DON'T SPARE YOURSELF THE SPEAR: Without a dread of doubt, Rastafarianism is the religion of choice in the culture of Reggae. Its followers believe that Africa is the promised land; the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie is the messiah; and that black people everywhere will never be liberated until they learn the lessons of their history of oppression.
The religion of the reggae music business also revolves around the life of a dead emperor: Bob Marley. He's the one who spread the polyrhythmic music far beyond the shores of Jamaica. Every reggae artist is linked to him musically and compared to him and all have fallen short of his glory and worldwide acclaim.
Many rivaled both his popularity and musical vision at times during his life and since his death in 1981--Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Gregory Issacs and perhaps Garnett Silk. But no one has been able to sustain either long enough to supplant him as The One.
Winston Rodney, a.k.a. Burning Spear, is one of the artists who has come closest to etching his messages and grooves beside Marley's in the minds of Reggae lovers.
Instead of trading on popular themes the ecstasies of love, marijuana and sex, the Spear has stayed true to roots reggae and missives on personal and cultural freedom. (His '88 album Live in Paris: Zenith is probably the lone exception to this.) Last year's Love & Peace: Burning Spear Live! on the Heartbeat label was recorded on tour at various venues across America and includes live remakes of Spear classics such as "Call On You" (from his early Studio One label work), "Mi Gi Dem," "Peace" and "Mek We Dweet," among the nine tracks.
The album is vibrant testimony to Burning Spear's power as a live performer and his still-growing legacy as one of reggae's most passionate prophets.
Burning Spear plays The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Thursday, September 21. Tickets are $12 at the door.
HARD AGAIN: That same night, legendary surf-thunder guitarist Dick Dale plays Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. When he performed there earlier this year a blizzard of low-end fuzz from his screaming Stratocaster engulfed the sold-out club.
I was lucky enough to interview Dale before he came to town for that show and was caught in a storm of words--the man converses like he plays guitar. I asked him a single question and he was off on a 30-minute monologue about his guitar style (it springs from the power of the ocean and all other living things), surf music (he says he doesn't play it, although he takes credit for its creation), gun control (against it), Native American culture (admires it greatly), lions and tigers (he has raised and trained a bunch of 'em), President Clinton (Dick won't be chairing the re-election committee from his ranch in the high desert outside Los Angeles), death (he's going to explode on stage) and lots of other things.
He squeezed in a few philosophical meanderings during his concert as well, but mostly just stood in one place on stage and tried to melt his guitar with a machine gun staccato.
Advance tickets to the Dick Dale concert on Thursday, September 21, are $10. They'll be $12 on the day of the show.
ARM & HAMMERED: It isn't easy to get to know the dulcimer. Its delicate chime and twang isn't part of pop music's repertoire, so you never see or hear one on MTV. Folks in this area are fortunate to have access to the ancient instrument via the group Arm & Hammer and their occasional performances and recordings.
Anna Duff (hammer dulcimer) and Stefan George (guitar and mandolin) have been playing their combinations of Appalachian, Celtic and ragtime traditional songs along with their original American string music for 13 years.
The duo has just released its third recording, entitled Strings Of Heart. Like their previous releases it pleases with a mixture of courtly contemplation and snap.
Their original "Sliders Waltz" gently tugs you into a trance with Duff's precise hammering providing a celestial counterpoint to George's soothing slide guitar. Their reworking of "Davey Crockett's Honeymoon" is like a bouncy, breathless ride on a stream rushing through the south Appalachian mountains, while their version of "Rally 'Round The Flag" takes on a stateliness that gives it the feel of an old-fashioned song of courtship rather than any red-blooded pumpings of patriotism.
Hear the intricate intrigues of Arm & Hammer when they celebrate the release of Strings Of Heart at the Southwest Center for Music, 2175 N. Sixth Ave., on Sunday, September 17. Admission is $5.
LAST NOTES: The Sam Taylor Blues Band featuring Heather Hardy recently won the Arizona Blues Showdown, sponsored by the Phoenix Blues Society. Winning the contest means the group is entitled to represent Arizona at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Talent Competition in Memphis on October 8.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the band hasn't got the coins to get there. That's why Sam and the band are hosting a fundraising concert at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave., on Sunday, September 17. All of the proceeds will go toward getting these badasses to Memphis.
Other performers scheduled to play "The Send Sam To Memphis Jam" include: The Hurricane Holmes Band, Bobby Taylor (Sam's son) and Tony and The Torpedoes. KXCI radio's Kidd Squidd will also be on hand to spin platters in between sets of live music.
A minimum donation of $5 will be asked for at the door. You can, of course, donate as much as your wallet will allow. The concert starts at 6 p.m., with Taylor and crew scheduled to hit the stage around 10 p.m.
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