My brother-in-law introduced Alex and me to one of San Francisco's best kept secrets a couple months ago: Toshio Hirano. Last night was the second time I got to see Toshio perform at the Amnesia Lounge in the Mission District.
I want to describe him as a small Japanese man that tells great stories with a heavy accent as he introduces each song, which happens to mostly be covers of bluegrass and honky tonk tunes by old greats such as Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. But I think a better way to describe Toshio would be to say he's a well of happiness. Looking around the lounge when he plays, all you see are smiling faces, city hipsters two-steppin', dreadlocked dregs locked arm in arm going round in circles. You feel your own self returning to innocence, even if many of the tunes are based on classic country themes - heartache, lonesome prairies, your first drink after a hard day, and one horse towns. It'd sound like I was plugging the guy to sell more CD's for him, that is, if he had a CD for sale. He says if he manages to get one more person to go out and buy Jimmie Rodgers record, then he's happy.
Click here for Toshio's site. There's also a link on his front page to a great write-up by SF Gate from last year. And of course, you should really listen to his rendition of Peach Picking Time in Georgia, linked underneath his picture.