Jeremiah Sammartano plays a homecoming show at the Cinema Bar
Change is the enduring constant in L.A.’s Americana/roots community, with songwriters and players pinballing along a highway of opportunities from the West Coast to Austin to Nashville and back again. Guitarist/songwriter Jeremiah Sammartano was a longtime fixture in that community, often fronting his Red Eyes band at the Cinema Bar and chowing down with fellow musicians around the corner at Metro Café — until he packed it in for Flagstaff last May. Reunion time’s next Thursday, when he returns to his former “home away from home stage.”
It won’t be his first homecoming. Sammartano, who moved to L.A. from Orange County in 1998, quietly compensated for the scarcity of regular local gigs by developing a tour circuit of wine bars, brew pubs and pizza parlors across the West, and in 2008 he gave Nashville a year to see if it fit. It didn’t. He returned to playing the Cinema Bar and other low-key L.A. watering holes friendly to bluesy Americana, slide guitar and heart-on-sleeve laments, and, until his car collapsed in 2016, toured frequently.
A tug could be felt on the local web of communal connections when Sammartano announced his relocation to Arizona, but the move made practical sense (although the former Huntington Beach boy says he’s still adjusting to high mountain altitudes and snow). Last March he released “These Motel Days,” an album of rustic, slide- and harmonica-colored tunes recounting his interstate rambles. In September, he uploaded 10 tracks recorded at his Flagstaff home to Soundcloud, titling the collection “4 Hours Sleep, 12 Hour Drive.” It’s presumably too late (early?) for his beery Townes Van Zandt-inspired Christmas song (“Townes, Jesus and Me [At the Gold Rush],” from 2012’s “Home”), but it’s a fair bet he’ll pull out new tunes like “Beneath These Strange Skies” and “Coffee & Donuts” when he reprises his guitar-drums duo with Matthew Magener (a “troublemaker,” Sammartano quips) at the Cinema.
Pop around to Metro Café beforehand and you might catch him grabbing dinner like it’s still 2016. Some things don’t change.
— Bliss Bowen
Jeremiah Sammartano returns to the Cinema Bar (3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City) at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31. No cover; tip jar donations go directly to the artists. Also performing: Colleen Kinnick and Christopher Lockett. Call (310) 390-1328 or visit thecinemabar.com.