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Wylie and the Wild WestWylie & The Wild West, Ridin' The Hi-Line (Rounder 2000) - Western singer Wylie Gustafson brings his retro Western style to the Sons of the San Joaquin Fandango in Clovis on May 20, 2000.

Wylie is touring to support his new album, Ridin' the Hi-Line, which is a throwback to more traditional cowboy music. Says Wylie, "I get a huge satisfaction out of being different. People have to see something different, and they are waiting to see a new twist. I think that is what we offer."

Wylie GustafsonWylie grew up on a ranch in Montana, and spent parts of the 80s playing in Los Angeles and Nashville. Wylie met his wife, Kimberly, at a show in Spokane in 1984.

While Wylie has a retro sound, it's not the drawn-out storytelling type of Red Steagall. Rather, Wylie is more upbeat on tracks like "Yodeling My Blues Away." Says Wylie, "You say yodeling, and people think it's this goofy thing, and it sure can be. But to me, it is expressing an art form, a largely lost one."

The Wild WestWylie is part of a small cadre of western singers that includes Michael Martin Murphey and Don Edwards. But Wylie reminds me even more of Don Walser, the fun-time western singer from Texas who also incorporates yodeling in his act. And while we're at it, let's mention one of my favorite western albums of the last few years - The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again by old-timer Herb Jefferies.

Look for Wylie in Clovis this weekend.

311, Soundsystem (Capricorn 1999) - 311 will be appearing at the Fresno State Amphitheater on May 27, 2000, on a bill with hard rockers Incubus. 311 is touring to support their new album, Soundsystem.

311 hails from Omaha, Nebraska, and consists of Nick Hexun on vocals and guitars, Tim Mahoney on guitars, S.A. Martinez on vocals and D.J., Chad Sexton on drums, and P-Nut on bass. The group has been together since 1988 and sold more than five million albums, including their self-titled album from 1995 (certified triple platinum). (Also look for their contribution to Hempilation 2).

The band311 plays an aggressive style of rock and hip-hop without be unduly offensive. Says bassist P-Nut, "You can't be a real judge of the band unless you see us live. Even though we have put years' worth of work into recording, we are still a live band. The emotion that comes during live shows is so different than during the making of albums, which become a very personal thing, but a live show is this collective experience that we share with everybody."

The DJAnd
311 certainly has plenty of road experience as a result of playing 200 gigs a year during the latter half of the 90s. Explains P-Nut, "We were doing a 70s way of just touring, put out an album, touring, put out an album."

Soundsystemwas written and recorded from June 1998 through June 1999 at the Hive (the band's own recording studio in Burbank, California), and was produced by veteran producer Hugh Padgham (who has worked with such acts as Sting and the Police) and Scotch Ralston, 311's long-time producer and live sound engineer.

Slammin'Tracks like "Can't Fade Me" and "Sever" find the band solidly in their uptempo hip-hop group. Yet, tracks like "Life's Not a Race" slow it down, and introduce a more jammin' sound, a la Phish or
Widespread Panic.

Have fun in the mosh pit at Fresno State on May 27th.

Kimberley Rew
Kimberley Rew, Tunnel Into Summer (Gadfly Records 2000) - While guitarist Kimberley Rew may not be a household name, his pop songs have enjoyed success in the hands of other artists: Rew wrote "Walking on Sunshine," the 1985 hit for Katrina and the Waves, as well as the delicious, "Going Down to Liverpool," recorded by the Bangles.

The ArtistDon't forget that Rew was in the
Soft Boys with Robyn Hitchcock, then formed Katrina and the Waves. Rew makes his solo recording debut with Tunnel Into Summer, recorded with the handful of well-known friends. With his pop sensibilities, balanced by an occasional touch of the subdued, Rew brings to mind Jules Shear.

Just goofin'Rew provides vocals and guitars on all of the 13 tracks, as well as selected bass and keyboards. Joining Rew is
Glenn Tilbrook (ex-Squeeze) on backing vocals on the album's lead off song ("Simple Pleasures"), Julian Dawson on harmonica on "Heart of the Sun," and Andy Metcalfe on bass and keyboards on more than half the album, including the rocking, "Little Ray of Sunshine."

In addition, Robyn Hitchcock provides guitar on three tracks, while lending an indelible influence:
Tunnel Into Summer resembles at times a Hitchcock album in Rew's delivery and intonation.

Loosen upWhile the slower tracks, such as "Beautiful Ruth," tend to bog, the power pop songs, including "Plas Yu Rhiv" buoy the album. And wait for the rocking finale, "Alice Claar," which features a surf guitar sound.

Tunnel Into Summer is a fitting serving from this talented session hand and songwriter.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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