Tucked into the beautiful historic gold rush town of Grass Valley, The Center for the Arts is a haven for world famous musicians of all kinds. Big names and emerging artists alike love to make the Center a stop on their tours since it’s often on their way from one big city gig in the Bay Area or Sacramento to another, and they love the warm, welcoming atmosphere they find here. There are some wonderful acts coming up in March that you won’t want to miss:
Nick Moss Band
with Grease, Grit and Grime opening
Friday, April 21, 8:00 p.m.
Blues guitarist Nick Moss brings his band to The Center for the Arts in downtown Grass Valley for a dance concert on Friday, April 21.
The 16-time Blues Music Award nominee is one of the top draws on the blues circuit and one of the most exciting, dynamic performers working today. He and his band maintain a grueling tour schedule and but an active recording schedule. Nick is a gifted storyteller, a songwriter that takes his craft seriously and a musician with a daunting work ethic. He is a walking encyclopedia of blues and music knowledge.
“For the past six years, I’ve branched into more modern and progressive styles of blues. It’s been an education to explore and develop songs for us to take on the road,” he explains. “Our audiences expect the unexpected and in order to give it to them night after night, I devote myself to learning more about the music I play.”
Recently, Moss and former bandmate Michael Ledbetter (a distant relative of Lead Belly), were invited to play a tribute event for Lead Belly at Carnegie Hall. “I heard Lead Belly songs when I was a child,” says Moss. “My Grandmother, of Austrian and German decent, played harmonica and sang “Good Night Irene” to me when I was little. She learned those songs when she was growing up during the 1920’s and 1930’s, which is evidence of how the blues seeped into culture and became popular music.”
“To me, a pure approach to the blues has more to do with the emotion the music evokes and the heart of the player; what someone looks like says very little about their musical heart.”
Opening the show will be Nevada County blues band Grease Grit and Grime.
Grease Grit and Grime embodies the “dirty blues” of the Mississippi Delta and Chicago. The band’s specialty is getting folks out of their chairs and onto the dance floor.
GG&G started in 2007 in Nevada County and by musicians with experience in a variety of bands including Earles of Newtown, Lisa Kindred and Ascension, Barry “The Fish” Melton, Luther Tucker, L.C. “Good Rockin’” Robinson and Curtis Lawson.
Highpoints for the band have been opening for Johnny Winter, backing Lazy Lester and performing in the Polk Street Blues Festival in San Francisco in 2011.
Vieux Farka Toure
with Omar Velasco opening
Saturday, April 29, 2017, 8:00 p.m.
Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré returns to Grass Valley for a dance concert at The Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 29 featuring an opening set by Omar Velasco.
Often referred to as “The Hendrix of the Sahara”, Vieux Farka Touré was born in Niafunké, Mali in 1981. He is the son of legendary Malian guitar player Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006. Ali Farka Touré came from a historical tribe of soldiers, and defied his parents in becoming a musician. When Vieux was in his teens, he declared that he also wanted to be a musician. His father disapproved due to the pressures he had experienced being a musician. Rather, he wanted Vieux to become a soldier. But with help from family friend the kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, Vieux eventually convinced his father to give him his blessing to become a musician shortly before Ali passed.
Vieux was initially a drummer / calabash player at Mali’s Institut National des Arts, but secretly began playing guitar in 2001. Ali Farka Touré was weakened with cancer when Vieux announced that he was going to record an album. Ali recorded a couple of tracks with him, and these recordings, which can be heard on Vieux’s debut CD, were amongst his final ones. It has been said that the senior Touré played rough mixes of these songs when people visited him in his final days, at peace with, and proud of, his son’s talent as a musician.
In 2005, Eric Herman of Modiba Productions expressed an interest in producing an album for Vieux; this led to Vieux’s self-titled debut album, released by World Village in 2007. Ali Farka
Touré’s work to tackle the problem of malaria is continued as 10% of proceeds are donated to Modiba’s “Fight Malaria” campaign in Niafunké through which over 3000 mosquito nets have been delivered to children and pregnant women in the Timbuktu region of Mali. On this first album, Vieux pays homage to his father and follows Ali’s musical tradition, giving new versions of the West African music that is echoed in the American blues. The album features Toumani Diabaté, as well as his late father. One of the tracks, ‘Courage’, is on the soundtrack of the film The First Grader (2010).
On his second record, Fondo on Six Degrees (2009), Vieux branched out and presented his own sound: while remaining true to the roots of his father’s music he uses elements of rock, Latin music, and other African influences. The album received a great deal of critical acclaim from across the globe, and Vieux was clearly moving out of his father’s shadow.
