Critic's Choice for the week of March 5-11, 2003 

Pharmacists with Hearts of Oak, women celebrating women, a local blues boy, and high-octane African highlife.


Few Lookout bands seem to be getting as much attention as Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, who just released Hearts of Oak on the Berkeley label. Leo, former member of Chisel (during the '90s, when every indie band was named after a hardware store appliance), seems like a displaced Brit. The music is part sea-shanty, part heavy-jangle-thump-thump, and all melody -- and the Pharmacists' album gets mad Express props for nodding to Dexy's Midnight Runners. Check the band out at the Bottom of the Hill on Wednesday night (415-621-4455), and then the next day at Amoeba (415-831-1200), and then Friday night at Gilman (510-525-9926). That oughta do it. (Katy St. Clair)


Celebrating International Women's Day, an all-star cast of Bay Area musicians share the Freight & Salvage stage on Saturday. Blues and jazz singer Barbara Dane hosts the evening, joined by singers Ronnie Gilbert, Jennifer Berezan, Ruth Davies, Anna de Leon, Shanna Carlson, Tina Marzell, Jamie Anderson, Suzanne Fox, Francine Lancaster, pianist Barbara Higbie, guitarist Mimi Fox, saxophonist Madelyn Duran, violinist India Cooke, Celtic harper Natalie Cox, and more. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


Cal State University Hayward celebrates Women's History Month with four free concerts by women composers. Between Wednesday and Friday nights in the Music Building Recital Hall MB1055, the Women's Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, Music Faculty members, and the CSUH Chamber Singers present seldom-heard works by Chaminade, Larsen, Clarke, Strozzi, Parker, Grundahl, Diemer, Beach, Crawford Seeger, Addison, and alumnae Schmit and Ono. 510-884-3135. (Jason Serinus)


Oakland resident and WC Handy Award winner (for Best New Blues Artist) Rusty Zinn has played alongside heavies such as Mark Hummel and Kim Wilson, but it's his powerful fretwork and mischievous songwriting -- think Leiber and Stoller hanging with Muddy Waters in the swamps of Louisiana -- that make him such a winning talent. His band will be wailing the blues every Tuesday in March at the Ivy Room in Albany. 510-524-9220. (j. poet)

WORLDSaturday at Ashkenaz in Berkeley is a concert with Samba Ngo, West African Highlife Band, and Zé Manel. Samba Ngo and his band combine high-octane, rock-flavored guitar work and galloping percussion for their brand of Santa Cruz soukous. Ken Okulolo's West African Highlife Band combines the folk and pop guitar styles of West Africa to recreate the highlife hits of the '60s, the first Afro-pop sound to make an international impact. Zé Manel is Guinea-Bissau's first international pop star, a guitarist of great virtuosity, and a singer of conviction. 510-525-5054. (j. poet)


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