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Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.19.06

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Grab Bag o' Goodies

Cheryl Wheeler and the full range of emotions


Yeah, you'll sing along to the "Potato" song and laugh when she makes fun of classical snippet cell rings. You'll cry when she sings one of those patented, yearningly sad break-up songs or "When Fall Comes to New England." But you won't know exactly which Cheryl Wheeler will walk onto the stage unless you're there — and you should be there. A Cheryl Wheeler concert isn't like anything else. Part comedy, part songs that make you long for long walks and sweet animals and wonderful lovers, part songs that make you weep for those lost loves, each concert mixes it up.

CHERYL WHEELER AND KENNY WHITE. 8 pm Fri., Oct. 20. Luna • $18.50 adv./$20 door

"Some nights I don't feel creative and follow the set list; other nights I'm sick of the set list," she explains. And she knows well a set list's challenges. Wheeler has never held a day job. She's always been a singer-songwriter, whether on her own or touring with musician friends.

Other musicians love her songwriting; country singers, especially, have covered her songs (though she's not country herself). One of the most famous, Suzy Bogguss, got famous singing Wheeler's "Aces" on 1992's album of the same name. Wheeler might perform those familiar songs, but she's also famous for writing and performing song snippets, fragments that she hasn't quite finished. Is this a moving example of the lyricism inherent in a touring life? No, Wheeler says. "If I'm writing a song, I'm obsessed with it. No matter what else I appear to be doing, I'm just writing that song."

Her most recent album is 2005's quiet Defying Gravity, which starts with the aching song "Since You've Been Gone," a song describing the pain following her father's death. "After my father died, I haven't been writing as much," she says, but she ascribes that as much to the political scene as to her personal pain. "My mother used to pour boiling water on ants to kill them," she says, "and I think Bush and Cheney would pour boiling water on people." In Eugene, she might speak a bit about politics, but she'll also move people with her incisive songs about loss. Indeed, Wheeler's songs of pain, from "Aces" to the lushly nostalgic "Arrow," often find her audiences settling into a reverie — one Wheeler's happy to break with something funny like "Potato" or "Meow." The next song might be back to gentle agony or smart political commentary. Be there to find out.

Opener Kenny White, a composer and producer, moved to folk music with the well-received Uninvited Guest. His newest album, Never Like This, pokes fun at fundamentalists and the U.S. administration.    




Slinky Heat

Hot Club of San Francisco

If I could take a spin in the Wayback Machine, I might set the dials for Paris between the two world wars, where art and literature and expat Americans were running wild, and classical music and dance (led by Stravinsky, Ravel and Les Six) hadn't yet ossified into backward-gazing museums or plunged into atonal moroseness. Parisians enchanted by American jazz developed their own breezy style, personified by the earthy yet elegant swing of the Quintet of the Hot Club of Paris, fueled by the red wine and peasant bread combo of violinist Stephane Grappelli and Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt. Their gypsy swing sound has proved so durable (Grappelli stayed true to it for the next six decades) that it's still spawning imitators including the Hot Club of Detroit (which substitutes clarinet and accordion as lead instruments) and frequent Eugene visitors Pearl Django from Seattle.

The Hot Club of San Francisco trades the original quintet's edgy rhythmic vitality for an amiable dreaminess. It's a mellower, updated sound but still suitable for dancing as well as background music to accompany silent surrealist films from the Parisian avant garde, courtesy of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, including Now You Tell Me, It's a Bird, The Land Beyond Tomorrow and The Fall of the House of Usher.

The Hot Club of San Francisco plays at 8 pm Saturday, Oct. 21 and 2:30 pm Sunday, Oct. 22 at the Hult Center. $28.50-$38.50. — Brett Campbell



They Like Donnie Darko Too

Checking out bands almost always requires a sacrifice. If you want volume, you have to sacrifice lyrics. If you want intelligence, you have to sacrifice personality. If you want catchy, you have to sacrifice substance. If you want all those things, you're screwed nine times out of 10. But that tenth time you should go see Cellar Door. At the very least you'll see five guys play their asses off. At best you might rediscover your faith in the spirit of live music.

They're literally the boys next door who started a band and then, before you knew it, were actually good. Really good. One album, one EP and multiple sold-out shows into their career, this Portland-based rock 'n' roll outfit is gaining serious momentum, shredding up and down the West Coast with their grungy, psychedelic-tinged set list and a fervor that never eclipses the lyrics or compromises front-man Ian Hanley's feverishly robust vocals. And by feverish I mean he appears possessed at times, and if it's hot onstage, his face turns purple (which is just so awesomely rock 'n' roll).

Songs like "The Feeling," from their Shelfed EP, showcase Cellar Door's mastery; the catchy opener, the energetic wind-up and ultimately the explosion into an extended, multi-layered performance of audio alchemy. The individual members are highly skilled musicians, songwriters and showmen, but Cellar Door is more than a sum of its parts. Once on stage, the band takes on life of its own, and it doesn't settle or make sacrifices. You shouldn't have to either.

Cellar Door plays at 10 pm Saturday, Oct. 21 at Diablo's Downtown Lounge with Ingredients and Cinnamon Joe. $5. — Adrienne van der Valk



Steppe'n Throats

Xöömei is not something just anyone can master.

Virtually unknown to the Western world until the Soviet collapse, xöömei (pronounced HOO-mee), or throat singing, has had a steady cult following of international folk music aficionados since then — thanks in large part to the efforts of Tuvan supergroup Huun Huur Tu. Xöömei is not something just anyone can master. Indeed, it takes growing up on the Mongolian plateau (or, in HHT's case, the Russian autonomous republic of Tuva) with its endless horizon, steady sheep-meat diet, punishing climate and bands of horses for vocalists to sync their songs with the sounds of nature. Case in point: HHT's 1999 album, Where Young Grass Grows, features recordings made while riding horseback on the Tuvan steppe.

HHT's songs are layered, sustained and trancelike — even, dare I say it, catchy. Think Sigur Rós, only more dirt and hooves, less cosmodrone. HHT's instrumentals — primarily on the horsehead fiddle — are melodic, melancholy and robust. Comparing HHT's music to landscape architecture would be near the mark; many of their songs are not just about topography, they are topography. When was the last time your eyes didn't believe your ears and your ears didn't believe your eyes? See it to believe it.

Huun Huur Tu plays at 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Chuck Adams



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