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Home / Articles / Music / Music Features /  A Sharp
Haiti Benefit
Jono Manson and John Popper brought in reinforcements.

A Sharp

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January 27, 2010, 12:00 am

It has been more than two weeks since the tragic Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, and the global generosity that has followed is nothing short of miraculous.

I can’t recall a time when more people banded together for the good of those in a foreign country, people who they’ll probably never meet. Last I heard, national donations had topped the $300 million mark and steadily continue to come in.

Santa Feans did their part at the Have a Heart For Haiti benefit show on Jan. 20 at Cowgirl. A who’s who of Santa Fe’s best musicians donated time and music in order to raise money for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Crowds, the likes of which are rarely seen in this town, poured into Cowgirl and opened their wallets for the victims of the quake, donating more than $3,200.

The free-flowing event was full of surprises. I’d like to give special mention to the acts that really caught my attention. While I applaud everyone involved, the following people made the show one of the best and most varied Santa Fe has ever seen.

Most Pleasantly Surprising Act
I had heard The Rattlerz described as “blues-rock,” and I left it at that, never bothering to catch a performance; we all know how I feel about wanky blues. From the first note, however, my preconceived notions flew out the window. While the band’s bluesy bent is obvious, surf undertones and three-part harmonies take the music to another level. Each member’s solid musicianship is complemented by a penchant for varying styles.

Most Legit Act
Event coordinator Arne Bey introduced Kenny Skywolf as “the only actual bluesman in Santa Fe, if not the state.” Skywolf quietly sat down and started plucking his guitar strings and blowing into a harmonica. I could’ve screamed at the audience for not shutting up during his set. The “one dude and a guitar” approach to blues is one of my favorite to hear, and Skywolf captures a bit of the old-timey Delta sound while remaining contemporary.

Silliest Songwriting
Multi-talented producer and musician John Kurzweg plays lead guitar for the Sean Healen Band, one of my local faves. I’m not contesting that Kurzweg is a guitar master, but his short set contained lyrics that sounded as if they were penned by a teenager coping with his adolescent crises. “Trial by fire is the only way to learn/Trial by fire is the only way to burn” seem like ridiculous words, but the accompanying music was none too shabby.

Biggest Badass
Flat-pickin’ legend Bill Hearne took the stage with Margaret Burke on the bass and Arne Bey on the drums. Openly proud to have been invited to join the benefit, Hearne and company blasted through some rockin’ Delbert McClinton and Merle Haggard country covers. Burke’s backup vocals and pitch-perfect bass rhythms showcase Hearne’s deft playing and soulful voice. If you ever wondered what country music is in a nutshell, you don’t have to look further than Hearne.

Performance of the Night
It’s true, Santa Fe: John Popper, front man of mid-’90s powerhouse Blues Traveler, has been milling about town and recording a new album with local music celeb Jono Manson. Popper and Manson brought their studio band along for the show and opened with Blues Traveler’s 1994 Grammy-winning hit “Run Around” before delving deep into a mixture of rock and blues. Popper was completely comfortable bantering with the star-struck crowd, and we were all treated to a set that would usually be relegated to a much bigger club.

As the crowd sang along with Popper’s songs and swayed to Manson’s tunes, the spirit of the show rang true. There we were, everyday people coming together for one good cause, but never letting the solemnity of the reason bring us down.

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