Boulder Creek’s Barry Tanner – The Gift of Go-To

By Julie Horner

It’s all happened here, at the corner of Forest Street and Pine just behind the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Boulder Creek, in the building that formerly housed the town’s post office and is now often referred to simply as “Barry Tanner’s studio.” Whether for fundraisers, remembrances, band practice, or recording, the studio is as no-nonsense on the outside as its owner. Inside is where the magic happens and the place has become a community hub through the generosity of a man who has energy to burn and an innate talent to make things happen. “I grew up in Davis. My mom was campaign manager for the first socialist mayor in the United States. I was born to organize people.”

Once on the coast, he jumped deep into the Santa Cruz music and theater scene. He lived off-grid in Last Chance for a while and then bought a place in Boulder Creek in 2003 when, he says, “places were boarded up…it was dead.” He had choices…and a little inheritance…so he spent some time traveling, most notably to New Orleans and France, where he spent years playing music in a 7-piece jazz/blues band. “I never saved any money doing it but got paid well and treated well.” He bought a tiny apartment overlooking the Mediterranean and was inspired by vibrant festivals, painters, jugglers, and dancers. He brought that joie de vivre back to Boulder Creek: “I either had to move or create some kind of scene here.”

In 2004 he was instrumental in organizing live dinner music on Friday and Saturday nights at Blue Sun (now Los Amigos), “and from there to Joe’s,” he says. Then he landed the old post office. It was a “serendipitous horsehead in the bed” moment: He could either “keep running around Europe eating French food” or make an offer.

“This building has led to Joe’s Bar and Boulder Creek Music Works. From the minute I took possession of the building people started showing up…Tim Welch (Funkranomicon) was waiting outside with his drums in his pickup truck.” Barry’s studio filled a need, and word-of-mouth the news got out. “There’s so many phenomenal musicians up here; the studio provides a pivot point, a hub, to rehearse and record, all those kinds of things.”

“It’s what I love doing…I’d be doing it anywhere…that’s my curse.” But he’s doing it here.

He and Todd Reed started regular music at Joe’s in 2008. “There’s a long list of musicians who played benefits there, but we were the first to start regular music on Thursdays for the Camp Krem kids. All money from the tip jar went to Doctors Without Borders – this was right after Haiti.” Every Thursday is the pro-jam now, where top talent comes together to form ad hoc bands for a night. Dozens of local bands got their start playing together at Joe’s, he says. Barry himself plays bass in Badenov (“as in Boris and Natasha”), an example of what he calls “putting a band together at short notice.”

“I book and do sound for over 200 bands a year at Joe’s, plug-and-play.” And this doesn’t count local festivals. He gets calls from three or four bands a week from around the world, he says. And he’s just completed a series of seven First Friday concerts at the Odd Fellows Hall; he often finds himself running back and forth across the street between Joe’s and the I.O.O.F.

Countless bands have recorded albums and shot video in Barry’s studio, and he just got his 16-channel system up and running. “Everyone and their brother has a home setup. I have the perfect room for recording a large group.” Funkranomicon, Take One, Live Concert Series with Carolyn Sills, Vito and Friends, Research and Development, all have recorded at Barry’s. Agents for some of them, like High on Fire and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “sneak their people here to get them out of the cities to help them get focused.” The recording space is more like being in a living room than being in a high-pressure studio. “I measure my success by how busy the studio is, how much is getting done.”

Barry’s studio also boasts fully operational live-broadcast radio capability. The equipment was initially set up for KBCZ 90.1 Boulder Creek Community Radio before the station moved to the Visitor Center. “I started with the radio before there was even a station. It was just a dream.” Barry lay the groundwork to broadcast from his place, produced the morning show from there, and trained volunteers. “I love teaching. I was having a ball teaching people how to be on the radio.”

“Go-to people pop up, they’re going to make it happen. There are people in this community who have that gift.” But, he says, everybody should step in and lend a hand. “You gotta get your shovel out to keep the go-to people from burning out.”

