Folk-pop floats along in a spectrum of music, from upbeat tempos to slow dirges, and Bryn Loosley and the Back Pages croon some of the most bittersweet ballads this side of NPR’s darling, David Mead. Santa Cruz teacher and bandleader, Bryn Loosley, is known to take the stage as if he’s walked up from the beach. Barefoot, guitar hung low around his neck, steely determination in his hazel-gray eyes, and then the voice. Gravelly, with the familiar dust kicked up from back country roads, Loosley draws the listener into a world where love is not always returned undamaged. From stints in Chico (Buffalo Creek) to the SAD streets of Portland (The Last Minute), the Northwest’s loss is Santa Cruz’s gain. Back Pages drives the engine of Loosley’s forlorn locomotive. Steve Gear on bass and Marc Stafford on electric guitar are the songwriter’s old friends from Chico, while Pat Blizinski (keys) and Jon Payne (drums) are Craigslist acquisitions. Shyly standing aside Bryn at the Kuumbwa will be his sister, Heather. “We started singing together in Church,” Loosley recalls. “I’ve sung with a lot of people, but Heather really nails the harmonies.” While the Kuumbwa show this Saturday, Jan. 23, is a celebration with Asher and Johanna LeFever opening, it’s the kind of performance you’ll want to bring tissues to. Loosley admits, “I don’t think there will be an overwhelming amount of dancing but you can dance if you want. Shoes are optional!” Good genetics may account for the sweet narrative vocals of the Back Pages, but what about the lack of footwear? Loosley sees it this way: “Playing barefoot just became a habit; it lets me know the show is starting. Just my little version of the ball player that uses the same bat on a hitting streak, or Mr. Rogers changing cardigans when he comes home.” DNA
INFO: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $10. 427-2227.