Gosh darn it all
Portland's Sassparilla features Kevin 'Gus' Blackwell on vocals, cigar box guitar, and National resonator guitar; the father-son combo of Ross 'Dagger' Macdonald on harmonica and Colin 'Sweet Pea' Macdonald on washtub bass; the mysterious Naima on vocals, accordion and washboard, and Justin Burkhart on drums. The band has a balanced attack to indie roots music, as evidenced by its latest release 'The Darndest Thing.' Fans of early 20th century old-timey tunes will enjoy the semi-ragtime feel of such tunes as 'New Love' and 'Same Old Blues.' It's good music for rumrunners, craps shooters, G-men and ladies of questionable virtue.
Sassparilla, The Mighty Ghosts, Water Tower Bucket Boys, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14., Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Free. All ages. Info: 503-249-3983, www.mcmenamins.com.
Mason Smith's second season of the Eastside Bluegrass Series kicks off this week, and fans should note shows take place every third Saturday of the month. As always, you can show up with your instrument for a pre-show jam in the lobby at 5:30 p.m. The shows generally feature two 50-minute sets, with a shorter set, often featuring a duo, of about 20 minutes between the two longer shows.
This week's show starts off with The Howdy Boys, a quartet from Seattle that will play early bluegrass, as well as honky tonk, old-time country and original tunes. Steve Blanchard will then take the stage, followed by Northern Departure, which features guitar, upright bass, banjo, mandolin and fiddle as well as vocal harmonies. This young band already has played several bluegrass festivals on the West Coast and mixes originals and contemporary bluegrass along with old favorites.
Eastside Bluegrass Series, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, Freedom Foursquare Church, 660 S.E.160th Ave. Suggested donation $10. Children free. Info: www.eastsidebluegrass.com.
Two Portland songwriters, Jake Oken-Berg and Naomi Hooley, celebrate the release of their respective solo albums at this show. Pianist-vocalist Oken-Berg has carved a nice niche for himself over the past few years with his thoughtful, melodic, somewhat easy listening pop rock music. 'It's Me' is the name of his latest recording, and heaven help us, sometimes on the disc Oken-Berg sounds like a mellow Trent Reznor, which is a good thing. Meanwhile, Hooley's band broke up and her husband left her awhile back, but instead of wallowing in misery, she wrote a very fine new album called 'It Was A Great October' that would please fans of Adele, Carole King, Judy Collins and any female singer with a great set of pipes. Standout cuts include 'Button' and the semi-classical title track, which displays Hooley's lyrical skills and just-enough-power-to-make-the-point vocal approach. This pairing should be one of the best musical offerings in town this week.
Jake Oken-Berg, Naomi Hooley, Brian Copeland Band, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave. $10 in advance, $15 day of show. Minors must be accompanied by parents. Info: 503-234-9694, www.aladdin-theater.com.
Practice makes perfect
Mike Keneally may be best known to music nerds as the guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist in Frank Zappa's last touring band. Or you might know him for the fact he's played and recorded with Robert Fripp, Dethklok, Wayne Kramer, Steve Vai, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Joe Satriani and many others. He's got 20 albums of his own and, like the best fusion composers, defies classification. Like Zappa, at times he sounds like he lets the lyrics determine the melody, not the other way around, a songwriting style that opens up limitless possibilities compositionally. Members of Keneally's band will also play with the opening act, Keneally's longtime bassist Bryan Beller, a stellar jazz-rock artist in his own right.
Mike Keneally, Bryan Beller, 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, Mt. Tabor Theater, 4811 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Info: 503-360-1450, www.thetabor.com.