Critic's Choice for the week of June 1-7, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

psychic folk

Have you heard the black Joni Mitchell? Well, you can, if you bring your singer-songwriter-listenin', folk-friendly retro-hippie self down to Berkeley's Epic Arts Center Thursday to hear Akosua, the Ghanaian-American songbird whose poetic, original tunes and champagne-sweet pipes bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Ms. Mitchell, except Akosua isn't singing about big yellow taxis. Instead, she's a-strummin' and a-hummin' about "Moon Girls" while wonderin' "What Am I Looking For?" When not performing, she leads psychic healing workshops through Water Woman Works, a spiritually-oriented community organization. It's like the '60s all over again, except this time you can sit cross-legged on the floor and be a part of it. $7 at the door, 8:30 p.m. EpicArts.org (Eric K. Arnold)

LESBIAN OPERA

While Cal Performances takes us to the Edge, mezzo-soprano Leslie Hassberg also crosses boundaries via her special opera outreach to the gay community. Hassberg's Opera for Lesbians, scheduled for Berkeley's Unitarian Universalist Church this Saturday eve, also features soprano Yulia Ronskaya, a speaker from the SF Opera Rainbow Series, and drama galore. $20, 7:30 p.m. UUCB.org (Jason Victor Serinus)

FAMOUS SINGER-SONGWRITERS

Paul Arnoldi drifted from his Wyoming home to Cambridge to Berkeley, where his goofy humor, fine picking, sharp songwriting, and lively stage shows made him a local star. His first LP, 1967's One Note Man, was Stereo Review's folk album of that year, and the Youngbloods cut the title track on their Get Together album. Arnoldi's vocals still retain their youthful vigor, and his return to Berkeley's Freight & Salvage tonight is great news for lovers of happy-go-lucky ragtime music. Old pals Eric Thompson (guitar and mandolin), Polly Frizzell (viola), Robert Johnson (resonator guitar), and Steve Swan (bass) will be along for the ride. $17.50-$18.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j. poet)

EVEN FAMOUSER SINGER-SONGWRITERS

Tom Paxton was one of the folks who made the genre a viable occupation. He has been covered by everyone from Willie Nelson to Placido Domingo with hits that include "Last Thing on My Mind" (for Peter, Paul and Mary) and "Bottle of Wine" (a top-ten single for the Fireballs). In recent years he has recorded several award-winning children's albums, but it's his grown-up songs, marked by their low-key humor and tender passion, that continue to amaze us. Friday at 8 p.m. at the Freight & Salvage. $24.50-$25.50. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j.p.)

UP-AND-COMING FAMOUS SINGER-SONGWRITERS

Critics are contractually obligated to compare young alt-country diva Kathleen Edwards to one Ms. Lucinda Williams, but the architect of this year's fine Back to Me is cutting her own swath with biting lyricism and a tuneful Americana stomp that recalls Tom Petty at the height of Full Moon Fever. Request "One More Song the Radio Won't Like" Wednesday, June 8 at the Independent in SF. $15, 8 p.m. TheIndependentSF.com (Rob Harvilla)

SQUEEZEBOX SMORGASBORDS

Did you know that the accordion is also known by many other names, including sun fin chin, aerophone, bayan, harmonieflute, garmonik, pedalowka, trekkspil, melodeon, organetto, lootspill, mello-piano and -- the Who's favorite -- squeezebox? Indeed, it may be the singularly most ubiquitous musical instrument of all time, in terms of its relevance to folk music traditions. Most people are familiar with the piano accordion (which looks like a keyboard with bellows attached), but there are as many different types of accordions as there are names for the instrument. You can see many of those styles this Sunday at the Cannery at Del Monte Square in SF, when the fifteenth Annual San Francisco Accordion Festival takes place. Performers include Bella Ciao, Big Lou's Polka Casserole, Conjunto Romero, Simka, Highgates, Steve Shen, and the SF Accordion Fun Club Band. Best of all, admission is free, so go 'head and lay down that squeeze play. DelMonteSquare.com (E.K.A)

NEXT-LEVEL R&B

If you're up on the Platinum Pied Pipers, you know they represent the next level of urban music. Their new Ubiquity album Triple P mixes hip-hop, R&B, and ghetto-tech sensibilities, resulting in a uniquely raw and fresh sound that both honors and advances the Motor City's storied legacy. They're simply running the clubs right now with the jam "I Got You," but there are about five or six equally strong tracks on this record, which doesn't bode well for competitors. See for yourself Thursday at SF's hottest new nightspot, Mighty, for ten bones (Medaphor opens up), or if you're so broke it's no joke, you can catch their free in-store at Amoeba on Haight earlier in the evening. 415-626-7001 or 415-831-1200. (E.K.A.)

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