the Friday after New Year's, and they headlined at B.B. King's on Tuesday night. And now, the blues-rock act will be opening for soul singer Frankie Lee at B.B.'s again Saturday. Maybe it's because they've just released their long-awaited CD, "Knuckle Down."

Check them out.

* Slackjaw Blues Band plays Saturday at B. B. King's Blues Club, Universal CityWalk, 1000 Universal Center Drive, (818) 622-5464. $14.

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