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Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.14.08




Welcome to Wonderland

Throaty Texan Carolyn Wonderland knows her way around six strings, but it’s her soulful, near-contralto voice that clinches the deal. A veteran of the Austin music scene, Wonderland’s been performing her country-infused blues in Austin for over 10 years, but even though she’s caught the attention of (and jammed with!) none other than Bob Dylan himself, she’s still relatively unknown. Which doesn’t make sense for an accomplished guitarist who sounds like the love child of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be performing at bigger venues and have her own cover story in Rolling Stone instead of the Austin American-Statesman. Well, except one: She showed up on the scene too late for the mainstream heyday of this particular breed of blues. But that’s the mainstream, and in music’s gritty underworld, artists like Wonderland reign supreme even if they can’t always pay the bills. Still, Wonderland’s a dynamic performer with a social conscience the Euge should appreciate, and what I’ve heard so far of her new record, Miss Understood, is a solid example of down-home soul played by a woman who’s got it in spades. Carolyn Wonderland plays at 9 pm Thursday, Aug. 21, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Sara Brickner



Curing the Heart

I was feeling a bit lonely when I listened to Alison Harris’s album Smoke Rings in the Sky, but Harris’ soft songbird voice and gentle melodies cured my melancholy instantly. Though she sings about loneliness and yearning, she does it in such a graceful way that it seems impossible for her music not to cure those exact emotions. Her songs, which mix an all-American beat with a cheerful folk and indie twist, make her album perfect for an early morning pick-me-up with a cup of coffee in hand or an escape from a lonely moment with an unavoidable achy heart.  

At the age of five, Harris began violin lessons with her father, and at nine, piano lessons. Harris began writing her own compositions when she was 13 and finally picked up the guitar in her early 20s. She was raised with studies of Beethoven and Bach while also being exposed to blues piano and artists such as Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, Patsy Cline and Ella Fitzgerald, though her biggest female singer-songwriter influences are Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. Harris’s lyrics are sincere and honest in the way they explore the emptiness and fulfillment of the heart. Her home in the Sebastopol Valley of California, with its serene creeks, redwood trees and coastal breeze, clearly influences the composition of her music. While listening to her delicate voice, you can almost imagine yourself in the environment her music suggests. So if you’re in the mood to escape into complete tranquility or just simply sit back and relax, this album is the one for you. Alison Harris plays at 8:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 17, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Courtney Jacobs



Remembering Strummer

This weekend, local punk rock band The Underlings and Portland’s Casey Neill pay tribute to Joe Strummer, the legendary member of The Clash. Neill, The Underlings and ZZ Clash, an all-star group of local musicians (including Dan Jones, Dan Schmid and two members of Yeltsin) formed specifically for this event, will play music from The Clash as well as The 101ers and The Mescaleros, two other bands Strummer was part of. (Check www.myspace.com/joestrummertributeshoweugeneoregon for each band’s scheduled setlist.) Organized by online radio show System You Radio, An Evening of Tribute to Joe Strummer will raise money for Skaters for Eugene Skateparks and Strummerville. Skaters for Eugene Skateparks is working towards the creation of a system of public skate parks in Eugene. Strummerville is a charity founded by Strummer’s friends and family after his death dedicated to helping aspiring musicians by providing them with support, resources and performance opportunities they wouldn’t normally have. 

Along with musical performances, the show offers chances to win prizes from raffles and giveaways. The grand prize in the raffle is a replica of Strummer’s signature Telecaster guitar. A Tribute to Joe Strummer begins at 8:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 16, at the WOW Hall. $10. — Inka Bajandas