MUSIC MUSINGS

The 20th season of Sings Like Hell doesn’t get underway until October 21, but the series’ influence is everywhere. The Virginia-bred singer-songwriter Devon Sproule offers tunes that are at once quirky, poetic, sweet, engaging and deeply heartfelt. Her opening set a few months back was one of Sings Like Hell’s highlights of this year, and now here’s finally a chance for her to shine in a headlining gig at SOhO on October 3 (tickets only $10, or only $7 if you buy dinner). Meanwhile, it seems the series is impacting UCSB too. An October 11 double-bill featuring the husband-and-wife singer-songwriters Steve Earle with Allison Moorer could well have been staged under Peggie Jones’ aegis. Earle is a reformed addict (and renegade outlaw) who has shown considerable growth with every project since his 1986 country debut “Guitar Town” and continues to push the envelope with gritty often personal tales of struggle and redemption. His most recent effort, 2004’s “The Revolution Starts Now,” is a withering indictment of the Bush administration sporting such guileless tracks as “Condi, Condi.” The shocker is that it won a Grammy for best contemporary folk album. Meanwhile, Moorer’s dusky alto comes off as a sweeter version of Earle’s gravelly twang even if she’s not quite as pissed off at life as her husband, who produced her latest self-penned CD, “Getting Somewhere.” Earle will also discuss music, activism and his career with UCSB sociology professor Jon Cruz, followed by questions from the audience, at 2 pm at the Old Little Theater that same day.

Get outta town (South): Considering just how many times singer-songwriter and erstwhile Santa Barbara resident (he has a place in Hollister Ranch) Jackson Browne has performed around town in one benefit or another, we can’t blame anyone for feeling a little jaded about another Browne gig. But the fourth annual Ventura Hillside Concert, slated for Saturday, September 30, is something different. Browne, who performed at the first and second event that supports the conservation efforts of the bluffs at Arroyo Verde Park and elsewhere in Ventura, returns this time alongside Fred Martin & the Levite Camp. The terrific inner-city gospel choir/soul-jazz band is fronted by L.A. music teacher Martin, who uses the power of song to offer his students a way out. Martin formed the group from among his most gifted protégés and named it after the Tribe of Israel, comprised of the musician-priests who dwelled in the temple. Levite Camp’s debut CD is due any day from Concord, and it features six of 10 tracks penned by Browne, who also co-produced and sings lead on two cuts. The rest of the concert lineup gets even more local than that, with former Montecito and Santa Ynez resident Michael McDonald (ex-Doobie Brothers) headlining, and Crosby Loggins and Ventura’s rapidly rising Brett Dennen offering opening sets. (Tickets are $45, available at the door or online at venturahillsides.org.)

Get outta town (North): Credit the Maverick Saloon with an astonishing booking coup in securing folk-country legend Ian Tyson for two dates, October 3-4. Yep, it’s the same guy who was one half of Ian & Sylvia, the great folk duo responsible for “Four Strong Winds” and “Someday Soon” (both written by Tyson), plus “You Were On My Mind” and “That’s What I Get for Loving You” way back in the 1960s. Tyson retired to work as a cowboy after their split in the ‘70s before returning to music in the ‘80s, and producing a string of albums that includes 2005’s excellent “Songs from the Gravel Road,” which chronicles the travails of a working rancher disillusioned by love and the decline of his culture. You want to hear authentic country? You can’t go wrong with Tyson.

Decisions, decisions: What to do on Saturday, October 7, if you’re a lover of great original music? First up, just when you thought the memorable Bowl season was at the end here comes rhymin’ Paul Simon, America’s folk-rock poet laureate The veteran singer-songwriter hardly needs an introduction, as he is the writer and voice behind so many of the cherished anthems of pop, from “Mrs. Robinson” to “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and the genius behind “Graceland,” one of the greatest records of the 20th century. His two most recent albums, including 2006’s “Surprise,” may be somewhat disappointing, but the concert is sure to be one you won’t soon forget….Then we’ve got the third installment of Gilles & Teka featuring the impish former concertmaster for the Santa Barbara Symphony and the slyly sinuous Brazilian songstress teaming up yet again for another genre-bending world music rendezvous to benefit a local non-profit. Hospice care center Sarah House joins the Charter School and Center of the Heart in receiving the largesse from an evening where American bluegrass/gypsy/classical meets samba-bossa nova-Brasilia courtesy of Gilles Apap, Teka et al, including the acoustic guitar wizardry of Chris Judge…. Finally, there’s Daniel Ho, who as a keyboardist led the wildly successful smooth jazz band Kilauea for years before he got seduced by Slack Key guitar. Now he has innumerable guitar albums to his own credit and just this year scored a Grammy as both producer and artist on the album “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1.”…. Time to get cloned.

Focus on Film

There’s a natural tendency as a veteran supporter of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to harbor a soft spot for independent movies that played here during the little (maybe not so little anymore) event. But “Aurora Borealis” – which inked a distribution deal during the fest (although not through a Film Festival screening) – doesn’t need all that much of a head start.

After all, there’s a reason why the film earned a record six screenings during the 2006 fest, each received with thunderous applause by an audience that seemed genuinely moved. The film is no Oscar-worthy classic, but it’s a reasonably well-polished yet still illustrative story of a disillusioned young man and his weary grandfather helping each other adjust to life’s changes. Joshua Jackson and Juliette Lewis star as young lovers, with Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland and Oscar winner Louise Fletcher playing Jackson’s grandparents. It’s an enviable cast for first-time feature director James Burke, whose producing credits include the indie “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” and “Illusion.”

The film – which is playing in a special one-week engagement at the Plaza de Oro Theaters – premiered at the Tribeca Film Fest a couple of weeks before SBIFF, which is where Sutherland first saw it.

“None of us had seen it with an audience before,” Burke told me after a SBIFF screening. “To say I was shaking in my boots is an understatement. I came down for the Q&A at the end, and people were happy, but all I cared about was looking for Donald. Then I saw him. He’s six-five, and he’s slumped down in his chair, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, boy. I’m in trouble.’ I took the first question, and he stands up and walks down the aisle and I’m thinking ‘Holy God, he’s leaving!’ Instead he bounded onto the stage, took the mike and said, ‘I love this film. I want to talk about it.’”