A trip through ‘Oblique Americana’
Genre-bending 77 El Deora parks at Angelica’s tonight
Thursday , Aug .30, 2012 By Samantha Weigel
DAILY JOURNAL CORRESPONDENT
Originally posted in The Daily Journal of San Mateo
The El Deora was a custom aftermarket
variant of the Cadillac
Eldorado in the 1970s. An extravagant
boat of a vehicle, the once-luxurious
land sharks are typically
trashed specimens of patina — a
perfect namesake for the Maurice
Tani’s genre-bending musical representation
of “Oblique Americana.”
Tani, 58, the fuel behind the 77 El
Deora band, draws from this
“hideous Frankenstein of a ride,”
lending itself to everything from
good ol’ honky-tonk rock to poetic
The East Bay and San Francisco
are the band’s usual stomping
grounds, but 77 El Deora will be
making their Peninsula debut at
Angelica’s Bell Theatre tonight in
Tani has played in everything
from a 1960s R&B tribute band to
his current group started in 2004.
Regardless of various definitions,
singing and art are “functions of
tension and release,” Tani said.
Tani has performed throughout the United
States and in other countries. His bandmates
and group names have changed throughout
the years, and he met Jenn Courtney, 44, the
penetrating voice behind the 77 El Deora, during
a brief interlude when the two played in
the band Hillside Wranglers.
In hearing Courtney’s sultry voice, marginally
higher than his own, Tani recognized they
made a commanding duet. In search of artistic
satisfaction, he took his new muse and wrote
about a fictional character now portrayed by
Courtney, Tani said.
Courtney has been singing in rock bands
since the 1980s. Her musical taste is eclectic,
which drew her to the group, she said.
“He and I have an amazing chemistry since
day one, our voices come together really
well,” said Courtney.
The comically witty song “I just dodged a
bullet” from their 2011 CD “The Crown and
the Crow’s Confession,” is a light-hearted
banter full of cheesy breakup lines in which
Tani and Courtney are heard in a humorous
sparring of the sexes, said Tani.
This type of comedy is central to Tani’s professed
“trailer park operetta” fragment of 77
El Deora’s range. After all, it’s always better
to have people laugh with you, than at you,
Tani said. Still, Tani noted a sincere and
sophisticated meaning in the band’s songs
which explore deeper into base ideas of love
and life, more concerned with, he said,
“human relationships, and what makes those
things kick.” The variant resonance of lyric,
sound and venue lift 77 El Deora to a unique
breed of music. This transformative style
adjusts to their audience.
“Rarely do we get to do a show that is comprehensive
of all the different forms of music
we play,” Tani said.
Tonight’s performance will highlight the
lighter, more sensual style in which Tani
hopes to engage the audience. He likes to create
music “on a level that relates to [listeners].
[I’m] trying to reframe the human experiences
we all have,” he said. In place of a usual fiddle
player, Randy Craig will be on the piano.
“Rocking may occur, but it will be a more
refined rock,” he said.
This Labor Day weekend, the fiddle will be
thrown back into play at El Rio in San
Francisco as 77 El Deora will be playing on,
Tani said, “Full rock band mode, as loud and
as bashy as we can get.”
Regardless of venue and style, the heart
wrenchingly funny country design paired with
lyrical stories remains constant for Tani.
Unlike verses from alternate music genres
where there is little, if no actual story progression,
Tani thrives off what he refers to as a
lyrical song device. Each verse progresses and
tells you a little more about the character.
“Information you couldn’t glean the meaning
of off the bat,” he said. “You have to get
all the way through the song before you can
get to what the writer really meant.”