Digging your scene

Local label Dig Music, with its banner artist Jackie Greene, continues to develop into an area musical force

Jackie Greene, left, showing some love to Marty DeAnda.

Jackie Greene, left, showing some love to Marty DeAnda.

Jackie Greene; 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 29; at Harlow’s, 2708 J Street; $15.

It’s always nice to check in with Marty DeAnda, one of the two principal partners who run local label Dig Music. DeAnda, who left a lucrative gig in the insurance business nearly three years ago to launch Dig with longtime Sacramento radio personality Dennis Newhall and record collector and dealer Jeff Hughson (who no longer is with the label), is quite upbeat on the future of the music business—at a time when a lot of disgruntled industry veterans are not.

Of course, having a banner artist named Jackie Greene on your label certainly makes things easier.

Greene, a 23-year-old folk-infused singer-songwriter who morphs into a fire-breathing blues guitarist whenever he straps on a Stratocaster, is one of the more promising acts to come out of this town in a while. Greene’s more-intimate side was captured quite effectively on a just-released 40-minute DVD titled Broken Hearts, Dusty Roads, which includes three tracks from his third album, Sweet Somewhere Bound. DeAnda is sure the DVD will help Greene on TV. “The camera just loves Jackie,” he said. And he’s not lying.

As for Sweet Somewhere Bound, Dig will release the full album in July. It was co-produced (with Greene) and recorded by David Houston, and it currently is being mastered, at Capitol Mastering in Hollywood, by Ron McMaster, who played drums in Houston’s late-1960s teen combo, Public Nuisance. According to DeAnda, it’s a darker, singer-songwriterly turn. “It’s not Leonard Cohen,” he said. “It’s more Blood on the Tracks, more Astral Weeks. It’s more The Heart of Saturday Night by Tom Waits.” Greene will be playing some songs from the new record at his Thursday show at Harlow’s, which KCRA is filming for a June 20 special. [Disclosure: This writer was interviewed for that program.]

And, according to DeAnda, Sweet Somewhere Bound’s follow-up record, a “radio-friendly rock album,” is already in the planning stages. Greene also will be featured in a chapter of an upcoming book on singer- songwriters, by writers Kent and Keith Zimmerman, and in a small-budget film directed by Walter Matthau’s son.

DeAnda has been staging Dig Music nights at Harlow’s nightclub in Midtown about twice a month, on Thursdays, when Michelle Franzwa, the label’s director of talent and entertainment, books two or three bands into that club. The label also has a longstanding association with Marilyn’s at 12th and K, the downtown club where Greene plays regularly enough to call it home and where Dig’s exquisite various-artists Bob Dylan tribute album, Positively 12th & K, was recorded. And the PowerHouse Pub in Folsom and the Guild Theatre in Oak Park—“Kevin Johnson really likes us,” DeAnda said—are less-frequent stops.

All of this augurs a certain amount of success, or at least some local recognition. “We’re hearing the phrase ‘Dig bands’ more all the time,” DeAnda said. “Being somewhere like a grocery store and overhearing someone talk about Dig Music, and them not knowing who I am, is kinda cool.”

It is always nice when a record label becomes known for a certain sound; it’s the music-business equivalent of effective branding. And though Greene’s roots-derived music is Dig’s current signature, DeAnda is enthusiastic about several other acts right now. One is singer-songwriter Richard March, of whom DeAnda said, “When he’s onstage, he just looks like he belongs there.” Another act, still in pre-contractual talks, is longtime Mumbo Gumbo vocalist Chris Webster and her sister, Cassie, and guitarist Scott Nygaard, who recently were billed as the Websters at a Palms Playhouse Valentine’s Day show. DeAnda’s friend David Barton, a Sacramento Bee writer, introduced the Websters to DeAnda.

Another act is ¡Bucho!—which isn’t yet on the label, but DeAnda really likes the band anyway. It will open Green’s April 29 show at Harlow’s. Other acts affiliated with Dig, either on the recording side or the booking and management side, have included Kallie Turner, Holly Holt, Larissa Bryski, Looking Star, SinClair, Victory Gin and Honeyspot.

“I think we have 13 people we’re working with now,” DeAnda said. “And we’re still working with Sal Valentino.”