When people hit me up to inquire about acoustic music in Bakersfield, I usually start off my list with Dustin Meridith.
If that name doesn't ring a bell, his nickname, "Catfish," just might. A fixture of the downtown scene with two decades of long nights of blues, beers and barroom tears under his belt, his music and voice have been heard at nearly every watering hole in Bakersfield.
Dealing with a breakup? Thinking about quitting your job? Paid off your mortgage, or just plain want to get plowed? This scruffily refined ax man is guaranteed to have a song to suit your mood when he appears for a solo gig at J&M's Bar & Grill on Saturday night.
"I like groove period," said Meridith, 36, on his preferred mode of musical communication.
"Genre is a label given by critics. I prefer music that moves the soul, regardless of genre. That being said, Hendrix is god, and I love honky tonk being a son of Bakersfield."
Meridith's introduction into the scene happened like most area musicians, jamming with high school buddies (one of whom was Chris Taylor of the band Dub Seeds, who gave him his nickname) before making the jump to any coffeehouse that would welcome them.
"The first time I heard 'Led Zeppelin I' and the riff to 'Good Times Bad Times,' I knew I wanted to play guitar. For attitude, it was all Hendrix, he was the complete package."
While Meredith continued jamming with a number of loose impromptu jam outfits, a turning point for the musician happened with the opening of Fishlips bar downtown in 2002, where he performed solo weekly, nightly or whenever the venue was in need of an opening act.
"There is something magical about connecting with your brothers and sisters of soul on stage, that's the high I always look for. Performing alone made me a better musician though and I highly recommend it."
From classic blues to country, rock, alternative and beyond, Meridith has a voice and guitar to fit the style.
"For electric, I am known for my mid-90's Hamer, which I worked all through high school washing dishes to buy. She's my first wife, and will sustain for hours on end. For acoustic, I employ a Martin HD28 for the volume, bass response and sounds I became accustomed to, after listening to Johnny Cash as a young man."
You can also catch Meridith with a number of his other musical endeavors including blues rockers the WMD'eez, classic country tribute Country Deluxe, and the 99's featuring a collaboration with Bakersfield singer songwriter Jon Goodell. The 99's will perform at On the Rocks on Aug. 9.
"Finding musical chemistry is not as hard as finding personal chemistry. Bands are like one big funky married couple, and I'm lucky to play with the guys I perform with."
Saturday's showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Admission is free for the all-ages show.
J&M's Bar and Grill is located at 10801 Rosedale Highway. For more information, call 589-3042.â
Golden Bough at ASR
Celtic music has always had a solid fan base among music traditionalists and renaissance faire couples, but in the mid '90s, few expected the genre would ever compete with some of popular music's biggest artists.
From Enya to The Corrs to The Chieftains and the inescapable "Riverdance," sales went through the roof with major labels signing any artist adopting some form of Irish and Scottish musical hybrid as the foundation of their sound.
Among those acts leading the independent Celtic music scene stateside was Modesto's very own Golden Bough, which will make a rare Bakersfield appearance at American Sound Studios on Saturday.
Starting out as a duo in 1980, original members Paul Espinoza and Margie Butler recorded a series of critically acclaimed recordings with various studio lineups, while maintaining a busy live schedule on both sides of the Atlantic.
Today, after more than three decades together, the Golden Bough trio of Espinoza, Butler and Kathy Sierra continue perfecting a formula of Celtic harp, guitar, octave-mandolin, mandolin, accordion, violin, penny-whistle and bodhran instrumentation for audiences of all ages.
"There was definitely a greater interest in Celtic music after 'Riverdance,'" said Butler.
"'Braveheart' also helped pique the interest in Scottish music and culture. The movie 'Brave' has brought a new wave of interest in Scottish and Celtic music and culture. We see this at festivals and Highland games. In Ireland and Scotland, the young musicians continue to breathe fresh and new life into the music."
Over the course of their career, members of Golden Bough have collaborated with artists such as Linda Ronstadt, The Chieftains' Derek Bell, as well as a recording with world-renowned Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramsey, among others.
"We had planned to make music our career, so we certainly hoped Golden Bough would keep going. Now it seems we can't stop. We returned to Europe four years ago for our 30th anniversary and have returned annually since. We plan to keep this going until we just can't lift an instrument anymore."
The band's website at goldenboughmusic.com is filled with information on the group, including the band's arts and activism side promoting music in schools. The group makes regular appearances at public schools sharing their tradition with young audiences.
"It's unfortunate for the students, as they are not exposed to the same musical influence that we had when we were in school. That is why we feel dedicated to bringing live music into the schools."
Opening the show is veteran Bakersfield Celtic music quartet Banshee in the Kitchen, which will join Golden Bough for a few collaborations onstage.
"We feel pretty honored when other musicians approach us and tell us that we inspired them to start performing or get back into it. That's one of the nice things about having been around for so long."
Saturday's showtime is 7 p.m. Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. American Sound Recordings is located at 2231 R St. For more information, call 477-2577.
Tanked and Crooked Folk at Sandrini's, 1918 Eye St., 9 p.m. Saturday. $5, 322-8900.
If there's ever a book written on Bakersfield punk rock in the '90s, Active Ingrediants would certainly be deserving of their own chapter. After a few breaks and reunions, members Scott Burton, Dennis Harrison and Jeremy Cravens have returned as Tanked, performing steadily at local watering holes just like the good ol' days. They've also released a cool 7-inch vinyl, which can be picked up at the show. Check out a preview at reverbnation.com/ tankedband. Also appearing are local hooligans, Crooked Folk.