Lou Reed’s ukulele-playing younger brother
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., July 17, 2003) -- On “El Camino Real” (St. Francis), Carmaig de Forest comes across like a ukulele-playing younger brother of Lou Reed, with a hint of the sweetness of Jonathan Richman and the eccentricity of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, with whom he’s often shared stages. The California-by-way of Baltimore native warms up the crowd for the Tom Tom Club at the Iron Horse in Northampton next Tuesday, but the night before, de Forest – who has also shared stages with the Ramones and Bob Mould -- headlines a rare show at the Mohawk Bar (413-664-9664) in North Adams with the Burdens, a guitar and drums, husband-and-wife duo – think of them as Williamstown’s answer to Yo La Tengo -- who will be offering a sneak preview of songs from their terrific upcoming album, “Uh Oh.”

Celia plugs in

Pioneer Valley singer-songwriter Celia turned to two of Berkshire County’s top songwriters and producers for help when it came time to record her second CD, “Break,” the release of which will be celebrated in concert by Celia and her band (including guitarist Sue Burkhart of Superkart, guitarist/keyboardist Jim Weeks, bassist John O’Boyle, and drummer Chris Ryan) on Sunday at Club Helsinki (413-528-3394). Bruce Knowlton and Robby Baier lend instrumental and songwriting support on “Break,” which kicks off with “You Make Me High,” an insinuating piece of Jane Siberry-like techno-folk. The album includes other electronic-tinged folk numbers that also draw upon the services of Baier’s Melodrome bandmates, like “Magical” and “White Trophy,” and one crunching rocker, “Hell Is in Your Mind,” but Celia also mines her rootsy, bluesy side on acoustic numbers like “No Good Man” and “100 Women.”

Broadening hip-hop

Music fans won’t want to overlook “Facing Mekka,” the program by Rennie Harris Puremovement running at Jacob’s Pillow (413-243-0745) through Sunday. Harris, who toured with Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys as a dancer before founding his own company, is a pioneer in bringing hip-hop dance to the concert stage. A few years ago he adapted “Romeo and Juliet” into “Rome & Jewels,” which was performed with three live djs and authentic, b-boy moves. Harris’s new work, “Facing Mekka,” promises to push beyond street hip-hop into a broader context, tracing the African lineage of hip-hop dance from aboriginal dance, ceremonial African dances, and Angolan and Brazilian forms of Capoeira. A multi-media, evening-long performance, it includes 17 dancers and musicians including Philip Hamilton, who plays African drums and sings; vocalist Kenny Muhammad, known as "The Human Orchestra" for his talents at "beat-boxing," or creating percussive rhythms vocally; singer/cellist Grisha Coleman, who has recorded music with poet Carl Hancock Rux and DJ Spooky; tabla player Lenny Seidman; and DJ Evil Tracy.

Gordon Stone’s busy banjo

Gordon Stone, one of the busiest banjoists on the jam-band scene, brings his band to La Cocina in Pittsfield tonight at 10. Stone’s pedal-steel guitar can be heard on Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s upcoming CD, “Inside In” (Rope a Dope), the soundtrack to his movie, “Outside Out.” Stone also recently finished up contributing to the next CD by Nerissa and Katryna Nields, and he will perform with them at next weekend’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, N.Y. Stone also moonlights with Al and the Transamericans, a jam-band supergroup featuring members of Moe and Strangefolk.

Feelin’ grooovy

For several years the Grooove has provided a platform for teen-age performing talents in North County. With the release of “Grooove 100% Substance Free,” now some of that talent is captured on a CD featuring a baker’s dozen tracks by eight different artists, ranging from the confessional folk-pop of Ashley Perkins to the Pearl Jam-inspired hard-rock of In Silence Depth. The recording also includes original music and poetry by Alcott’s Fig Tree, Ragged Company, Stephanie Thomas, Shana Anolik, Ben Mackin and Christian David Phiffer, who range in age from 13 to 19. Many of the artists featured on the CD will perform at an outdoor music festival on Sunday at 2 at Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams. Copies of the Grooove's compilation CD will be sold at the festival. All Grooove events (413-663-7588) follow a substance-free policy, which means that performers and audience members (including adults) must be free of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on July 17, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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