I’ve been everywhere

One of the cooler good times this writer has stumbled across in Sacramento happened this past summer at Old Ironsides, when local hickster band the Alkali Flats hosted Kountry Karaoke. The idea was to let people sign up to sing pre-1970 country tunes, and then get them onstage after perhaps a few drams of Dutch courage (or, in this case, pranayama) and let them vent their inner-George Jones or Kitty Wells. I’d stupidly settled on a 1950-something Hank Snow gem, a high-speed romp through a bunch of places on the map (Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, etc.) that took weeks of preparation, only to be reduced to about two minutes of sheer idiocy in front of the crowd that night. But, alas, I digress.

Point is, shit-kicker music seems to be in the soil and water in these parts, and a lot of people here play it really well. A few of them showed up that night—the aforementioned Alkali Flats, along with members of Poplollys, Rowdy Kate and some other bands of the hee-haw persuasion.

I’m not sure if Robert Sidwell was there that night. Sidwell, a guitar player who’s currently a member of the band Rowdy Kate, has a long history in this town, playing with such jump blues acts as Chrome Addicts and the Hucklebucks. The guitarist, who had returned to Minnesota to attend a family wedding, was stricken with an ailment serious enough to require a hospital stay, and because he didn’t have health insurance, he racked up a lot of bills.

To help him allay that burden, his musician friends and Swell Productions have stepped forward to stage a benefit this Thursday, October 18 at Marilyn’s on K. The 8 p.m. show—part of the Americana Ramble, which has moved from every Wednesday to alternating Thursdays—has a suggested donation of $10. On the bill, in addition to Rowdy Kate, the Alkali Flats and Poplollys, are Loose Acoustic Trio along with Richard March, the longtime musical anchor of the Americana Ramble.

It would be hard to find a country-music bill in this town with that much local star power, so if you’ve been curious to hear what Sacramento has to offer in the Americana or alt-country arena, this bill provides a really good chance to do that.

Speaking of chances, I caught a local act at Luna’s on Saturday night with a pair of killer acoustic guitarists. The foothill-based trio Thick Soup also features a stand-up bassist named Greg Torres, but it was the lineup of Brian DeMassey, who also sang, and Ian Boyd that provided the knockout punch, taking turns soloing on their respective Martin acoustics. DeMassey, in particular, is an astonishingly good flatpicker. You can check out their music at www.myspace.com/thicksoupmusic.

The other band on the bill, Sacramento-based trio Mortal Us, came more from a rock POV, featuring members Garret Arney-Johnson, Bret Gideon and Eric Lawson playing three acoustic guitars, mostly strummed in unison, with vocals handled in similar fashion. But the trio had a few arresting songs, including one with “mariposa” featured prominently in the lyrics. And you can check out their music at www.myspace.com/mortalus.