Media Life: Auburn blues fest lands guitarist Walter Trout as headliner

Guy Davis, Cold Blood on backing bill; Sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury influenced by Auburn author; Georgetown documentary screening to aid paralyzed river guide
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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In Europe, Walter Trout is a magical name in blues circles. An American born in New Jersey who honed his musical chops on the same late 1960s club circuit as Bruce Springsteen, Trout has been cultivating the Euro audience on his own for more than 20 years after enjoying successful stints in the 1980s with both Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Auburn audiences will get a rare chance to see Trout in one of his sporadic United States appearances at Gold Country Blues Festival on July 10. The author of searing guitar playing that’s grounded in the blues but squeezes in plenty of rock influences, Trout will headline a bill that also includes New York guitarist Guy Davis and the Bay Area’s Lydia Pense & Cold Blood. The festival itself is a welcome replacement in the summer music scene for the Bar-B-Cue & Blues Fest put on by the Placer SPCA for the past two decades at the fairgrounds. The late, great Bar-B-Cue & Blues had a knack of bringing in some top talent to Auburn and a regional audience. The new festival appears to be traveling that same direction, with Trout topping the bill and supporting acts that have their own followings. Davis, the son of actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, is known for his acting as well as his musicianship. He had a lead role in the 1984 film “Beat Street” and was seen on TV’s “One Life to Live” in the mid-1980s. On the music front, Davis specializes in country blues, has won awards for his acoustic artistry and has recently been backing folk legend Pete Seeger. Cold Blood broke out nationally with the single “You Got Me Hummin’” in 1970 – and Pense drew immediate comparisons to another San Francisco singer, Janis Joplin. Expect some female blues fireworks when vocalists Dana Moret, Annie Sampson and Laura Price join Pense onstage. The festival is getting support from the Placer County Contractors Association as a fundraiser for the Auburn Boys and Girls Club as well as its own scholarship fund. It will run from noon to 9:30 p.m., with club stages and local talent performing for the first four hours. BRADBURY'S AUBURN INFLUENCE The Placer County Library system is about to embark on an ambitious mass reading in April to celebrate National Library Week. Plenty of copies of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” will be available at each library for checking out and reading during the month. It’s called “The Big Read” and the choice of author is a fitting one for those familiar with the influence one Auburn resident had on Bradbury and a whole generation of science-fiction and fantasy writers. Bradbury has often credited Auburn’s Clark Ashton Smith with helping to kindle his imagination and spur him to become a writer. Smith – writing from his isolated cabin on a boulder strewn hillside in what is now the Skyridge subdivision – penned dozens of pulp-fiction fantasy classics for Wonder Stories and other magazines in the 1920s and 1930s. He was paid a pittance, lived a life of shabby gentility but left a legacy that continues to be studied, appreciated and published to this day. Bradbury has explained that one particular issue of Wonder Stories – from October of 1932 and containing Smith’s “The Story of the Singing Flame” – was an important touchstone in his decision to write. Bradbury listed the story – along with old Lon Chaney films, the Oz books, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon – on his own “special list of huge loves which excited me to the world and its mysteries and made me want to do something about it.” Consider “The Big Read” a kind of off-the-wall “giving back” by Bradbury to a community that nurtured one of his greatest early influences. “The fact that someone permanently touched and changed and excited (a writer’s) life,” Bradbury at one point wrote about Smith. “For this I shall always be grateful.” Smith’s home is long gone – overtaken by a housing development. But the many local appreciators of his writings were able to salvage a large boulder. It was placed in Old Town, with a commemorative plaque, to permanently honor Smith and his phantasmagorical writings. INSPIRATIONAL STORY On the “Cool side” of the American River Canyon, Georgetown’s Oddfellows Hall will play host April 16 to a film that comes with a hopeful backstory. The film is “Three Women Three Hundred Miles” and chronicles the first-ever attempt to swim the Grand Canyon whitewater on river boards. An award winner at the 2003 Durango Film Festival, it showcases South Fork American River guide Kelley Kalafatich in her quest on the Colorado River. Kalafatich, who was stunt double for Meryl Streep in the movie “The River Wild,” will be presenting the film starting at 7 p.m. She’ll also provide some inspiration of her own at what is a fundraising event. Since the completion of the “Three Women” documentary, Kalafatich suffered a serious reversal of fortune when she encountered a parasite while rafting the Blue Nile River in Africa. The parasite caused a condition that has left her paralyzed from the waist down since 2007. “Kelley’s hope is to walk again and she is an inspiration to us all,” said Geri Teixeira, who is coordinating the fundraising event. “She’ll remind us that we can overcome our obstacles in life and face the world with a positive outlook.” Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0232 or