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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Change of Scene

Discouraged by empty L.A. clubs, rockin' blues artist Carrie James will bring her band to Simi in hopes of reaching a new audience.

March 05, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Due to a lack of local venues, original rock bands in Simi Valley usually try their luck in L.A. This week, things change as L.A.-based Carrie James, who can definitely carry a tune, brings her brand of rockin' blues to the Season Ticket in Simi Valley for a couple of weekend gigs. Many L.A. bands seem to enjoy leaving town, and sometimes a new place is a good thing.

"L.A. clubs seem to go good for a while, then they close," said James during a recent phone interview. "Sometimes things will seem to be really happening, but it never seems to last and there's no steady system like there is in Texas, for example."

Although clubs come and go, the recently enacted no smoking laws haven't helped the L.A. music scene. Attendance has suffered, according to James.

"We played a lot in December and everywhere was packed, but in January, actually Jan. 1, so many people wanted to come into clubs but didn't because they couldn't smoke," she said. "I want people to have fun, and when they drink, a lot of people want to smoke, and a bar was one of the last places. I don't smoke, but since I work in bars, I guess I sorta do."

So perhaps the no-smoking law has given James' band a reprieve from the ravages of second-hand smoke and now it can concentrate on the important stuff, like getting people out of their chairs.

"What we're trying to do is reach people that wouldn't normally listen to the blues," she said. "We play a lot of energetic, uplifting music for people who like to party and dance. It's traditional blues with modern influences, sort of blues for the '90s."

Like most blues artists, James has already put in a serious amount of road work. As a child, she moved from New Mexico to Colorado, and eventually ended up in Reseda. But music has always been her thing.

"Really, I've been singing as long as I can remember. My mom used to do radio commercials, and she has a tape of me singing when I was 6 years old," she said. "Later, I was always jamming with musicians in and after high school."

For a while, it seemed James was doing the all-in-black Joan Jett Valley Girl rock 'n' roll thing. Then something happened.

"I started doing the club thing in more of a rock 'n' roll vein. Then one of my sister's friends turned me on to the blues. It was mostly Muddy Waters, Etta James and Aretha Franklin, and I just couldn't believe the passion. I started doing more blues with the band I was in at the time--more than they wanted--so I started my own band. I took all those influences and added my own style."

James, who can belt out a song with speaker-threatening intensity, is ably assisted by Ronnie Lee on guitar, who joined in November; Rod Boyum on drums and Steve McCormick on bass. The band recorded a live six-song demo at a recent benefit concert that features a blistering cover of a Neil Young song, "The Needle and the Damage Done," but another CD is expected shortly.

"Actually, we're in the studio right now, working on our debut CD. It'll be called 'Midnight Road,' and it should be out at the end of April. It'll have 10 songs, seven originals. We want to try to get a bigger label deal, get some better road dates and just do better tours. Blues crowds are a little different than rock 'n' roll crowds, and I've met a lot of really warm, really great people."

* The Carrie James Band at the Season Ticket, 5835 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley, Friday and Saturday nights at 9.Free; 520-1166.

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Perhaps the greatest swing band on the West Coast, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies out of Oregon, won't be doing Ventura County on this tour. It tried to book another gig at the Ventura Theatre, but Steel Pulse was already slated for the night in question. But all is not lost. The Daddies will be at the Living Room, an all-ages venue in Goleta, Wednesday night.

The band's third album, "Zoot Suit Riot," was one of the best albums of last year, and the title tune video features Nicholby's (in Ventura) bar manager and swing dance virtuoso Lee Moore and his wife, Terri, cutting the rug in splendid style. Front man Steve Perry (not the whiny long-hair from Journey) is a master singer and songwriter, and he can dance, too.

Also on the bill for this 7 p.m. show are the Mad Caddies and Unsteady. Expect the Daddies around 9 p.m., as the place closes at 11. To find out more about this $7 show, call 692-1995.

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Drinking until you became a problem ceased to be an option for a week at the Coach House in Santa Barbara when it lost its liquor license Feb. 22. The venue, formerly Emerald City and a lot of other aliases, hosted dry shows last week. This week's shows, Frank Black & the Catholics, and Eddie Money, will not be Sahara scenarios, however, as the venue's bar reopened March 2 with a full liquor license.

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