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Ventura County Culture

Yoakam Keeps Moving


Geography and cultural roots get sticky when it comes to Dwight Yoakam, who makes a visit to the Ventura Theatre this Friday.

Yoakam hails from Los Angeles by way of Kentucky and has held steadfast to a vision of country-western that owed something to the Bakersfield sound of his heroes, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and shunned the slick sound coming out of Nashville.

Further complicating the plot, he rose to prominence out of the ferment of the Los Angeles post-punk scene of the '80s, alongside Los Lobos. He won fans from country and rock orbits, scored hits like "Guitars, Cadillacs" and went on to carve out his own new quasi-traditional C&W sound through the '90s.

Then Yoakum appeared out from his big ol' hat and, in a startling screen presence, played the unsavory victim of Billy Bob Thornton's vengeful blade in Thornton's brilliant film "Sling Blade." He continued down the cinema trail, making his own film, the little-seen, long-labored-over "South of Heaven, West of Hell." Thornton, Bridget and Peter Fonda and Yoakam himself starred in the neo-western, released in 2000 to only a ripple of attention.

Last year also saw two very different, and satisfying albums, an unplugged trip down memory lane, "," and fully-fleshed-out "Tomorrow's Sounds Today," smartly produced by his longtime sidekick Pete Anderson. Of course, Yoakam is also very much in touch with yesterday's sounds, as well as yesterday's values of what makes a good song good.

Local angle: For several years now, the pliable yet reliable pulse in Yoakam's band has come courtesy of Ventura drummer Jim Christie.

* Dwight Yoakam, Friday, 7 p.m., Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. $35-59; (805) 653-0721.

Outdoorsy Sounds: 'Round these parts, you know summer is creaking to a close when the annual Music Under the Stars series at the scenic Olivas Adobe in Ventura comes to an end. The series ends Saturday with a Louisiana flair. Lisa Haley and the Zydecats bring their Cajun and zydeco sound. Led by charismatic fiddler Haley, the group has been heard in the TV and film domain and on the festival circuit, and even has been known to gig at Disneyland. But don't hold that against her: Haley takes her Cajun spice seriously.

Over at Lake Casitas on Saturday, Latin music will be filling the air. The second annual Latin Music Festival, sponsored by the Ventura-East Rotary, will feature Shy, La Salsa Kids and the group Iman. The whole family is invited. Apart from the music, the periphery will include crafts, boat rides, games and food.

* Lisa Haley and the Zydecats, Saturday, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. , Olivas Adobe, 4200 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura. $15, general; $13, senior citizens and children 12 and younger. (805) 658-4726.* Latin Music Festival, Saturday, noon to 7 p.m., Lake Casitas, near Ojai. $15, general; free, children 11 and younger. Advance tickets are sold two-for-one. (888) 491-7342.

Outdoorsy Sights: The group calling itself, aptly and succinctly, "Plein Air Painters," is exhibiting at the Ojai Center for the Arts this month. The work here, by more than 20 artists, serves as a confirmation of at least two things: The instinct to paint Ventura County's still relatively unspoiled landscape runs strong here, and there's plenty to paint about.

Although the imagery here hews close to standard visions of natural beauty, the show is not all about pretty pictures made outside. Chris Weber's simple view of a meadow, with the title "Oxnard Landfill," contains a tacit "what if?" eco-political message.

Ojai is well represented, from Sue Stoutz's "At Thacher," a lazy spread of land without structures or humans--to Ford Kaiser's "U.S.P.O. Ojai," an airily cool watercolor image of the local landmark. "View From Dennison Park," by Carol Merrick, takes in rolling hills and a patchwork of farmland, and Mary Cogswell's "Old Ojai Winery" is unabashed in its romantic savoring of a rustic structure and foliage.

Mel Rhoads' work evidences a discerning eye on his landscape subjects. As seen in "Oxnard Plain Renewal" and "New Lettuce," formal quirks differentiate his paintings from the more conventional compositional notions seen elsewhere in the gallery. Still, Rhoads' work, like the others, sidesteps cerebral, studio-based aesthetics. This art celebrates the act of painting as well as the precious and fragile reality of landscape in our midst.

* Plein Air Painters Exhibit, Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai. Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Ends Aug. 31. (805) 646-0117.

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