Berkeley singer/songwriter Green Huse hasn’t performed a full concert under her own name for about a decade. By a strange coincidence, her last evening-length gig was not long before the birth of the first of her two kids. So think of Saturday’s show at the Berkeley Arts Festival space on University Avenue as something of a reintroduction.
Rather than focusing on her original songs, Huse has gathered a group of close musical friends to interpret the music of Joni Mitchell, focusing on material from the classic albums Blue, Ladies of the Canyon, For the Roses and Court and Spark. She’s never done a concert devoted to another artist’s work before, but the project served her creative needs at a time when she wanted to really challenge herself.
“I pulled out the Joni songbook and started playing and listening to her stuff again,” Huse says. “I’ve never had the confidence to perform them. They might sound simple but they’re hard. I started to think that putting on a show would be a way to really delve into this material. The next day, without us talking about it, my partner said, why don’t you do a Joni show?”
Green’s collaborators include Shelly Doty, Maggie Forti, Eileen Hazel, Emily Shore, and horn player Herb Diamont. They’ll be joining her in various configurations and also offering personal versions of their own favorite Mitchell songs. Most of the musicians are members of the Wildcat Canyon Songwriters Collective, who have presented their music at the Subterranean Arthouse.
“I’ve known Shelly for at least 15 years, and I’ve often sung backup for her,” Huse says. “Eileen was my first roommate when I moved here. And Emily Shore is another amazing songwriter.”
Green is probably best known in music circles for her long-running duo with her wife, Green and Root (in gardening circles she’s known for her landscaping company Greens Gardens). They released a highly praised album Down That Road in 2004 on their label Cozy Goat Records, and played local coffee houses, house concerts, and Freight & Salvage at its previous Addison Street location. They’re also regulars at gay pride events, where their lovely song “Marrying You” anticipated the Obergefell decision.
Born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley city of Monrovia, Anne Huse was a budding songwriter when she lit out for a back-to-the-land lesbian commune in remote southwestern Oregon. On her second day at Owl Farm she found a book of Joni Mitchell songs and she quickly bonded with some of the women when they heard her playing “Rainy Night House.” But after a couple years of commune life she realized that she needed an urban environment to pursue her musical ambitions.
By 1993 Huse, who adopted the name Green at Owl Farm, had moved to Berkeley, where she started to gain attention performing with the blues-rock band Midnight Picnic. She released an acclaimed solo album in 1998, Multiheaded Heart , and then launched the Green and Root duo, which turned into a full-time enterprise. After a decade hiatus, they’ve recorded a new album Rise and are getting ready to start performing again.
“We were doing a lot of touring and networking and the business side became bigger than the music side,” Huse says. “It wasn’t fun anymore, so I just took a break. I’m only going to do music if it feels good, with no career goals. The last two or three years, the burning desire to do more music has been growing and growing. Then suddenly I wasn’t nursing anymore and had the energy. I just kind of felt that I can’t wait any longer.”
Country Joe McDonald performs at a free event devoted to freeing Corky, the longest held orca in captivity, at Ashkenaz 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The evening also features various speakers and a display of a three-kilometer long banner calling for Corky’s release signed by thousands of kids.
Sao Paulo guitarist Chico Pinheiro is one Brazil’s most acclaimed young composers, a harmonically advanced, melodically inventive artist who is building on the jazz-steeped bossa nova tradition. He performs 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the California Jazz Conservatory with ace electric bassist Scott Thompson and Brazilian-born drummer Celso Alberti.
Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. He also reports for the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and KQED’s California Report. Read his previous Berkeleyside reviews.
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