River songs

Sunshine brings weekly country-music showcase back to the river and Scotty’s Landing

Kathy and Mike Williams of Bawl 'n' Chain.

Kathy and Mike Williams of Bawl 'n' Chain.

Photo By Ken Smith

Down by the river:
Rich & Kendall Country Showcase, Sundays, 2-6 p.m., and Fridays, 6 p.m., at Scotty’s Landing.
Scotty’s Landing
12609 River Road

Scotty’s Landing

12609 River Rd.
Chico, CA 95973

(530) 710-2020

Would-be modern-day Norman Rockwells would be hard-pressed to dream a more vivid or idyllic portrait of Americana than occurred naturally last Sunday—Mother’s Day—on the back patio of Scotty’s Landing.

Packs of children ran safe and unfettered around a weathered canopy, beneath which Don Sacks crooned a song dedicated to all the redneck mothers of the world. Moms in attendance, redneck and otherwise, seemed to enjoy the attention, the sunshine, the heaping baskets of onion rings and complimentary red roses. Above it all, Old Glory fluttered in a soft breeze blowing off the Sacramento River.

Any day at Scotty’s can be breathtaking, but Sunday’s holiday at the ramshackle river oasis had some extra oomph in the form of the Rich & Kendall Music Showcase, a twice-weekly (Friday evening and Sunday afternoon) gathering of local musicians organized and hosted by Keith Kendall and Aaron Rich of local country band The Blue Merles.

It was a day not unlike this and Scotty’s singular atmosphere that served as Kendall’s inspiration to start the showcase: “I’ve been coming here for years and years, to fish down on the river or just hang out,” he said. “Then a couple of years ago I was sitting there and something clicked. I thought, ‘Hey, ya know what this place really needs …’

“Once it got in my head I started bugging [Scotty’s owner] John Scott to go listen to Aaron, who was playing over at Café Flo. He finally went and saw him and said, ‘Yeah, that sounds great,’ and now this will be our third summer.”

Sacks agrees Scotty’s is something special. “The environment here is what brings a lot of people out,” he said. “It’s so beautiful, being by the river, outside, and you’re not inside some stuffy room or congested place. A lot of the performance is the environment. And the fact you’ve got a lot of very talented people playing doesn’t hurt at all.”

The talent comes thanks to Kendall, who invites local artists he likes, friends and associates and people who contact him and offer to come play. Times are scheduled but malleable to accommodate musicians passing through or other occasional volunteers and surprise guests. The showcase generally consists of a half-dozen or so solo acts or small groups, with The Blue Merles closing out the night. Though a dash of folk, rock and blues are welcome, the main focus is on good, old-fashioned honky-tonk country music.

The Blue Merles take up residence on Scotty’s patio.

Photo By Ken Smith

“We had an interesting cross session out there [on Mother’s Day],” said Kendall. Sacks followed Rich, who opened the show and was followed by the showcase regular known only as Marshall, whose softer and more folky set complemented Sacks’ grittier delivery. Next was the psych-tinged, Lee Hazelwood-flavored Bawl ’n’ Chain, country alter ego of couple Mike and Kathy Williams’ blues band Second Hand Smoke. Next was the fiddle-fueled ensemble Johnny and The Bootleggers and finally the harmony-driven honky-tonk of The Blue Merles.

Kendall said up-and-comers are as welcome as established performers: “This is where some people started doing what they’re doing now. We have people who hadn’t had much live experience before they started doing the showcase and they really cut their teeth here.”

The showcase’s winter home is the Towne Lounge. Last year’s early warm weather enabled them to do 50 shows (25 weeks, two shows a week) at Scotty’s, a goal they’re not likely to reach this year, as Mother’s Day was only the second Sunday of this season.

Kendall also books Honky Tonkin on the River, an annual country music mini-festival celebrating its third year this August. Kendall recommends performers interested in either event come to Scotty’s and chat him up or look up The Blue Merles on Facebook and send him a message.