Music Picks: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Donovan, Ana Tijoux, John Wicks | Music | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Music Picks: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Donovan, Ana Tijoux, John Wicks 

Also, Janelle Monae, Devendra Banhart, the Low Anthem and others

Thursday, Mar 18 2010
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FRIDAY/MARCH/19

DONOVAN AT EL REY THEATRE
As the man who more or less introduced the Beatles, and hence the Western world, to transcendental meditation, archetypical flower-power folkie Donovan is perfectly suited to head a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation. The filmmaker's nonprofit aims to bring the yogi-perfected art of "diving within" to schoolchildren, hospitals and the homeless alike, in a greater effort to promote peace and productivity. Roughly four decades ago, Donovan made a name for himself by embodying both of those tenets in his music. From 1965 to 1970, he not only scored a handful of massive hits here and in his native U.K. — see "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," etc. — but did so while espousing the wide-eyed optimism of the hippie movement, though often cautioning against drug use. For this unique gig, he'll perform with his daughter Astrella Celeste (who's co-written many of his latter-day tunes) alongside members of Guns N' Roses, Sublime, the Like and Conan O'Brien's old band. Actor Mathew St. Patrick, from Six Feet Under, hosts. (Chris Martins)

HIGH PLACES AT THE ECHO
High Places vs. Mankind
, the duo's second album for Thrill Jockey, has a wild album cover, which depicts some Cthulhu/Sigmund & the Sea Monsters kind of creature (perhaps made of seaweed, moss and nuclear-green guacamole). High Places take the form of a post-rock jug band — Mary Pearson's ethereal vocals, recorder and loop manipulation are rocked back and forth by Rob Barber's dubby bass and almost tribal percussion. Their music, even their name, are all about self-reflection and observations about love, loss and our relationship with nature, almost like the organic opposite of Kraftwerk's Die Mensch-Machine. On "Canada," Pearson sings, "I knew some things I do not know today ... Somehow I was older then," recalling the Dylan-penned Byrds hit "My Back Pages." In fact, much of the album's instrumentation may remind you of the Byrds' psychedelic Younger Than Yesterday as if it were produced by Brian Eno during the Ambient 4: On Land sessions. (Daniel Siwek)

click to flip through (3) Bassekou Kouyate cradles his ax.
  • Bassekou Kouyate cradles his ax.
   
 

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Also playing Friday:

FATES WARNING at Avalon; LOVE GRENADES at Henry Fonda Theater; THE JINXES, THE MO-ODDS at Casey's Irish Pub; EARLY DOLPHIN, THE SPIRES, THE FRENCH SEMESTER at Echo Curio; STEEP CANYON RANGERS & STEVE MARTIN at Largo; NOEL PAUL STOOKEY at McCabe's; AFG MUST ROCK, KING CHEETAH, TELOMERE REPAIR at Mr. T's Bowl; BLOWFLY at the Redwood Bar & Grill; JEAN BEAUDIN at Silver Factory Studios; HOP FROG, AMPS FOR CHRIST at Synchronicity Space.

 

SATURDAY/MARCH/20

BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA AT THE GETTY CENTER
There's so much great music coming out of the West African nation Mali, from the enchanting vocal interplay of the blind couple Amadou & Mariam in the south to the swirling, sizzling guitar trails sparked by the Saharan nomads Tinariwen in the north (and beyond). Mali is such a large country that it's a literal crossroads of many different languages and cultures. The ngoni whiz Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba come from the south and, like Amadou & Mariam, live in the capital city, Bamako. They take the traditional ngoni — a stringed instrument that's a distant relation to the banjo — and make it do wondrously fast, blurry and inventive things. At different times, Ngoni Ba's namesake instruments sound like banjos, yes, but also like harps, flamenco guitars, sitars, harpsichords and violins. For all of the music's spiritual affinity with blues and American roots, the nimbly plucked arrangement of the title track of Kouyate's new CD, I Speak Fula (on Sub Pop, of all labels), almost evokes traditional Japanese stringed music. The way the notes come flying out of the variously toned ngonis, in thick flurries of intricate patterns, is frequently dazzling, but the notes aren't just flashy. They flow seamlessly within the songs, insinuating themselves within the dreamy melodies of lead singer Amy Sacko (Kouyate's wife) rather than competing against them. Guest stars like Vieux Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate just add to the bewitching brew. Kouyate & Ngoni Ba hit the Getty tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m., and end up at Amoeba Music on Sunday at 7 p.m. (Falling James)

RED SIMPSON AT VIVA CANTINA
Any discussion of California country music invariably centers on one topic, the Bakersfield Sound, and its two most high-profile pioneers, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. All too rarely does the name Red Simpson come up, but, considering that Owens recorded no less than 35 of Simpson's songs (and Hag himself cut a slew of 'em), it becomes clear that Simpson was a key force in that bangin' regional style. Simpson's mixture of simplicity and sensitivity as a writer is unrivaled, but he's also a drastically expressive vocalist, a superb, high-impact guitarist and a first-rate honky-tonk showman. Although best known for his string of late-'60s/early-'70s trucker-themed hits, Simpson remains a well-rounded and peerless auteur. Whether growling out skull-denting ravers like 1967's "Sam's Place" and his wry, recent masterpiece "Ethel's Corral," or delivering such wrenching ballads as "You Don't Have Very Far to Go" and "Party Girl," Simpson represents the authentic best of country music: sincere, expressive, painstakingly crafted and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. (Jonny Whiteside)

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