Celebration of Sounds

I went to see one of my favorite artists, James McMurtry, perform at the Palms Playhouse in Winters this week. More on that excellent show in a minute. First, I want to highlight what looks like a stellar weekend of performances here in Redding:

The North State Symphony: “Hot Passions from Cold Climates”

This should be a wonderful evening of music highlighted by a dynamic piano soloist — Natalya Shkoda from the Ukraine. The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cascade Theatre .


“She’s fantastic and this piece is just a spectacular piece,” said symphony conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett by phone Thursday as he prepared for the concert. “It’s like when you watch the Olympics and see some snowboarder do something and you say, ‘That’s not humanly possible.’ Watching her play you say, ‘That’s not humanly possible to do that.’ She’s got the whole package. She’s an exciting and passionate player. People are going to have fun seeing her play.”

Shkoda is in her second year as an Assistant Professor of Piano and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at Chico State University. She won her first national competition at age 13 and has gone on to teach and perform throughout the world.

Shkoda will be performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Also on the program is Glinka’s Russian and Ludmilla Overture, and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

Wiley Pickett said North State Symphony fans have been requesting the Sibelius symphony for years and he’s pleased to finally have it on the program.

“I can see why everyone wanted to hear it,” Wiley Pickett said. “It’s powerful and romantic. This particular symphony has a lot to do with Finland’s terrain. It’s kind of about these gigantic geological structures and the music captures that really well.”

Wiley Pickett knows a thing or two about grand landscapes — he’s also the conductor of the Juneau (Alaska) Symphony. He said he designed this concert with the idea of boosting people’s spirits during the winter.

“I chose a program that I thought could really be an uplifting kind of thing,” Wiley Pickett said. “In contrast of the recession and winter, I thought we’ve got to do something that people will really enjoy. This is it. This is that concert to a T.”

For more information on Shkoda and Saturday’s concert, click here . For ticket information, click here .


Suzanne Vega’s one of those artists I know I’m going to love the more I get to know her music. I just haven’t spent that time yet. Boo on me!


But what better opportunity to catch up than Friday night at the Cascade Theatre? She performs at 7:30 p.m. and there are still plenty of good seats available.

The recent tunes I’ve heard on Jefferson Public Radio’s (Eric Teel is spinning her) have sounded great. I’ve also read that she’s really into the craft of songwriting, and loves to speak and immerse herself into the local music/arts scenes when she visits a city.

She’s performed with the Grateful Dead, and Lou Reed is a big influence on her. She just sounds wonderful and I feel remiss to not know her better.

It’s time to catch up! Click here to visit her website.


Tommy Castro once told me he worked on his singing while playing cassette tapes of his favorite soul and blues artists while driving around a delivery truck in the Bay Area. He’d be singing at the top of his lungs at stoplights and really not caring what people thought of him.

The man can certainly play guitar as well. The Tommy Castro Band performs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Johnny’s Cathouse — the first of a series of acclaimed blues performers that the downtown Redding bar is bringing in.

The special guests opening the show are Big Phil & the Bottom Line. For tickets ($18-$23), call 605-1500.


Also on Saturday night is the amazing bluegrass guitarist Jim Hurst performing at Bernie’s Guitar in Redding.


Hurst was the International Bluegrass Music Association’s guitar player of the year for 2001 and 2002 and has been nominated every year since 2000. He was set to co-bill with Peter Rowan at the Oaksong Society’s concert at Gray Pine Farm two summers ago, but had to cancel at the last minute.

For more on the show, click on the Oaksong Society’s site .


OK, whew! Back to James McMurtry. Boy did this Wednesday concert at the Palms deepen my appreciation for him. He played a bunch of tunes from his newest album “Just Us Kids,” and certainly rocked the house hard.


Fedora covering his wild, long bushy hair with his John Lennon-esque glasses, he never cracks a smile. What an intense dude! I wonder if he’s ever smiled?

Anyway, he lets the songs do the talking. I was thrilled (and a little surprised) to hear two of my favorites, “No More Buffalo” and “Restless.”

Check out the opening verse from “Restless,” which is simply a brilliant song:

She gets a little restless in the spring
She might follow the lines you sing
Bullshit though they are
‘Cause sometimes that’s just the thing
If delivered with panache and a certain grace

Fingertips on satin lace
Cutting cards and quoting Proust
Whatever turns her wild mare loose

The Palms Playhouse is worth the drive to see one of your favorite performers. It holds fewer than 200, so you’re going to have a quality view.

Now get out there and see some music!

jim-dyar-125Jim Dyar is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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2 Responses

  1. Avatar Jim Dyar says:

    Alert! It's really time to check out Suzanne Vega! The Cascade Theatre is offering 2-for-1 tickets for the concert. That's two floor tickets for $35, a pretty nice deal. Call 243-8877 or click here.

  2. Avatar Lauren Brooks says:

    Nice article, Jim! I'm going to see the North State Symphony's concert in Chico on Sunday. I hear Suzanne Vega will also be performing at Chico's Laxson Auditorium on Feb. 23. So much good music, so little time!