Local Licks 

This week, we review Port O'Brien, Crooked Jades, Opio, and Alison Harris.

Port O'Brien, All We Could Do Was Sing. You should know that "Stuck on a Boat" and "Fisherman's Son" are true stories. Lead singer Van Pierszalowski really is a fisherman's son — and a part-time fisherman himself — hence the seafaring imagery that pervades Port O'Brien's studio debut. Musically, the folk-meets-Pavement approach works flawlessly. (self-released)

Crooked Jades, Shining Darkness. With five albums, one EP, and a track on the Into the Wild soundtrack under its belt, San Francisco's Crooked Jades is no fly-by-night folk outfit. But it may have gone a bit too far with Shining Darkness: Nineteen tracks and 58 minutes of fiddle, banjo, harmonium, and ukulele illustrates well the law of diminishing returns. (Jade Note Music)

Opio, Vulture's Wisdom, Volume One. You ain't half-way creative, a sideshow oddity, raps Opio in "Stop the Press," a diss directed at pencil-neck geeks and pip squeaks. Contemporary backpacker rappers, his presumed target, might reply: What are you doing that's so innovative? In his trademark laid-back flow, the Souls of Mischief vet delivers fourteen tracks of classic mid-'90s hip-hop. (Hiero Imperium)

Alison Harris, Smoke Rings in the Sky. Anyone seeking top-rate local indie-folk with country soul and no hipster hangers-on should turn to Harris' debut. The Santa Rosa resident's alto possesses certain magic, while her impeccably matched acoustic guitar is always warm and comforting, whether softly picked or strummed with spirit. The entire record is simply beautiful. (Omega Records)


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