by Brian Smith
Billy Sedlmayr’s "Tucson Kills" is a frighteningly lovely glimpse into boyhood and Tucson, and it brims with ache and empathy and tender regrets. There’s a heady sense of location here, to the point of mythology, dusted with area references—from the fading whores down on 6th Avenue and scoring in barrios Sobaco, Old Pasqua and Hollywood to “going crazy” in Florence prison yards and the fire at the Pioneer Hotel that killed 29 people. Gabe Sullivan’s production is sweetly spare and the mournful Mexican brass and goosebumps kick in at the precisely the same moment. Billy had this tune kicking around for years. (This version is an alternate from his 2014 debut Charmed Life.) He played it for me back in ’98 in the Phoenix barrio off Van Buren when we were both living around there. Just a voice and a crappy acoustic guitar, and even then my jaw dropped. Even then I knew that "Tucson Kills" was the ballad of Tucson.
Old Travis Edmonson—or Townes Van Zandt for that matter—ain’t got nothin’ on Sedlmayr.