By June 2010, Vieux was performing at the opening concert for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. That month Vieux also released his first live album, LIVE. His live performances are highly energized and Vieux is known for dazzling crowds with his speed and dexterity on the guitar, as well as his palpable charisma and luminous smile, both of which captivate audiences from all audiences in spite of any language barriers (though Vieux does speak 8 languages).
In 2011 Vieux released his 3rd studio album, The Secret, so named because the listener will hear the secret of the blues with a blend of generations from father to son. It was produced by guitarist Eric Krasno (of the Soulive trio) and features South African-born vocalist Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks on electric slide guitar and jazz guitarist John Scofield. The title track is the last collaboration between Vieux and his late father. With the heralded release of The Secret, Vieux Farka Touré has clearly established himself as one of the world’s rare musical talents and guitar virtuosos with a distinct style that always pays homage to the past while looking towards the future.
Vieux released The Tel Aviv Session (Cumbancha) in April 2012, a collaborative project with Israeli superstar Idan Raichel dubbed ‘The Touré-Raichel Collective’ that has been hailed by fans and critics alike as a masterpiece and one of the best collaborative albums in the history of international music, drawing comparisons to Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder’s legendary Talking Timbuktu album.
In 2013, Vieux Farka Touré’s beautiful and critically acclaimed latest album Mon Pays was released as an homage to his homeland. Being that his native Mali had recently been splintered by territorial fighting between Tuareg and Islamic rebels since January 2012, Mon Pays was devoted to reminding the world about the beauty and culture of his native Mali. Translated as ‘My Country,’ this predominantly acoustic undertaking transformed into an artifact of cultural preservation. Two songs on the project -Future’ and ‘Peace’ feature Sidiki Diabate’s kora leading an emotional charge complemented by Touré’s spectacular guitar work. Both tracks represent an important generational “passing of the torch” as Sidiki’s father, Toumani is considered one of the greatest living kora masters and was a close friend of Vieux’s father Ali. Mon Pays has been widely hailed as the most mature and lovely record yet from one of this generation’s most exciting artists to come out of Mali and one of world music’s true rising stars.
Vieux reunited with Idan Raichel in Paris to record, release and subsequently tour their 2nd collaborative album as The Touré-Raichel Collective in 2014. The result was yet another musical and critical triumph, titled ‘The Paris Session’ (Cumbancha) revered by many as not just a musical gem for the ages but a powerful testimonial to the power of art and fraternity to transcend vast cultural and political divides. This year, Vieux is preparing to release another unexpected, genre-bending collaborative album, this time with New York-based singer Julia Easterlin, aptly titled ‘Touristes’. With each new project, Vieux expands his horizons, embraces new challenges and further entrenches his reputation as one of the world’s most talented and innovative musicians.
Opening the concert will be singer/songwriter Omar Velasco.
“I started playing as soon as I can remember. I took to it right away,” said Velasco. “I didn’t really decide to do it as a career until later in life — about 18 years old.” Now, after six years as a guitarist touring with the band A Fine Frenzy and then with Jonathan Wilson, Velasco has embarked on a solo career.
His debut album, Golden Child, proves to be a tantalizing aural experience. “Great Western City” is a galloping number with rich vocals and a lyrical sense of storytelling. “Golden Child” has a jazzy feel with orchestration undertones à la a funkier Seals and Crofts, and Velasco’s warm vocals soothe like a summer breeze.
Velasco lived in different cities and countries while growing up, but the family finally settled in Goleta when he entered high school. His eclectic sensibilities come from his nomadic beginnings and being raised in a multicultural family that listened to a wide array of music. “My mother is Mexican, so there was a lot of Latin-influenced music,” Velasco explained. “My dad would listen to a lot of world music — African, Afro-Cuban, South American. He has a Yiddish background, so a lot of that, too. … Of course [there] was the Beatles and Cat Stevens, more of the popular stuff, which I love.”
For the last year and a half, Velasco has been laying down tracks with Wilson, who is also a sought-after producer. “I actually finished mixing about October,” he said. Previously, he played mostly solo acoustic gigs, but for this go out, Velasco has put a band together. “I love doing things by myself, you can be absolutely vulnerable because nobody is listening and you can make all the weird sounds that you like,” he said. “That being said, there’s nothing like the magic that can be created with a group of resonant people.” —Michelle Drown
Learn more about Vieux Farka Touré at www.vieuxfarkatoure.com and about Omar Valasco at omarvelasco.com.
For more information about these shows and more, or to purchase tickets, visit www.thecenterforthearts.org.