Amber Padgett’s brilliant debut

Amber Padgett: “Who is this?”

Amber Padgett: “Who is this?”

The Capitol Garage is well-attended, despite it being a Wednesday night, and the small woman on the stage surveys the crowd nervously. Her voice is meek as she tells the audience that this is her first show with a band. She smiles, and someone in the audience shouts some words of encouragement.

It’s not quite the first note that dispels the nervousness, but it is nearly so. As it is, one can feel the tension of the performer lift away almost immediately. She finger-picks and slashes at her guitar, with the drummer and bassist laying an intricate foundation for her songs. And the songs themselves are a combination of ugly chords and pretty harmonies, unpredictable vocal lines and solid musicianship.

Someone next to me asks, in apparent awe, “Who is this?”

This is Amber Padgett, a young woman with a sense of complexity in her songwriting that one does not often hear.

Supported last week by Low Flying Owls’ Sam Coe on drums and Flail’s Jason Sewell on bass, Padgett performed a set to an enthusiastic audience. Coming across like the work of a louder Elliott Smith or Mazzy Star, with vocal lines reminiscent of jazz legend Nina Simone, Padgett’s material was enough to impress.

One hopes that with a few more shows under her belt, Padgett will become more confident onstage and allow the spells of the songs to weave themselves. The shakiest moments last week were mostly guitar-based; her playing is sometimes not up to par with the songwriting and vocals. Experience will make all the difference here, and having great musicians like Coe and Sewell along certainly doesn’t hurt matters. Her next show is May 1 at Marilyn’s. Watch the Web site of The Americans Are Coming Recordings ( for show listings and more information.

Low Flying Owls’ newest full-length release, Elixir Vitae, is slated for a July 2003 release from New York-based indie label Stinky Records ( The bad news (at least for local fans) is that there are plans for the entire band to move—perhaps permanently—to New York to promote the record better. So, you’d better get it locally while you still can because it appears that the Owls’ time as a Sacramento band is limited.The Kimberly Trip’s Jeffry Prince has won first place in the 2003 National Song Contest for his song “What I Wanted.” Presented by the Northern California Songwriter’s Association (, the contest was open to all songwriters in the United States and featured a grand prize of a $13,000 home-recording package. “What I Wanted” is featured on the Sac Pop 3 compilation (see for more information). Local folk diva Elena Powell ( took home honors in the Best Instrumental category for “Twixt 11 and 12,” a track from her new CD Alta Nova.

First Drago’s and then Café Montreal, Café Paris and Café Mexicas, and now the cafe and live-music venue on the corner of 24th and K streets is known as Club 24K. The 21-and-over venue will hold a Tuesday night open mic from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. each week. Go by and check it out.