Three years ago, Barry was told he would only be alive for another year. Now he doesn’t waste his time. “I’m going to go to festivals…I’ve got to get my tickets to Kate Wolfe…I’ve got an air mattress that fits perfectly in the back of my van, my folding chairs…”

Contact Barry: BCMusicWorks@gmail.com

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

On Spirit Wings – Boulder Creek’s Medicine Road

By Julie Horner

Pablo Eagle used to ride his motorcycle through the Santa Cruz Mountains regularly. For some reason one day he took his pickup. It was a beautiful day for riding, warm and dry, with no wind at all. A motorcyclist with a woman on the back passed him. “God, I wish I was on my bike,” he thought, just man and bike riding free. “Suddenly a branch as big as a small tree landed right in front of me.” It was almost like he’d had a spiritual vision. “I look up… It made me think about the drought…I’d seen it coming.” Another motorist stopped to help but wound up mostly watching. “All the adrenaline was in my body, and I just picked the damn thing up – I was holding it like ‘this’ in my arms – and I threw the log. Had I ridden my bike…it spooked me. Now I don’t ride so much.”

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As singer/songwriter for Boulder Creek based band, Medicine Road, he believes in healing through music. Joined by Dave Kerrey (vocals, drums), Jonathan “Skippy” Sherred (background vocals, bass), and Tom McQuillen (background vocals, lead guitar), Medicine Road “spreads the love of life and healing into the wind so that brother wind will carry the healing tune all over the world.”

Primarily a guitar player and lyricist, Pablo Eagle pays homage to his Yaqui/Mayan roots by adding flute to the Medicine Road sound. “When I picked up the flute, I was amazed I could play it…it was a natural thing.” They decided that the flute was going to rule. He remembers one show, “I was playing notes I didn’t know my flute could play. I was playing through my nose, through my throat, I was flying around…it was an out of body experience. People were coming out of the crannies…I don’t even know where these sounds were coming from. We blew that place away.”

Medicine Road just played the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Art & Wine Festival where he said, “Kids were dancin’, people were listening, and the earth felt happy!”

The music is groovy psychedelic rock jam laced with a haunting Native American sound reminiscent of the music of R. Carlos Nakai. Medicine Road plays mostly original material that is centered on musical healing and positive energy. “We feel our music is good medicine for the heart, soul, and body. Praise for the beauty of nature.” Their song, Earth in the Key of A, is like envisioning a rainforest and bringing everyone into it.

“Our goal is to heal with the music. Through the music and through the lyrics. We put out ideas of the pain of the problem – ‘this’ needs to be fixed.” It becomes a recycling of negative energy, he points out, turning it around into positive and “healing as you go.” “That’s what I do with the music. If we can’t heal ourselves, who can we heal?”

Pablo Eagle has been making music in Boulder Creek forever. He lived in a rented room at the Rainbow’s End back when and remembers asking his landlord, “Are you sure you don’t mind if I play music? She said, ‘I love rock and roll and my husband’s deaf.’” He describes how he wrote, Boulder Creek Mama, a song that has become a Medicine Road anthem: “I wrote it 25 years ago at the Junction before it was a park. There was this beautiful young lady in a bikini…she was about to jump off a rock…I was inspired.” The girl who was Boulder Creek Mama worked at Johnnie’s. He asked her if she wanted to come see his band. She said no. He said, I wrote a song about you. She said she was flattered but that was alright. He said, do you have a boyfriend? She said, yeah, kinda. He never saw her again but the song lives on. “We always end our shows with it because it drives everyone crazy, gets people dancing.”

His grandfather used to sun dance and sing to the sun. Now Pablo Eagle and Medicine Road are part of Native American Heritage festivities at Foothill College. “I will always stand up for Native people. We just got Obama to call off the Keystone project. Now there’s the Dakota pipeline.” He feels he has an obligation to Native peoples…to stand up against those who are “always messing with indigenous people.” He has strong opinions about cutting down our redwoods trees too. “Everything is a catch-22. If it’s alive, it has a positive and a negative aspect…and there’s the grey area where we’re trying to bring people to the positive side.” He wants to give people a positive example through his music.

“In Native American heritage, you have two types of people: Those who follow the red road, and those who follow the black road of negative extremes. Red road people have positive energy, they’re not putting people down, they’re building things. We want to help he people in the grey area. Medicine Road is the healing road.”

“I’ve been Medicine Road for a long time. I want to do it ‘til I die. We’re still a young band…we’ve reared our head around…we’re ready to take off. Our smoke signals are out there.”

