This space has been avoiding writing about this subject for many moons now, fearing justified accusations of conflict of interest, since each and every person in the subject at hand holds warm places in the heart of this space. Nevertheless, the time and situation has come to the point where they can no longer be ignored, not in any local music column that wants to hold its head up and claim relevance.
We speak today of the Hopeful Romantics, a group of musicians formed about a year ago around the rallying cry of Americana music, a mongrel hybrid of bluegrass, country, Appalachian, back porch, Greatful Dead-tinged hippie folk, with subtle dabbles of rock and roll at the creamy center, though you have to listen closely to hear that.
At the center of this remarkable and wonderous group of musicians is the Hope in Hopeful, Ms. Hope Savage, owner of what has to be one of the coolest names on the face of this and any other planet. Hope is a long time friend of mine, and has long harbored a desire to play music after a several decade hiatus. We used to get together and play a few years back, just for fun, and she was shy and very unsure of herself. Then, last year, suddenly she’s putting a band together. She’s writing songs. Her voice, once a hide-behind-the-curtain whisper, is a thing of remarkable confidence and sensitivity, an instrument of vast proportions. Her songs are scalding and soothing. And you can see when she speaks of this band, in those devastating blue eyes of hers, a steel-tinged fire that leaves absolutely no doubt that the Hopeful Romantics will be a project that takes no prisoners, that adheres to a towering standard, that will dwell in the realm of her singular and spectacular vision. She stands on the stage, front and center, leading her band of merry gentlemen through a series of material, much of it written by her and cohort Danny White (see below), the rest a compilation of favorites that fit into the Americana template the HR’s call their own.
Hope’s partner in this musical collaborative is the aforementioned Danny White, whom you might know as the proprietor of Good Stuff Guitar Shop on Main Street. You may also know him as one of The Very Bad Boys, a rag-tag collection of ruffians and scoundrels who play the blues and other stuff now and then (an outfit which includes myself and former HR bassist Scott Riggs). We were an item for a number of years around this berg we call home, and then suddenly they were Romantics. Truth be told, I was not the most pleased of people about this turn of events when it first occurred. There may have been some pouting. I can’t recall. It matters not – the point is, Danny literally glows when he is at a HR show, and it’s not just because he’s nuclear. His heart and soul clearly live in Americana-ville, and now he gets to ply his trade – baritone and all – in this musical River Jordan of friends and neighbors.
And that includes the amazing Brian Walker, founder of the Martinez Music Society and perpetrator of great guitar and mandolin work. Brian has been a secret weapon in this town for many years, operating under the radar for the most part, but playing and singing a variety of styles with a fury hard to equal. He has also, from time to time, been accused of being a Very Bad Boy.
Steve Barry is an outrageously good guitarist, developing fills and lines that soar over the Romantic tapestry.
Bruce Campbell is now on stand up bass. You may know Bruce through the 376 other bands he plays in, including the Alhambra Valley Band. Bruce is a force of nature, one of those people who you can just tell has no choice but to play music, and it is scary how well he does it.
Curtis Dickover is on percussion, and used to play drums with our local hard rockers Square One. See how this all fits together? Curtis does a yeoman’s job of holding down percussion in a band where you don’t even expect to find a drummer. And often you don’t notice his work, but if he was missing, you would. That’s finesse.
They now have a pedal steel player, Jeff MacDonald, who helps tie it all together.
Go see this band. They are recording, and they’ve played outside our fair city a few times, but they are still based locally. If things go the way they’re going, and they will, the HR’s will be touring soon. But for now, you can catch them this Friday at the Main Street Plaza beginning at 6:00 p.m. It’s free and it’s amazing. Try getting that deal somewhere else.
And the following night – Saturday, Aug. 21 at 8:00 p.m. – you can come to Armando’s (707 Marina Vista) and hear my band of merry rapscallions, Caroompas Room, perform our version of blues, funk, New Orleans R&B and Reggae. See you there.