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The Craig Wright Band at Alex's

Songwriter and guitarist Craig Wright and drummer Greg Anton of Cast of Clowns, along with some fresh faces from Ashland's music scene, will come together for an Aquarian Valentine gig of original and improvisational music.

Two newcomers, bassist Michael Whelan and keyboardist John Stiemert, along with hillbilly music picker Jeremy Hickman of The Maybe Sometimes and didgeridoo player Mark Makumba, will join Wright's band for a show at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

The group will present many new songs penned by Wright, along with "a couple that ain't seen the light of day yet, but they're wanting to," Wright says.

Wright, author of "Redemption Center," a collection of fictional short stories published by Bear Star Press, and an associate professor at Southern Oregon University, says that he looks at songwriting in a new light.

"I find myself digging deeper into the possibilities of songwriting in a way I may have left for writing fiction in the past," Wright says.

Wright and Anton, along with guitarist Jeff Pevar and keyboard player Melvin Seals, formed jam band Cast of Clowns less than a year ago. Cast has had a successful run of shows in the region, including a slot at last summer's Oregon Country Fair, and is set for gigs next month on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Anton, of the band Zero with Steve Kimock, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"It's a treat to have Greg play with us," Wright says. "He's got an original style, there's a depth to what he does that is earthen and brave. I feel a true connection when we play."

Whelan and Stiemert also have keen sensibilities in their approach to songs; Hickman is a good guitar player and singer; and Makumba will be at the show doing creative stuff with his didgeridoo, Wright says.

"I want to create intensity and beauty in my music," Wright says. "The Craig Wright Band has been doing that in so many ways during rehearsals, whether through the delivery of the song or focused, energetic improvisational passages. Michael thinks of these unworldly harmonies, and John is some sort of genius on the keys. It (Aquarian Valentine show) will be even more fun because Jeremy and his crew from The Maybe Sometimes will be there. We're close friends and that just cranks the family vibe. It's going to be a special night."

The Craig Wright Band is putting together its first CD and intends to bravely fare forward into the future as if everything's going to be all right, Wright says.

Cover for the show costs $3. Call 482-8818.

Craig Wright's newest project, The Craig Wright Band, will present its Aquarian Valentine show at Alex's. - Photo by Jared Cruce