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NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST

JIM WHITFORD

WHAT: CD release party

WHEN: 8 tonight

WHERE: Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St.

TICKETS: $5

INFO: 886-8539

Bring up the name Jim Whitford and you'll be met with words of respect and admiration. It's a respect extending outside Western New York where Whitford has performed for nearly 30 years (including a decade with the much-honored Pine Dogs), to Nashville where Jimmy Nalls (Nighthawks, Sea Level) recorded one of his songs, and on to Austin, Texas, where Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams) produced Whitford's new solo CD.

Yet Whitford greets the attention with sincere humility and a bit of self-deprecation, something not surprising to those who know him. "Jim's modesty is one of his attributes," says current Steam Donkeys' bandmate Buck Quiqley. After the demise of the Pine Dogs a few years back, Whitford made the decision to take time and enjoy music as a sideman, hooking up with the Steam Donkeys and Alex Lynne, among others. He steps into new territory tonight in Nietzsche's with the long-awaited release of his solo debut "Poison in the Well," a CD that only came about through the urging of others.

"I always wondered why I should release my solo material. There are only 10 people who would want to hear it," Whitford laughs. "It took the encouragement of Gurf and other musicians to help me see I had songs people might want to hear. I would never have done it on my own."

If he had any doubt on the quality of his songwriting, it should have been erased by the decision of Nalls (Greg Allman, Dr. John) to record "Good Luck, Money and Gasoline" last year. "He did the song much different than I did it and it was great. It's very flattering and a real honor to have anyone ask to record your song, let alone someone with those credentials," Whitford says.

Whitford could also look at the national talent that played on the recording of "Poison in the Well": Ian McLagen (Small Faces), Buddy Miller (Lucinda Williams, Jim Lauderdale), Linda McRae (ex-Spirit of the West) and the late Don Lindley.

"It was thrilling for me. You can't ask for much better talent," he says. Having his old friend and fellow Hamburg native Morlix produce the CD was also important.

Whitford has only recently began to write. "I think I had to be old to write. I didn't have the confidence or anything to say - and when I did, I didn't know how to do it," Whitford says.

Others are fast to sing his praises. "The real treat was finding out what a wonderful songwriter he was. He has great depth in his abilities as a lyricist and putting together melodies," says the Steam Donkeys' Quiqley.

Whitford's years of playing took a physical toll recently, with tendonitis forcing him to put performing on hold for a few months.

Now Whitford's prepared to celebrate performing again - and the release of "Poison in the Well" - by throwing a party tonight in Nietzsche's. He'll be working the whole night, starting at 8 p.m. with the Outlyers, followed by his new material with Jim Whitford's Real Beat Band (Cathy Carfagna, Joe Rozler, Jim Celeste and Jim Morabito) and ending the night with The Steam Donkeys.

"I wanted to have a bunch of people so we could play together and hang out all night. And then I realized I would be playing all night and thought, "what kind of party is this?' " he laughs.

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