On the Web: https://www.reverbnation.com/medicineroad

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/medicine.road.band/

This article was originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin: http://mountainbulletin.com/article/on-spirit-wings-medicine-road/

Julie Horner is an Irish style musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, CA. https://www.facebook.com/CrookedRoadCeiliBand/

The ‘grass is Always Greener – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup

By Julie Horner

Singer-songwriter, Rick Ednie, has advice for budding musicians and writers: Keep whatever you do. In 1998 or so he first tried writing songs, by hand, which he held onto in a folder for years, dragging it around thinking, “why am I saving this crap?” “Some of the thoughts were immature,” he felt, “Not focused, rambling.” He kept the old material anyway and it has proven to be a goldmine. “It might instill something in you that might inspire something else.” Like a seed. “I have this image of people writing something then saying, ‘oh this sucks,’ and crumpling it up and throwing it in the trash. Don’t do that!”

Locals will recognize Rick as a lead proponent in Santa Cruz Mountains-based band, Heathen Hill, favorites on the regional Americana folk music scene who play regularly at the Trout Farm, Joe’s Bar, LuLu Carpenter’s downtown Santa Cruz, and who used to have a regular Sunday slot at the Boulder Creek Brewery before fire gutted the building in March, 2015. Rick is quick to mention that Heathen Hill is far from a bluegrass band. “There’s no fiddle, no banjo.” It’s something they’re always talking about, he says.

In the meantime, Rick has branched out by forming another musical endeavor, which he calls Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup. “I’ve been a gig getter for many years. I wanted to get gigs but didn’t necessarily have the musicians to support it.” So he’d call around to find players to plug in to various gigs as he got them, basically rounding them up. He’d get calls from musician friends saying, “Hey Rick, why don’t you do another roundup gig?” So with a core group of four or five members in rotation, he started at farmers’ markets then helped make popular the Wednesday night Java Jam, which used to be at Coffee Cat up in Scotts Valley and is now down at LuLu Carpenter’s with a rotating roster of top folk musicians.

And with the help of his core posse, Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup has a new CD called White Turtle Dove. It’s his second CD and third time working in a studio environment. “I find it a challenge – the right people have to be together – there are so many variables, like getting the same people to focus on similar goals. We’re all just weekend warriors; I try to make a better effort.”

Most of the people on the CD are close friends, a few were hired as professional studio players. The album includes Rick on guitar, vocals, and mandolin; Bradley Richter on mandolin and vocals; Suzanne Suwanda on bass; Jason Lampel on banjo; Luke Abbott on fiddle; Liz Smith on fiddle and vocals; Mike Witcher on dobro; and Jered Chaney on banjo and vocals. Recorded at Joe Weed’s Highland Studios in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the album features outstanding bluegrass musicianship and showcases Rick’s songs, some new, some reworked from his saved archive of originals from his early songwriting years.

“I’m really happy with it. The first CD I did was definitely Americana, singer-songwriter stuff. This one is contemporary bluegrass. Or at least it’s structurally traditional – but I’m not from Tennessee, it’s how I hear the music, my expression.”

“Recording is a great way to improve your craft, to learn what you can do in that kind of environment – it’s not forgiving – it’s made me a better musician.” And he’s still feeling the love of recording with really professional players. “To have them on the project was encouraging for me, made me step up to the plate to play at a better level.”

This year Rick has been invited to play at the upcoming Brookdale Bluegrass Festival Spring Fling put on by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. The event takes place March 18 and 19 at Scopazzi’s in Boulder Creek – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup plays Saturday the 19th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Rick says they’ll be doing a lot of songs off the CD. “The CD has some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”

“It’s my hope to get my music out there – I like to play music with people, and I also want to do more solo work.” He thanks the guys in Heathen Hill for being patient while he reworked his originals for the CD and for performing with them. “They allowed me the space to do that…to work through that. They weren’t judgmental about it…I mean, sure, they’d bust my balls about it, ‘You’re changing the song again?’ But they always allowed me the space to do it.”

Rick is a “project person” and with White Turtle Dove has a hand in everything from the artwork and design of the trifold CD case (make sure you look for the insert) to the promotion and booking. “I love the project aspect of it – it’s there to do – I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

The songwriting is the heart of it. “When I get a song the right way, I can say it’s new, it’s very fulfilling. I have the experience at the Brewery to thank for that, Heathen Hill, the music rights people,” who forced him to turn away from performing cover material and focus on writing his own songs. With White Turtle Dove “It’s not all me. I produced it, I’m on the cover, it’s got my name, but it’s more than that.”

Rick’s CDs, A Fine Place to Start and White Turtle Dove, are on the Web: www.rickednie.com/home/

Experience Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup at the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival at Scopazzi’s March 19th at 6:00 pm, 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006. Full festival schedule: http://www.brookdalebluegrass.com/

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com

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