EARLIMART TRIBUTEL.A.'s Earlimart have come a hell of a long way from their early efforts, which were noisy and experimental enough to be compared to innovators like Sonic Youth and the Pixies. In contrast, their new album, Treble & Tremble (2004, Palm Pictures), is lush and dreamy, comprising tales of all varieties of loss without descending into gloom. These days, the band sounds like nothing so much as Elliott Smith (singer Aaron Espinoza's breathy voice bears more than a passing resemblance to his delicate tenor, and the entire album is an elegy for the late Smith) fronting a less-quirky Grandaddy, which shouldn't be much of a surprise since that band's Jim Fairchild moonlights in Earlimart and co-produced the album.
There's still a bit of fuzz left in, but when the stunning "Broke the Furniture"--an alchemic melding of piano, slide guitar (or at least something approximating it) and gorgeous melody--gives way to the dirty, distorted guitar of "Unintentional Tape Manipulations," it's downright jarring. Other highlights include the string-laden "Heaven Adores You," "First Instant Last Report" (which could have come straight from Figure 8) and the brief piano-and-voice opener "Hold on Slow Down," which is sung by keyboardist Ariana Murray. All in all, it's a fine Sunday morning album, and it's difficult to imagine a more fitting tribute--both lyrically and sonically--to the sadly departed Smith.
Earlimart performs on Thursday, Oct. 14 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. The Solace Brothers open the show at 9:30 p.m. $7 gets you past Elvis Costello's son at the door. Call 798-1298 for more info.
YEP ALVINAlmost 20 years after their existence, The Blasters seem to matter now more than ever. Several years before Uncle Tupelo was born, the '80s L.A. band spearheaded a movement that
amped up traditional roots music with a heady dose of punk rock energy. Their contemporaries included Rank and File, X, Jason and the Scorchers, and scores of others, and while most of those bands have been lost to time, the torch continues to be carried by a new generation of overall-wearers who gave it a new name--alt-country.
Master Blaster Dave Alvin left that band--which also included his brother Phil--in 1986 and served a short tour of duty in X, performing on their album See How We Are, and co-writing one of the album's strongest songs, "Fourth of July," before starting his solo career. (While he was still in The Blasters, Alvin also recorded an album of acoustic country and folk songs with members of X as The Knitters, largely influential in their own right.) As a solo artist, he's tackled everything from the gritty roots-rock that made his name, to blues-rock, straight-up country, and acoustic singer/songwriter fare. His 2000 album Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land, landed him a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and he's also produced albums by artists such as Tom Russell, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, and The Derailers.
After finishing out his tenure on Hightone Records in 2002 with a live album, Out in California, earlier this year Alvin released Ashgrove, his first studio album of new material in six years, on Yep Roc. Named after the L.A. venue where he saw live vintage blues acts growing up, Ashgrove unsurprisingly leans in that direction on the electric-guitar dominated songs, though there's still plenty more contemplative acoustic tracks, too. In other words, it pretty much encompasses all of the many virtues of Dave Alvin.
Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men perform a KXCI-sponsored show at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Oct. 8. Johnny Guitar and the Thousandaires open at 9:45 p.m. Advance tickets are available online at www.kxci.org; they're $15 for KXCI members and $19 for nonmembers. That number again is 798-1298.
HACIENDA SPECIALMark Insley's Arizona's Most Wanted series of countryish music is still going strong each Wednesday at Vaudeville Cabaret, and this week brings a special treat: an increasingly rare local performance from The Hacienda Brothers. The band includes a trio of gents who are accomplished and excellent singers, guitarists and songwriters on their own--Teddy Morgan, Dave Gonzalez and Chris Gaffney--so you can imagine what happens when they share a stage.
Expect some serious gunslinging when The Hacienda Brothers perform following Mark Insley's set on Wednesday, Oct. 13. Vaudeville Cabaret is located at 110 E. Congress St. For further details, call 622-3535.
CATCH A RISING STARAfter releasing a trio of decent albums that went largely unnoticed by press and radio, but garnered a grassroots following reminiscent of the Dave Matthews Band before they got huge, earlier this year, singer/songwriter Mason Jennings issued Use Your Voice (Bar/None), and things are changing quickly.
Not unlike Johnny Cash's work with Rick Rubin, the album strips away all unnecessary layers from the songs, allowing them to shine in their organic starkness. Jennings is truly a gifted songwriter of the literate variety, and nothing proves it more than the songs collected on Use Your Voice.
The rest of the world seems to be catching on to what his early fans already know. When Jennings performed here in February, the show was at the intimate Solar Culture Gallery. This week, he graduates to the relatively cavernous City Limits. Can superstardom be far away?
Mason Jennings performs on Wednesday, Oct. 13, with Haley Bonar opening. Doors open at 8 p.m. City Limits is located at 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. All tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advance at the venue, all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 321-1000. For more details, call 733-6262.
OBSCURA'S ENDAnother one bites the dust.
Sunday's appearance by local electronica crooners Musica Obscura will be their final live performance. They'll take the middle slot, just after locals Music Video, and before the Athens, Ga., combo of multi-instrumentalists of Macha, who merge indie rock with exotic pan-cultural elements. They're touring in support of their latest album, Forget Tomorrow (2004, Jetset), which reportedly incorporates funk-punk sounds and an abundance of synths into the mix.
Macha, Musica Obscura and Music Video perform at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is $5. More information is yours by calling 798-1298.