BLAZE OF GLORY: Apparently, that fire truck we told you about last month--the one the Mount Lemmon Fire Department bought just before the big-ass fire broke out on the mountain--still has a ways to go to be paid off; the truck's purchase was to be subsidized by a tax base that has been severely minimized due to the fire. This week brings another benefit concert, dubbed "Music for the Mountain," to help defray the costs, with some awfully big names stepping in to help out.
Singer/songwriter Pete Yorn wowed fans and critics alike with his 2001 debut gold album, Musicforthemorningafter (Columbia), which comprised 14 tracks of earnest, heart-on-sleeve pop songs equally informed by Brit-pop, Pavement-style indie rock, and down-home twang. He arrives in town to support his latest, Day I Forgot (Columbia), released on Tax Day of this year to positive reviews.
Concrete Blonde are the very definition of a cult band: A majority of music fans don't know much about them, or simply couldn't care less, but for those that count themselves as fans, there is no such thing as mere casual fandom--there is only an abiding, obsessive love for them. Still, the band managed to score a handful of college rock hits during their 16-year career (excepting a six-year hiatus), including "Still in Hollywood," "Tomorrow, Wendy," "Dance Along the Edge," and "Joey," all of which still hold up today.
Also on the bill are Josh Kelley, whose debut album, For the Ride Home (Hollywood, 2003), has elicited comparisons to John Mayer, Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band; the anguished, angry dynamic rock of Houston-based Blue October; and the harmony-rich Christian pop-rock of husband-and-wife duo Wilshire; plus some special guests who hadn't been announced at press time.
Music for the Mountain begins at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Advance tickets are available for the low, low price of $10 at all Zia Records locations and the club, online at www.calproductions.com, or by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX. They'll be $12 on the day of the show, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mount Lemmon Fire Department. Questions? Call 733-6262 for answers.
RUSSELL HUSTLE: El Paso's Tom Russell embodies the term "songwriter's songwriter"--which is to say he's awfully damn good at his craft. A rootsy, traditional singer/songwriter who has mostly sticks to the twangy side of the tracks during his 20-year career, he's seen his literary songs covered by a host of performers known for writing great songs themselves: Johnny Cash, Dave Alvin, and Iris DeMent, to name but a few. His songs are the rare example of storytelling that could stand alone on the page, without musical accompaniment, and still dazzle.
Odd, then, that his latest album, Modern Art (2003, Hightone), is comprised of half covers and half originals, and that, in a few cases, the covers outshine his own compositions. It's an odd record all around, if you want to get down to it. Two of the Russell-penned songs are about sports heroes: album opener "The Kid From Spavinaw" is the melancholically told tale of Mickey Mantle, and it oozes genuine pathos; conversely, "Muhammad Ali" recounts facts about the champ that we're all familiar with, against a misguidedly tropical arrangement. It sounds like something Jimmy Buffett might have left in the vaults. As far as the covers go, the most interesting one (though not the most successful; that would be his take on Emmylou Harris' "The Ballad of Sally Rose," one of three duets with Nancy Griffith) is a reading of the Charles Bukowski poem "Crucifix in a Death Hand," which segues into Warren Zevon's "Carmelita."
Along with his longtime musical collaborator, guitarist Andrew Hardin, the album boasts guest appearances from Gurf Morlix and Eliza Gilkyson, in addition to the aforementioned Griffith. While Modern Art doesn't rank among Russell's best, its successes outrank its failures. And, hell, when you've written as many great songs as Russell has over the years, you're entitled to release a merely good album every once in a while.
Tom Russell, with Andrew Hardin, performs at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, at Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave. Advance tickets are available for $20 at the club and Hear's Music. They'll be $25 on the day of the show. For further details call 690-0991.
THAT'S NOT FUNNY; THAT'S SICK: Those with a taste for theatrical metal of the comedic variety (and heading home after a live performance drenched in fake blood and other pseudo-bodily fluids) might have spent a moment or two wondering whatever happened to GWAR--which stands for God, What an Awful Racket--following their break-up a couple years ago. Part of the answer arrives this week in the form of a local appearance by the Dave Brockie Experience, a trio whose members began their musical career in GWAR.
The band's second album, Songs for the Wrong, released last month on Metal Blade, reveals that the boys haven't lost a lick of their juvenile sense of humor but, freed of the shackles of GWAR's human-killing alien mutants shtick, have turned their sights toward a wider variety of subjects to mock. A sampling of the song titles says it all: "The Chinese Have No Cheese," "Should the Ugly Girl Blow Me?," "Hard for a 'Tard." Musically, DBE veer more toward catchy, anthemic punk and old-school hardcore than GWAR's metallic pomp, albeit with a healthy heaping of arty weirdness, natch.
The Dave Brockie Experience performs at around 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Opening band(s) will kick things off at 9 p.m. For further information call 670-9202.
STRING FEVER: Can you say "overachiever?" Winning two National Bluegrass Banjo Championships just wasn't enough for Tony Furtado. Emboldened by his success in that realm, he set his sights on blues-leaning styles by learning how to play slide guitar. He's been just as successful in that realm, receiving comparisons to the likes of Ry Cooder, whose slide playing inspired him to pick up the instrument in the first place.
These days, Furtado utilizes both instruments in his exploration of merging the traditionalism of bluegrass and Delta blues with an improvisational, anything-goes attitude that incorporates elements of modern pop, world beat, jazz, standard singer/songwriter fare, rock, Celtic music and even funk--all of which has won him a healthy following among jam-band enthusiasts.
And, for those with an appetite for local trivia, Furtado's management company, Mike's Artist Management, is located right here in the Old Pueblo.
Tony Furtado and the American Gypsies perform, as part of the ongoing Rhythm & Roots Concert Series, on Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. The Greg Morton Trio opens the show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $12 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City, Enchanted Earthworks, the museum's gift shop or online at www.dotucson.com. They'll be $15 at the door. Call 297-9133 for further info.
ON THE BANDWAGON: Fronted by a blind 53-year-old black singer who was once a roaming street musician, and filled out by a trio of young white whippersnappers, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise are, quite simply, one of the most soulful blues bands around today. It's all due to Bradley himself, whose gritty, soulful voice recalls that of Otis Redding and Ted Hawkins, and can exalt a decent blues song to a near-religious experience. They'll be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Sunday, Aug. 24. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. with an opening set by Pseudopod. For further details call 798-1298.
With their early '80s smash hits "Don't You Want Me," "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," and "Mirror Man," Human League were one of the first bands to bring synth-pop to the masses. While their sound became scoffed at during the late '80s and '90s, it's currently enjoying a resurgence among the hipper-than-thou ranks that marks Human League as respect-worthy pioneers of the genre. Human League performs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tickets are $12 at the door. For more info, call 733-6262.