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MUSIC | ROCKTALK

Junction's Owner Blends Coffee and Tunes in Perfect Harmony with Brand-New Sound

March 05, 1998|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sharon Benson, owner of the Coffee Junction in Tarzana, is feeling pretty good these days. She's in love--with her coffeehouse and with playing in her new band, Soul Dogs.

So, you can expect her to be practically out of her mind with happiness when the Soul Dogs perform at the Coffee Junction this Saturday.

"Every night I say, 'Thank you, store; I love you, store,' " said singer-songwriter Benson. "Besides being a coffee junkie, I'm also a music junkie."

Benson and her partner, Linda Sherlin, have owned Coffee Junction for more than seven years.

Owning a club was a longtime dream of the two. When they first moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s, they were regular visitors to the Bla Bla Cafe in North Hollywood. In those days, jazz singer Al Jarreau played there almost every weekend, and other artists such as Joni Mitchell would drop in for an occasional set.

Benson said she and Sherlin made a promise: "One day we will have our own little Bla Bla Cafe."

And when the opportunity presented itself a few years later, Benson, who previously worked in the medical and entertainment fields, jumped at her chance.

"Our families told us not to: 'You're crazy; you'll lose your money; you don't know what you're doing,' " Benson said. Regardless, Benson and Sherlin went ahead, guided only by their love of music and coffee.

"Being a musician, I feel honored that I have a place where I get to really get my musical rocks off," Benson said.

Benson's previous band, the all-female Token Angel, went the way of most bands in Los Angeles--that is, it broke up due to creative differences. Soul Dogs features Benson and two men, Jesse Wright and Lewis Wolfe, each of whom has taken up a new instrument.

Benson, who started playing the violin when she was 8, started playing the guitar just over a year ago. Drummer Wright was until recently a guitarist, and bassist Wolfe was a sound engineer.

You wouldn't guess it to listen to them. They more than make up for any technical deficiencies with creativity and energy. Plus, Benson is a fine singer, who writes interesting, well-crafted tunes.

"I'm finally able to play what I'm feeling," Benson said. "Before, I was always settling for less.

"I finally can have it my way and feel really good and complete about it."

Benson said the Soul Dogs' style of music is different as well.

"Token Angel was acoustic, more laid back," Benson said. "This music's more energetic; it makes you want to get up and dance."

* The Soul Dogs will perform from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Coffee Junction, 19221 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover. Call (818) 342-3405.

*

Beantown Blues: The Boston- and blues-based band the Radio Kings performs at B.B. King's in Universal CityWalk on Saturday and Sunday nights.

The band, which features guitarist Michael Dinallo and singer Brian Templeton, made its Los Angeles debut at B.B. King's in 1996, while on tour to promote its first album, "Live at B.B. King's," recorded at King's Memphis venue.

Now the band is back, this time promoting a new album, "Money Road," available on Rounder Records' subsidiary Bullseye label.

While the first live album had a down-and-dirty, 1950s-sound and charm to it, "Money Road" is a slick studio job. The band even got Dave Alvin to write the liner notes.

The Rounder information sheet says the album title is inspired by the band's pilgrimage to the Mississippi Delta to find the grave of legendary blues man Robert Johnson. They think they found it near the Little Zion Church, just outside Greenwood on the road heading up to Money. Get it? "Money Road."

* The Radio Kings play at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday at B.B. King's Blues Club, Universal CityWalk. (818) 622-5464. $15.

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