Critic’s Choice for the week of July 16-22, 2003

A shallow band that runs deep, an English version of Faust, an uncle who's true to his twangy roots, and a B-3 master, among other acts.


A string section. Jesus. It’s not every day you meet a two-man local indie rock band with enough bravado to roll out a string section. But Thee More Shallows digs a little deeper than most post-rock types — the Oakland act’s latest, A History of Sport Fishing, is a complicated, varied, and oddly beautiful platter of post-graduate lullabies. See ’em Friday at the splendid Oakland Metro. (Rob Harvilla)


With San Francisco Opera scaling back its season, the role of local opera companies grows increasingly important. Starting Friday night, the venerable Berkeley Opera presents six English-language performances of Charles Gounod’s Faust at Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Theater. Jonathan Khuner conducts the original 1859 version, which features spoken dialogue and abundant jewel-like melodies. Info 510-841-1903; tickets 925-798-1300. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Jay Farrar may forever be known as “the other guy from Uncle Tupelo,” but that doesn’t mean his music is less interesting than Wilco’s. With his band Son Volt and on his two solo albums (including the new Terroir Blues), Farrar has stuck closer to his roots with twangy, somber songs, though he has no fear of sonic experimentation. Check out his solo act at the Great American Music Hall in SF on Sunday and Monday. Tim Easton opens. 415-885-0750. (Michael Gowan)


City Folk was simply the best folk-country-rock trio around in the early ’90s, but the musicians — Keith Greeninger, Roger Feuer, and Kimball Hurd — went off in different directions before any real momentum could be built for their classy approach to acoustic music. With vocal harmonies as thrillingly and intricately interconnected as their instrumental interplay and perfectly fitted to original songs of love and the beauty of nature, the group has reunited for a short tour that includes Saturday at the Freight & Salvage. It’s probably the only place to also pick up its exquisite but unreleased CD, In Another’s Eyes. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


Canada’s Cape Breton is one of the few places in North America where a unique regional music still flourishes. The Beolach Sextet plays the music of Cape Breton — a permutation of the Irish and Scots music that came to Canada centuries ago — with plenty of energy, but without “updating” it. One of Canada’s best folk bands. Monday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761 (j. poet)


Brenda Boykin ‘ s big, soulful voice and exuberant stage persona mark her as a local star with infinite potential. She calls her music “Afrobilly soul,” but Afro-Americana would fit just as well: Her sharp songwriting draws on Kansas City blues, Tex-Mex country, and East Bay funk, with a bit of Gospel on the side. Her Big Soul Country band will rock the house Wednesday at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. 510-525-5054. (j.p.)


Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unquestioned master of the B-3 organ. For decades, he’s taken particular delight in bending, twisting, and tweaking his Hammond into incredibly funky sequences of notes. Most recently, he’s canonized the work of that esteemed composer, Maestro Beck Hansen, with the album From Boogaloo to Beck. Smith collaborated with tenor saxman David “Fathead” Newman on that LP, whose across-the-board rave reviews don’t really do it justice. Smith and Newman radically reinterpret Beck’s music, retaining the basic melodic structure, but vamping, stretching out, and otherwise transforming songs like “Sexx Laws,” “Loser,” and “Paper Tiger” into over-the-top boogaloo workouts. Sadly, Newman won’t be performing with Smith for his upcoming four-night Yoshi’s run, which concludes Sunday. The good news is that another Hammond virtuoso, Joey De Francesco, will be in the house, going toe to toe with Smith and debuting the brand-new, updated B-3. Call it dueling organs, as Smith and De Francesco see who’s supreme when it comes to sustain. (Eric K. Arnold)


Chilean-born pianist Coto Pincheira got the jazz bug via his father. That’s what brought him to the United States. At 24, he studied with Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba in Havana. He arrived in the Bay Area two years ago, and has graced his Cuban salsa band Ritmo y Armonia. Now he gets the stage to showcase his Afro-Cuban jazz this Saturday at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. 510-845-5373. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


Culture, the group fronted by Joseph Hill, holds a unique position in reggae’s roots harmony trio pantheon. For three decades, the band has sung the praises of Jah Rastafari, continuing to tour and issue albums at a time when most of its peers have long since retired. The band members have created an impressive catalog of classics, from “Jah Jah See Them a Come,” “The International Herb,” and “Two Sevens Clash,” to more recent material like “Addis Ababa.” The live shows resonate with righteous intensity, and though Hill’s getting a little long in the tooth, one gets the feeling he won’t stop until he reaches Zion. Hill and Culture will be at the recently reopened Avalon Ballroom Friday night, along with another favorite from the ’70s roots era, the Abyssinians (“Satta Massa Gana”). (E.K.A.)

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