Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of all, is just around the corner. The day connotes a sense of community and sharing unlike any other, and there are plenty of people these days who rely on that sense of community and sharing (about 47 percent of us, apparently). To that end, there are two annual benefits this week that make it easy to be a do-gooder while enjoying some tasty tunes.
For the last 10 years (he claims it is 11, but he's got a few years on me, so I'm sticking with my story), Sand Rubies and Luminarios singer-guitarist Rich Hopkins has staged his annual Casa Maria Thanksgiving Benefit, with all proceeds donated to the titular beneficiary.
As I've written in previous columns: "For more than 25 years, Casa Maria, a soup kitchen located at 401 E. 26th St., has provided free meals to the poor and homeless from 8 a.m. to noon, 365 days a year. No one in need is ever turned away, and remarkably, Casa Maria receives no funding from any government agency; every penny comes from private donations.
"Hopkins met Casa Maria founder Brian Flagg more than a decade ago when he was searching for a location to shoot a video for his song 'Tender Mercies,' about the plight of the homeless community. He was so impressed with the soup kitchen that he began volunteering there; he's also released a pair of compilation albums to benefit Casa Maria."
Hopkins has recently been spending more time in Texas with his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Lisa Novak, but he'll be back in town for this week's benefit, which will be held at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Performing will be Greyhound Soul, Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios, Gabriel Sullivan, Blind Divine and The Gunrunners. The event kicks off at 8 p.m., and admission is a donation of $7, as well as a suggested donation of canned-food items. For more information, head to hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848.
A few miles north on the following night, Wednesday, Nov. 21, Boondocks Lounge will throw its annual Thanksgiving bash to benefit the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. This year's featured band is the local R&B combo Zo Carroll and the Soul Breakers, and the music runs from 7 to 11 p.m. Admission is a $5 donation, or $3 with two nonperishable food items. Boondocks Lounge is located at 3306 N. First Ave., and you can hit up boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991 for more info.
STEVE IS CHASING RAINBOWS
For those who grew up during the 1980s, Steve Winwood may signify an era of feel-good soulful pop songs with dated keyboards and compressed production. And if you only knew songs like "Higher Love," "Back in the High Life Again" and "Roll With It," it would be hard to argue with you.
But the Brit has had so many phases of his career that the '80s are a mere footnote on his CV.
Winwood's powerful vocal style developed early in his life: He joined the Spencer Davis Group, which scored mega-hit singles like "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man," when he was only 15.
But Winwood, a multi-instrumentalist—he's proficient on guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, violin and mandolin, among others—who had roots in jazz, began to tire of the three-minute pop-soul format and decided to form a band in which the tunes could stretch out a little bit. In 1967, a year in which both British and American bands began getting more experimental, he formed Traffic with a trio of musicians: guitarist Dave Mason, drummer Jim Capaldi and horn-player Chris Wood. Initially, the group combined everything from British folk to psychedelic jazz, R&B rave-ups to British Invasion pop.
Eventually, Winwood's love of psych-jazz jams and Capaldi's penchant for the folkier stuff clashed, and the band broke up in 1974, having left behind a string of classic albums including The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Mr. Fantasy, as well as FM-radio fodder such as "Feelin' Alright" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy." It was enough for Traffic to gain entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Along the way, in 1969, Winwood teamed up with the guitarist and drummer for Cream—Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, respectively—and Ric Grech to form Blind Faith, which is widely regarded as the very first rock "supergroup." The band only released one self-titled album, which basically sounds like a merger of the Traffic and Cream sounds—the soulful folk jams of the former, and the bombastic blues riffing of the latter—but it remains a classic.
After Traffic called it quits in '74, Winwood laid low for a few years, performing a bit as a session musician and collaborating with a Japanese percussionist on a jazz-fusion album. In 1977, Winwood finally released his self-titled solo debut, which had the Winwood sound, but a dearth of memorable songs.
But in 1980, after a lot of people had written him off, Winwood returned with the fantastic Arc of a Diver, over which he had complete creative control, and on which he played all of the instruments. With hit singles like the title track and "While You See a Chance," not to mention songs like "Spanish Dancer," which transports the listener to a languid otherworld, the album kick-started a hugely successful solo career that endures today, even if it represents his most commercially viable (read: safe) material.
At 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18, the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., will present the Chasing Rainbows Gala, a fundraiser for the Fox during which guests can, according to a press release, "relive the glamour and excitement of opening night in 1930 when guests enjoyed the MGM musical Chasing Rainbows starring Jack Benny." The film also introduced the classic song "Happy Days Are Here Again." The very special musical guest for the evening is none other than Steve Winwood, who will perform a solo set. Advance tickets are $75, and VIP tickets are $150. For more information, head to foxtucsontheatre.org, or call 547-3040.
Self-proclaimed "acoustic, urban and country blues duo" Grams and Krieger will be celebrating the release of their fifth album, 5, on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy held up the manufacturing and shipping of the CDs, so we didn't get a chance to hear it in advance. We'll be reviewing the album in an upcoming issue, and y'all know to expect quality from these guys by now, right?
Kyle Bronsdon will perform a brief opening set on piano at 8 p.m., and then Grams and Krieger, plus special guest Nancy McCallion (and likely Bronsdon, too), will perform until midnight. Cover is $7, and CDs will be available for $10—$5 off the regular selling price. For more info, check out boondockslounge.com, or call 690-0991.
In addition to the pair of albums the group has released, the latest being Trigger and Scythe in January, the gorgeous harmonies of the Silver Thread Trio have graced and abetted performances by everyone from Calexico to Ryanhood, Amos Lee to Brian Lopez. But unless I'm forgetting something, those lovely voices and the women behind them have never collaborated with Howe Gelb, who recently toured Europe and the U.S. in support of his band Giant Giant Sand's fantastic rock opera, Tucson.
That all changes this week as the two pair up for an early show at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Nov. 17. The evening begins with a set by Gelb, who will be joined on some songs by the ST3, who will then close out the night with a set of their own. Doors open at 7 p.m., and admission is $7. For further details, check out hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848.
Finally, Tucson's longest-running punk band, Bloodspasm (aka the band from which we stole the name of our music blog, We Got Cactus ... actually, Bob Spasm kindly granted us permission to use it; it just sounds more punk rock to say we stole it), will celebrate its 27th year of pumping out true hard-core punk with a headlining slot at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 17. The show begins around 9 p.m. with opening sets by The Besmirchers and Pop Gestapo. Cover is $3, and you can head to surlywenchpub.com, or call 882-0009 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Be sure to check out our listings section and our music blog, We Got Cactus, for more great stuff headed our way this week, including: Generationals and Races at Club Congress on Sunday, Nov. 18; Jake Shimabukuro at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Nov. 16; Twizted and (hed) p.e. at The Rock on Saturday, Nov. 17; Young Hunter tour sendoff with The Pharmacy and Golden Boots at La Cocina on Wednesday, Nov. 24; and lots more.