Ego takes a back seat
Scott Amendola Band
For those who fear jazz fusion for its tendency to be littered with incomprehensible note flurries skittering around like a mailman on an icy sidewalk, rest easy. This Bay Area combo is more than capable of finding the right medium between soul and solo.
Orchestrated with the utmost finesse by drum deacon Scott Amendola, whose credits include stints with Charlie Hunter and Tony Furtado, the various players in his band never completely lose sight of the melodic terrain even while demonstrating the most inventive of chops.
Violinist Jenny Scheinman is a true rising star, rendering furious passages with requisite dexterity coupled with a sensitivity for simpler folk and ethnic styles. Guitarist Nels Cline holds up his end of the ladder, equally adept at textural shading and improvisational shredding.
In pieces such as 'Bantu' and 'Streetbeat,' the musicians artfully jump through some cool hoops, flirting with bebop and funkier Afro-jazz. On 'His Eye Is on the Sparrow' they play it straight and respectful, adding a resonant layer of varnish to a mournful old spiritual from early last century.
Singer Carla Bozulich from the Geraldine Fibbers lends her formidable lung power to a spine-tingling version of Bob Dylan's 'Masters of War' that's as frightening as it is timely. Amendola and his team definitely keep things cooking, but it's the absence of ego and indulgence that really sets the table.
Scott Amendola Band plays
8 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Fez Ballroom, 316 S.W. 11th Ave., 503-221-7262, $8 advance, $10 day of show
Break Your Mother's Heart
(New West Records)
A little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll: Donny and Marie may have rattled off this phrase while oozing around some sub-Vegas stage, but it more accurately describes the inclinations of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Tim Easton. Armed with a burnished voice that instantly generates comparisons to Bob Dylan Ñ with fewer rough edges Ñ and a sure lyrical touch, Easton is romping the boards on behalf of his latest record, 'Break Your Mother's Heart.'
Like any songsmith worth his salt, Easton draws material both from his traveling shoes ('Lexington Jail' and 'Poor, Poor L.A.') and his aching heart ('The Man That You Need' and 'Amor Azul'). 'Watching the Lightning' is a tear-jerker about a lost friend, and 'Hanging Tree' is a neatly plucked number about cutting loose from a toxic relationship.
Easton wallows happily in the muddy bog of folk, country and Tom Petty-ish ensemble rock that's come to be called Americana. His strengths lie in the variety of his songs and his unarguable sincerity. Unfortunately, Easton is trying to make a name for himself in a particularly crowded tub, already overflowing with Freedy Johnstons, Joe Henrys and Mark Olsons. At this point, he hasn't really distinguished himself as a horse of a different color.
Tim Easton plays 8 p.m. Friday, March 28, at Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Blvd., 503-233-1994, $12
Keep on Truckin'
If Caustic Resin were a 'Peanuts' character, it would be Pig Pen. Exactly how grimy will this band get before polite society goes running for the soap and scrub brushes?
Hailing from some uncivilized region of Idaho, the group is led by guitarist and singer Brett Netson, who grinds and melts his ax somewhat in the manner of his pal Doug Martsch of Built to Spill (though not so flowery) and J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. When in doubt, stomp on the effects pedal.
Yet it's the unmistakable aroma of Black Sabbath that's all over this record Ñ a sweatier and less stable version, like the band members are on the verge of either passing out or pulling knives on one another. Netson's singing voice sounds something like Ozzy Osbourne bellowing through a bullhorn, especially on 'Fry Like Ace Jones,' one of the less sludgy songs. With 'Wizard of the Upper Snake River' any number of Sabbath songs will register on your riff radar, and Netson adapts Osbourne's doomsday ranting into a rock 'n' roll persona of his very own: that of rural hayseed maniac. Caustic Resin leave a pretty scary stain, and it won't easily wash off.
Caustic Resin opens for Mike Watt, 9:30 p.m., Thursday, April 3, at Blackbird, 3728 N.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-282-9949, $13 advance, $15 day of show