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I was riding a girl’s cruiser bike along 2nd Street in Chico when I saw Jackie Greene. He looked so hip in his dark pants with his dark hair slipping out from beneath his white porkpie hat. On his arm was a lean, attractive girl with beautiful legs.
Comparisons have been made between Greene and Bob Dylan. They’re not really fair or accurate in my mind. But on Saturday night in Chico, Greene and his girlfriend reminded me exactly of the cover art for “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” Jackie Greene looks like a star. Is one. But our entire tapestry of life is so oversaturated with stimulus that Greene will probably always be able to freewheel it in Chico or Santa Cruz or Stillwater. People will look at him and say, “He’s somebody.”
“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”
In an hour or so, Greene would be inside El Rey Theater playing music with Tim Bluhm. Bluhm’s primary band, The Mother Hips, came out of Chico and gained a national following. Greene launched out of Sacramento, and in addition to his own band, he now plays with Phil Lesh and Friends (with the amazing Larry Campbell — late from Bob Dylan’s band). Greene and Bluhm are best pals, and they call themselves The Skinny Singers when they play together.
They rocked out Saturday before a few hundred at El Rey. It was a real laid-back, informal show with both men sitting (yet still rocking) the entire time. They played songs they’ve written together and also dressed up some fine covers, like Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man’s Blues” and The Dead’s “Sugaree” (encore).
Greene and Bluhm are exciting skinny guys. First off, both are mofos on guitar. Greene plays dirty and to the point. He doesn’t waste a lot of notes. His solos build and build and completely rip. Bluhm’s kind of the same and a hell of a rhythm player. Both men took turns on bass and excelled in laying down a lovely foundation.
Bluhm really intrigued me, and I’m going to explore his music more. His wife, Nicki, a tall drink of water, opened the show and has a voice similar to Bonnie Raitt’s. She’s not copying anyone. It’s just a huge voice and not at all contrived. She and Tim hit gorgeous harmonies together.
Chico State wasn’t in session, but tons of people were still out and about in our sister city when the show concluded.
It was back onto the girl’s bike and cruising into the sleepy hollow paths of Bidwell Park. It was back to a big, warm house. The next morning, my friend Shawn and I played some guitar. Shawn’s a pretty good player, and I’ve heard people cheer his solos in bars.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought about Jackie and Tim. That’s what’s out there waiting for you if you throw your porkpie hat into the ring. And Jackie’s not even 30. And he’s got that girl. And he’s learning from Phil Lesh and Larry Campbell.
Oy. And I’ve never been skinny.