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Notes from the local underground.
The first thing you hear on pianist David London's new CD is London himself, sounding like a homegrown Fabio. "My name is David London," he says over a lush backing track, "and this is my creation, Music on the Rocks. My main reason for writing this music is to help relieve you of your worries and the confusion of today's world. So let go and fall into my atmosphere, filled with relaxation. Thank you." This is a wonderfully loony beginning, but it's one that London can't top. The rest of Rocks (whose jacket is helpfully labeled "New Age") is standard stuff, replete with sugary melodies draped in synthesizer washes played ve-r-r-ry slo-o-o-wly. It's relaxing, sure, but it made me fear that if I let my guard down, my brain was going to be snatched. And I like it where it is (David London, P.O. Box 333, Denver 80224).

Sherri Jackson's self-titled debut for the Hybrid imprint (run by a former president of A&M Records and distributed by a firm headed up by former Columbia Records honcho Walter Yetnikov) is every bit as mature and engaging as you'd expect. "Maple Tree" and "Rice and Beans," which should be familiar to those of you who own Jackson's independently produced Moments in Denial offering, are given nice rides, while "Ain't That Good" funks effectively and "World Away" juxtaposes introspective verses and a rocking chorus. Not everything is of similar quality: "Time & Time" and "Stressed Up," a pair of lite-reggae pieces, are diverting but fairly disposable. Nevertheless, the production of Los Lobos veteran Steve Berlin, the playing of longtime Jackson associates Glenn Esparza and Brian McRae and guests like John Medeski, of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame, and the soulful vocalizing of Jackson herself are a cut above. In the singer-songwriter sweepstakes, Sherri Jackson is a winner (available in area record stores). Rene Heredia isn't exactly Mr. Modesty; on the liner of his new CD, Flamenco in the Americas: A Musical Journey, he includes choice quotes from past reviews and a biography, in both English and Spanish, that lists his many awards and catalogues his various television appearances. Such horn-blowing would be insufferable if Heredia couldn't play. But fortunately, he can--and on Journey, he does so with great skill. Accompanied by high-caliber performers like Steve Mullins and Ed Contreras (both members of Laughing Hands), he strums and picks through "Rumba," "La Comparsita," "Day in the Life of a Fool" and other disparate selections. Even "Spanish Gas," a flamenco version of the Mason Williams chestnut "Classical Gas," isn't as silly as you might expect. Here's a quote you can use on your next album, Rene: This is a lovely disc (available in area record stores).

On One Horse Stranger, singer-songwriter Doug Whaley makes country music of a creamy, low-key sort. He's a competent singer and a lyricist capable of creating effective imagery; I especially liked the title cut, which benefits greatly from Hank Singer's fiddle. But there's a certain sameyness to the melodies, and the production, by keyboardist John Bergeron, tends to exaggerate detrimental elements like the background vocals that hang heavily on "Dream On," "It Was Only Love" and "Look Out Utah, Goodbye Texas." There's some good work here, but the package as a whole doesn't quite come together (Bear Canyon Records, P.O. Box 531, Kittredge, 80457). Jim Salestrom, who made a name for himself by singing the national anthem at Colorado Avalanche games during the team's championship season, has a pair of new discs on Arlington, Texas-based Moulin D'Or Recordings. His bio suggests that he follows in the footsteps of John Denver, and on The Messenger, that's about right: The platter is laden with odes to nature ("Bristlecone Pine"), lyrical nostalgia ("My First Rodeo") and tales of love ("Tears in Your Eyes"). As that description implies, the CD filled me with a profound sense of horror that I was able to wash away only by repeatedly spinning the collected works of Helmet. As for All the Colors, a Salestrom release aimed at families and children, it contains a version of "Return to Pooh Corner" that makes the Kenny Loggins original sound like something from Ministry. Don't say I didn't warn you (Moulin D'Or Recordings, 1148 W. Pioneer Parkway, Suite E, Arlington, TX 76013).

You don't need Larry Green to tell you that the annual spring warmup has finally begun. But the folks at Planet Bluegrass are still dealing with the aftereffects of winter's last blast. On Thursday night, April 24, the town of Lyons, where Planet Bluegrass's Wildflower Theatre is located, received two feet of snow, and according to the organization's Steve Szymanski, that was more of the fluffy white stuff than the barn-like structure was able to support. "The entire roof of the theater caved in," he says about the Forties-era space. "The walls to the entrance are still standing, and about fifteen feet of the roof, so we may be able to use that part of it as some kind of storage facility. But we've demolished the rest of it."

The storm resulted in the cancellation of numerous shows, including an appearance by Dee Carstensen scheduled for Friday, May 16. (Those interested in checking out Carstensen live may still do so on Saturday, May 17, at Swallow Hill Music Hall, where she'll appear with vocalist Erica Wheeler.) But Szymanski doesn't anticipate any problems at the two largest events Planet Bluegrass holds in Lyons: the 25th annual Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival, which takes place August 1-3, and the 7th annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, set for August 22-24. "We'll just put up a big tent, and whatever we generally do inside the theater we'll do there," he says. In the meantime, Szymanski and company are mulling over their options. The theater was insured, so they'll be able to rebuild near, if not on, the current site. "We probably won't be able to get started until the fall," Szymanski concedes, "but we'd like to get done by the end of the year so we can start scheduling shows again."

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