Take pedal steel guitars, tiki culture, and noir-themed stories to the beach this season.
Blue Steel by Joe Goldmark (Lo-Ball Records, JoeGoldmark.com)
Joe Goldmark is a man of many hats: He’s a business partner in Amoeba Music and Escape from New York Pizza. When he’s wearing his white cowboy hat and vintage Western jacket, he’s often sitting at his pedal steel guitar and massaging dreamily distorted melodies from its strings, leading a band of Bay Area musicians who can play anything. Committed to taking the weepy instrument out of its country comfort zone, Goldmark achieves new eclectic breadth on Blue Steel. The instrumentals — four originals, one by guest guitarist Jim Campilongo, and Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” — are interlaced with vocal performances, four by Dallis Craft, who sweetly delivers Lefty Frizzell’s “Look What Thoughts Will Do” and soars on “Graham Parker’s “Howlin’ Wind,” and three by Glenn Walters (Hoo Doo Rhythms Devils), who brings the blues and R&B grit, covering Jimmy McCracklin, B.B. King, and Rufus Thomas. Goldmark creates a subtly thrilling musical house of mirrors with his orchestral slide and pedal work.
California Tiki, A History of Polynesian Idols, Pineapple Cocktails and Coconut Palm Trees by Jason Henderson and Adam Foshko (The History Press, 2018, $25.99, 192 pp.)
While Alameda tiki icon Forbidden Island doesn’t make an appearance in this history-oriented and informal guide to California tiki culture, Trader Vic’s in Emeryville does pop up along side SF’s Tonga Room and Trad’r Sams. For those who enjoy Mai Tais and Zombies, tiki torches and tumblers, and surfing and surf music, this is a book for you, and summer is a great time for flipping through the pages. Besides explaining the rise, fall, and resurgence of all things tiki in the Golden State, the authors toss in lore about TV shows, movies, books, records, recipes, and even the elements of a classic tiki hut: A-frame construction, bridges, jungle greenery, masks, bamboo, aka the trappings of a Polynesia world. Don’t forget the pineapple, coconut, and rum.
—Judith M. Gallman
Santa Cruz Noir edited by Susie Bright (Akashic Books, 2018, $15.95, 320 pp.)
Need a gory, noiry, gritty beach read full of blood, gumshoes, dames, and mysterious tales? Susie Bright has compiled just the thing for you, a collection of 20 noirish stories by 20 authors — most with Santa Cruz connections — in five parts starring the picturesque beach town of Santa Cruz and other ideal Monterey Bay localities. The anthology offers a modern Left Coast take on the popular genre of gumshoes and gangsters by and about the folks who know and love the quirky paradise of Santa Cruz with sides of murder, myster, and mayhem. Akashic started this series of noir anthologies in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir, and has followed up with similar volumes for Los Angeles, Oakland, Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco. Bright is a best-selling author, journalist, audio producer, and editor who lives in Santa Cruz and hosts Audible Studios’ podcast In Bed with Susie Bright.