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The Alternate Routes; A House, A Home, Club Congress, August 6

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The Alternate Routes, a terrific rock band from Connecticut, played its Tucson debut last weekend, moving to the top of a bill that got juggled after Scattered Trees canceled at the last minute. Up-and-coming Tucson band A House, A Home was added, and the cover charge was removed.

After the dust had cleared, it was an enjoyable evening and a successful show.

A House, A Home played about 40 minutes of original tunes to open the show. The crowd hadn't yet settled, but the guys captured my attention with their AM-radio pop smarts and hushed folk-pop gems. I hope to hear more from this promising band in the future.

Confession time: I am totally helpless in the face of a certain type of roots rock, perhaps epitomized by The Band, but also practiced on and off over the years by The Jayhawks and, recently, by such excellent acts as Or, the Whale, Truth and Salvage Co., Dawes and Thrift Store Cowboys. The Alternate Routes' music fits in nicely with such company—twanging rock meets expansive '80s power-pop, with infectious results.

The performance Saturday night was impassioned and explosive, highlighted by singer-guitarist Tim Warren's confident leadership and lovely choir-boy-gone-gritty voice, as well as by the exceptional lead guitar work of Eric Donnelly; his slide and lap-steel-playing caused chills. It was a treat, too, to hear former Tucsonan Richard Medek on drums; he played with local artists such as Cathy Rivers, Johnny "Guitar" Blommer and the Carnivaleros during the early part of this century.

The cool thing about the way these Routes drew from their roots is that they didn't simply play blues- or country-inflected rock, but mixed in subtle elements to make their sound feel contemporary, such as fuzzed-out guitar effects on "Kiss Me"; big Led Zep blues-stomping and Beatlesque harmonies on "Tell Me Your Name"; and Latin rhythms on "The Future's Nothing New." On that last tune, Warren shook a battered yellow toolbox (with a microphone inside) for percussion, winning this week's award for Most Inventive Instrument.

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