"It's a name I've always loved," confides romantic singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau. "In elementary school, I had a friend, a girl in the second grade, and her name was Shelley."
It's early on a Sunday morning, but Brosseau and musical partner Angela Correa are up and ready to talk about their new project, The Shelleys. Both are established solo artists-especially Brosseau, who has been played on influential college radio station KCRW, and was recently featured in the station's "Next Up" concert series.
The new collaboration, however, allows them to interpret a wide range of material from other tunesmiths. Essentially, The Shelleys is a cover band by two top-notch San Diego artists.
Although now based in Los Angeles, Brosseau spent most of the past four years as a perennial in the local coffeehouse circuit, and was introduced to Correa's music by iconic crooner Gregory Page.
"I first heard her music when she was doing avante-garde recordings on a four-track cassette recorder," Brosseau recalls. "Gregory turned me on to that, and he kept saying that Angela and I would be great as a duo." Fate-and a need to pool monetary resources for recordings-brought the two together.
"Angela borrowed my mini-disc player to record her first effort. She asked me to sing on a couple of her songs. The sound of the two voices together and the fact that we both enjoyed the same range of music made it a natural progression."
Laughing, Correa clarifies: "I kept pestering him to record more duets."
For the last couple of months, the duo has been road-testing the material, preparing to unveil their debut album, Popular Songbook.
"The album came out of songs we had already started performing, in the folk tradition," says Correa. "For this disc we were looking for more obscure material that we could rearrange and make our own."
"It's looking like it's going to be a series," Brosseau adds. "The first album that we have is folk music. We go as contemporary as John Prine, or as traditional as Leadbelly. We tried to pick a couple of obscure ones by Bob Dylan, but that was pretty hard, because everybody already knows even the bootleg stuff." (They settled on "Billy" from Dylan's soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.)
The pair will continue their solo work, but they say they're already finishing up a second Shellys album. "The next one is 1950s pop music," Brosseau explains. "That's how we got on the kick of singing together, doing things by Kay Starr or Les Paul & Mary Ford and so on."
Correa suggests that the simple musical backdrop of two guitars and two voices brings out the best in the vintage tunes they've chosen, like Nino Tempo & April Stevens' "Deep Purple," written in 1934.
"I personally enjoy music that's stripped down and bare bones," she says. "Great songs don't need all the bells and whistles to stand out. The tunes and lyrics can carry the moment. I have a real passion for lo-fi sound, along the lines of the K Records aesthetic. And there is such a huge, untapped wealth of songs that lend themselves to this sort of recording."
Brosseau realizes getting a larger audience for arcane songs is an uphill battle in today's music scene-especially for tender folk artists without Hot Topic appeal-but that's not a consideration with this project.
"We're not concerned about getting on a label, or dealing with any of that sort of thing right now," he says. "We just hope to get people enthusiastic about the old songs again."
The Shellys hold their CD-release party at Lestat's, 8 p.m. on April 25. Lisa Sanders also performs. 619-306-5777.
Hey! Yo! Chicano!
Thirty-four years ago, residents of Barrio Logan and Chicano activists clashed with The Man when the Highway Patrol decided to build a substation beneath the Coronado Bridge. Armed with rakes and shovels, they faced down bulldozers; when the dust cleared, they were legally granted the land to build a public park.
Chicano Park stands today as a monument to cultural pride, a crown jewel of the neighborhood and rare proof that sometimes David can strike down Goliath. Chicano Park Day, celebrated every April since, is always a top-notch showcase for art, music and culture. Held under the bridge at Crosby Street and Logan Avenue on April 24, this year features Aztec dance demonstrations coordinated by Toltecas En Aztlan, live performances by nearly a dozen bands and dance groups, public speakers and a parade of lowriders. On the park's hoop courts, electronica fans can watch the daylong DJ competition that kicks off at 11 a.m. and includes Super DJ Sake, DJ Disco Mane, The Beat Puppets and others.
Those little pirates from Free Radio San Diego 96.9 FM will be on hand, and plan to broadcast Free Radio Chicano Park on 93.7-FM for the duration of the festival. They'll also offer interested people hands-on demonstrations of how to operate an LPFM (Low Power FM signal). Station reps seem confident the FCC won't stage a raid at a high-profile, activist-oriented public spectacle.
Local alt-rockers 3against1 have organized a benefit concert for the St. Judes Children's Research Hospital on April 25 at 'Canes. The event will be held in memory of singer Mark Weiss' mother, Sherrill, who passed away Jan. 7 from skin cancer. His mom was a singer for RCA Records in the '50s, so a concert is a fitting tribute. Other bands on the bill include Dfrost, The Gandhi Method, Devices, Sweet Tooth Decompression, Carbine and Simon's Position.
As reported here last week, local band Bunky had their van ganked. Now, the fuzz has found it. Go fuzz! Says drummer-vocalist Emily Joyce: "There was minimal damage from the hotwiring job. Good work to the coppers."
Los Angeles-based power-pop trio The Eddies have covered the Manual Scan tune "Jungle Beat" on their album In the Sunshine, out this week on British label Twist. The label is run by Mark Le Gallez, who spent time in San Diego in the mid-'80s as frontman for power-pop trio The Risk.
Blues icon Earl Thomas has recorded a new closing theme song for the upcoming DVD reissue of Soul to Soul, a 1971 concert film. Featuring the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, The Staples Singers and Wilson Pickett, the movie is the latest project from local music archivists Reelin' In The Years Productions. Sharp-eared listeners will note Mark DeCerbo among the backing vocalists.
Dormant for almost two years, the Coffee-House Folk Music Series at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest (4190 Front St. across from UCSD Medical Center) resumes April 24 with a performance from singer-songwriter John Katchur. 619-276-4400.