LIKE MARK ANTONY, Michael Fath would gladly have taken on the Roman Empire for the right pickup. He might even have said, as Shakespeare's Antony did, that "age could not wither, nor custom stale, her infinite variety." On the other hand, he'd have been talking about his guitar: Poor Cleopatra would have been left flat on her asp.
Fath, a Northern Virginia native son and multi-Wammie winner, has been one of Washington's best-kept local-secret legends for a long time, but his fame, and his flying finger, are about to catch up to him. With the release of his third album, "Sonic Tapestries," the introduction of his regular Guitar World column and even a how-to video for vicarious Vais, Fath should step into national cult status.
For one thing, Fath just can't seem to keep from playing around. Although his main interest is unabashed metallurgy (although with the humorous flare that also distinguishes Eddie Van Halen), Fath plays an astonishing bluegrass-flavored Kottke 12-string; a moody, meditative fusion; and even some near-classical flamenco. If it has frets and a bridge, Fath loves it. (And credits it -- Hamer, Ovation, Gibson, GHS, and the aforementioned Joe Barden Pick-Ups. Fath is the Jim McMahon of musical endorsements.)
Besides, on the pragmatic side, guitar whizzes are back in style; and Fath's cheerful new-metal style -- good ol' boy grin, haystack shag and modified West Coast dress -- makes him a marketable commodity in an increasingly commercial medium.
Fath and his band, bassist Dave Crigger and drummer Corey Holland, along with keyboards (and mixing board) master Jim Ebert, celebrate the record's release Friday at the Bayou. With luck, they'll play the album's only cover -- a version of Focus's "Hocus Pocus" that is only slightly less hysterical and mind-boggling than the larynx-bending Dutch original.
Opening is Still Life, which has also been signed to Fath's label, R.E.D. Ink; and which is recording its CD with Ebert (again) producing. Still Life is still testing the envelope of its heavy-pop style. Singer/writer Conrad Burnett at times sounds like a menacing Idol, but the rare gentle image is still his saving grace: "White Dress" is a gem.
TUVA LURA LAY: Once upon a time, maybe 30 years ago, Joe Wilson walked into a book and record store in Nashville and out of curiosity picked out a Melodia import album of folk music from Tuva, which is a mountainous region of Siberia.
As it turned out, Tuvan folk singing has absolutely nothing to do with guitars or love or politics or rhymes or any of that stuff. The primary instrument is the voicebox, all right; but what comes out of it sounds more like a synthesizer -- like one of those boxes given to patients who've had a tracheotomy. Two tones come out at once: a deep note that the singer uses as the bass line, and a higher tone (sympathic vibrations? natural harmonic echoes?) that carries the melody. In fact, some real adepts can produce three tones at once. It's both fascinating and fierce, evoking the Tatar hordes, the bitter winter winds, the harsh history of the area. (There are also "singers" who imitate the roe and musk deer -- with a chilling shriek like an overstretched wire -- and the owl and the wolf.)
Well, after years of sitting around on his living room floor trying to figure out how this sound was created, Wilson -- now head of the National Council for the Traditional Arts -- went to Tuva to find out. (He also discovered that only about 1,800 copies of that album were ever pressed, much less exported.) And now the Council is sponsoring a concert of "Voices of the Soviet Union," including Tuva-song artist Mergen Mongush, at 7:30 Friday at GWU's Lisner Auditorium ($15; 565-0654).
Also on the program are an all-male polyphonic Georgian choir; the Muzhiteno Women's Choir, a sextet from 40 to 75 who perform Slavic traditional folk music; and a group of shepherd's horn players.
Incidentally, in case you're wondering what the USSR got in exchange, the Council took over a bluegrass band, a tap dancer, a Tex-Mex group and a New Orleans jazz funeral band. Wonder what they think of life in America now.
ENTREE NOUS: Most two-for-one meal offers or "dining club" cards are just promotions for the restaurants themselves, but the Entree 21 program involving 21 Montgomery County restaurants is a fundraiser for a co-op of drug prevention programs.
For $21, participants get a dining card that lists the 21 restaurants (primarily along the Rockville/Gaithersburg/Germantown corridor) and assigns each a number; then, when the cardholder buys lunch or dinner at one of the establishments, a second entree is free (up to $14) when ordered with an appetizer or dessert. The restaurant punches through its number on the card, gets a separate receipt and the money goes to the antidrug campaign as a charitable deduction for the restaurateur.
The cards are good through next July, except on major holidays. To order by Visa or MasterCard call 800/869-8992; or send a check to Entree 21, 8057 Cryden Way, Forestville, MD 29747.
YELLOW LIGHT: Seeing a lot of yellow flashing before your eyes? Keep alert -- next thing you know it'll be flashing in front of your lips.
On of the most elaborate advertising campaigns in memory is being orchestrated to revive the reputation of Galliano, which, since the quiet fading away of the Harvey Wallbanger (and West Indies Yellow Bird, and Golden Cadillac) craze, has been languishing stateside.
But lo and behold, according to its makers and marketers, the chi-chi cocktail in Europe these days is Galliano and tonic, mixed three to one (by which is meant one to three) with a wedge of lime (or as the T-shirts and button have it, 1G & 3T). And to add some punch to this prescription, Galliano has selected six Italian-American "models," commissioned three yellow Ferraris and ordered 60,000 yellow roses, to be carried by said models and ferried in said Ferraris, around the country's "hot nightspots." Washington is market one, so watch for your chance.
How does it taste? Well, Galliano is a very fragrant liqueur -- it contains lavender, yarrow musk and juniper, amongst other things -- but anise predominates. Tonic and lime cut the syrup, but leave the licorice intact. It's a little too sweet for the famously dry Doctor Nightlife -- though for a generation raised on shooters and ice cream drinks, it may seem merely flowery.