Carl Verheyn Trio | Credit: Josef Woodard

This edition of ON the Beat was originally emailed to subscribers on June 15, 2023. To receive Josef Woodard’s music newsletter in your inbox each Thursday, sign up at

Acoustic Adieu, For Now

Since 2016, many a fine acoustic guitar picker has graced our town with intimate concertizing thanks to the stubborn vision of one Kevin Gillies and his aptly-named SBAcoustic. Gillies, a luthier, guitarist, and acoustic guitar/instrument champion who wended south to Santa Barbara from NorCal, blew into town with some big ideas and energy. He created a short-lived but impressive guitar convention at Earl Warren Showgrounds and then launched his concert/gig series in spaces including the loveable Alhecama Theater and the last few years on Sunday nights at SOhO.

That particular party is now officially over, or at least as indefatigably maintained by its founding party, Gillies. Two Sundays back, the series came to its rather emotional finale at SOhO, with the musical honors going to Carl Verheyen and his trio. To open the valedictory lap of the show, several fans and helpers gave tribute speeches, including SOhO’s intrepid co-owner/music booker Gail Hansen. “I’m sad because he has not only brought great music here,” she told the hefty crowd, “but he has become a friend. I’m so appreciative for Kevin’s great work and everything he’s done for our musical community.” (SOhO will continue to book acoustic guitar shows, as it has in the past).

Gillies himself talked about the series, which launched unassumingly with a house concert by British ace Richard Smith. He also relayed an anecdote around the recent appearance by the Transatlantic Guitar Trio — the highly musical hero of which, to my ears, was the astonishingly artful, blind, Nashville–based wonder Rory Hoffman. Gillies asked Hoffman if he had recorded the particularly wowing version of Willie Nelson’s “Night Life,” a highlight of the recent SOhO set. Hoffman told him he steers away from recording, and is a true believer in the power of live music, in “creating a moment that can’t be duplicated.” Voila, a mantra for the SBAcoustic agenda.

Verheyen, long an in-demand session player and also member of the smart-pop band Supertramp, left his electric guitars at home, fittingly, and played a set of originals and otherwise in clean, rippling, fretboard-sweeping manner. On the cover list was recently-belated David Lindley’s “The Thing that Made me Rock,” Rodney Crowell’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” and a closer from the Sam and Dave book. He also dipped his toes in the songbook of his “day gig” job, with the Supertramp hit “Take the Long Way Home” (afterward, he quipped “I haven’t often played that for less than 20,000 people”).  

Synced and Earthy

The Syncopaths play at the Unitarian Church on June 16 | Credit: Courtesy

On the subject of the ever-increasing allure of acoustic music in our digitally-addled world, consider checking out the Syncopaths, playing at the Unitarian Church on Friday, June 16. No, the cleverly-monikered quartet is not a post-punk band, but a fine exponent of the general neo-bluegrass scene with strong Celtic overtones.

The band, with mandolinist/vocalist Ashley Hoyer (who, incidentally, performed in the SBAcoustic series, at the Alhecama), fiddler Ryan McKasson, pianist Jeffrey Spero, and Christa Burch on the percussive pulse case as bodhran player/vocalist, formed in 2002 as a backup band for famed fiddler Richard Greene; went on to record two albums, Rough Around the Edges in 2005 and 2010’s Five Gears; and now returns with a new album, Be Like the Sea. Friday’s show is part of a short tour promoting the new baby’s release. Theirs is a hot and friendly sound, blessedly without electrical/digital additives.

The Syncopaths | Credit: Courtesy

Music Academy Corner

The official classical concert season is over. Long live the Music Academy’s lavish feast of classical music offerings. Well, the annual summer festival’s at least eight weeks’ worth of temptations and satisfactions for “serious music” lovers in the 805. The Academy schedule is up and running as of this week (see story here), after Wednesday night’s traditional kick-off concert by the Tackas Quartet and continuing with Friday’s recital by famed alum, mezzo-soprano Isabelle Leonard, making good on a short-notice cancellation at last year’s gala. The always impressive Academy Festival Orchestra concerts begin on Saturday, June 24 at the Granada. The Academy calendar continues apace, and we’ll try to keep up as it develops. Watch this space…

To-Doings: On the SOhO front, the warm-hearted guitar hero and “Mr. Telecaster” Albert Lee makes a welcome return, on Tuesday, June 20 (see story here).


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