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Soundbites

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CHOOSE YER BLUES

Pity the poor blues fan. Like it's not enough that he's, y'know, got the blues (and especially at such a gorgeous time of year!), but this Saturday, he's got three worthwhile shows to choose from, to try to find some commiseration.

Making his annual stop in Tucson, at a slightly more upscale venue than usual this time around, Mose Allison is a legendary jazz-blues innovator. Just as Bo Diddley has his beat, Allison pretty much invented a certain form of phrasing that combined his two loves: the blues and boogie songs he taught himself to play as a child, and the music of the jazz greats that he discovered in high school. Just as his piano style merges the two rather seamlessly, so, too, does his distinctive vocal style, which often echoes the cadence found in 12-bar blues, but speeds it up to a lilting, almost singsong effect. Top all that off with profoundly witty, humorous lyrics, and you've pretty much got the style which has made him such a revered and likeable figure in the blues-jazz world and beyond. He has, in fact, become known as the favorite jazz musician of many British rockers, including Eric Clapton, The Who, The Clash and Elvis Costello--all of whom have covered Allison's tunes over the years--as well as Van Morrison, who in 1996 released Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison. When we caught him in town a couple years ago, at Belushe's, he was in as fine form as ever--completely belying his 70-something years.

Mose Allison performs at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., on Saturday, May 14. Special guest Lisa Otey opens the show at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $18 (orchestra) and $15 (balcony) by calling 622-2823, the same number to call for further details. Admission will be $20 for all seats on the day of the show.

Blues harpist and singer Rod Piazza began his career in the mid-'60s as a member of the Dirty Blues Band before opting to tour and record with one of his heroes, George "Harmonica" Smith. Piazza and Smith remained together as Bacon Fat for the next decade-and-a-half, until Smith's health began to decline. Piazza had released a couple of solo albums in that time, too, but once he realized that Smith was no longer able to perform, at the beginning of the '80s, Piazza formed his own backing band, the Mighty Flyers. They've since gone on to win the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Band of the Year three times, no small feat.

The group's latest album, Keepin' It Real (2004, Blind Pig), brings in a couple of new members--guitarist Henry Carvajal and drummer Paul Fasulo--in addition to pianist Honey Piazza and bassist Bill Stuve. True to its title, the band recorded the album live in the studio, with most tracks being the first and only take. It shows. Keepin' It Real is the sound of a well-oiled Chicago blues-based outfit that truly smokes. Piazza's dirty harmonica work recalls that of Little Walter (on opening track "Big Blues Party," his harp almost sounds like an overdriven guitar), and new guitarist Carvajal plays just rough enough to compliment Piazza's grit. This is truly some of the best Chicago blues I've heard in ages.

Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers perform at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at the Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave. Cover is $13 for members of SABHF, KXCI and TKMA, and $15 for the general public. Call 690-0991 for more information.

Finally, rock radio's favorite modern blues-rocker, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, returns to town in support of his latest album, 2004's The Place You're In (Reprise), notable in that Shepherd handles most of the vocals this time. (Noah Hunt, who will perform with Shepherd this week, handled vocal duties on his previous two albums.) The onetime prodigy is creeping toward 30, and The Place You're In, his first release in five years, demonstrates tremendous growth as both a songwriter and a guitarist. The bombast of his playing is still present, though it carries more nuance these days; but the album as a whole is far more rock-oriented this time around, with beefy riffs--that wouldn't sound out of place on KLPX's playlist--now as present as his signature solos.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, May 14. Tyler Hilton opens at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $25 at www.cc.com; they'll be $27 on the day of the show. For more info, call 740-1000 or log on to www.rialtotheatre.com.


FORMERLY KNOWN AS ...

Since I can't claim to have heard El Guapo's two albums on Dischord, I'll just have to trust their bio, which tells me they "explored free jazz, trance punk and old-fashioned dance tracks." One new drummer and a name change later--they became Supersystem after discovering that a Budweiser-sponsored bar band in Chicago had trademarked their old moniker--they've just released Always Never Again, on their new home of Touch and Go. While the album is being heralded under the ubiquitous "dance-punk" label, it's decidedly more "dance" than "punk." In fact, this album has at least as much to do with hip-hop and krautrock as it does any punk band. And on top of it all, it's hella fun. If you thought The Rapture was the most danceable band spawned from this movement, you haven't heard Supersystem.

Supersystem perform on Sunday, May 15 at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Tucson's Transceiver (formerly Sleeper) open the all-ages show at 9 p.m. Admission is $7. For further details call 884-0874.


INDIGO SOLO

Amy Ray was always the tougher half of the Indigo Girls, so the rock edge of her solo work may not surprise longtime fans. Her latest album, Prom, released last month on her own Daemon Records, "explores the dance between gender and sexuality, man and woman, youth and adulthood, authority and rebellion," as the one-sheet says. But it chooses to explore these issues mostly by way of well-rendered character sketches, rather than beating the listener over the head with hamfisted social politics. Those of us who haven't rabidly followed the Girls' output over the years will be pleasantly surprised at what an astute songwriter Ray is, and will find much to like here, as Prom's middle-American protagonists turn the proceedings into something like a queer version of John Mellencamp's odes to the heartland--a big compliment, to be sure.

Amy Ray performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, May 14. The show begins at 9:45 p.m. with an opening set from Family Outing, which features Team Dretch's Jody Bleyle. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased in advanced at www.virtuous.com. Questions? Ring 'em up at 798-1298.


ODE TO GOOD WRITING

Call it "lo-fi electronic rock" or something to that effect, if you dare call it anything. Emperor X's latest album, Central Hug/Friendarmy/Fractal Dunes (2005, Discos Mariscos), harks back to a time when Lou Barlow was still churning out cassettes and Guided by Voices were still together, and infuses the winning songs/sonic slop with similarly rinky-dink technology. As with all endeavors of this nature, this might very well suck were it not for one fact: Dude can write songs, plain and simple.

Catch Emperor X, with openers Music Video, at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18 at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Cover for the all-ages show is $6. More info at 884-0874.


IT'S NOT MUSIC; IT'S HBO

Calling all Deadwood fans! John Hawkes, who plays Sol Star on the potty-mouthed HBO series, will be performing with his all-over-the-map band, King Straggler, at about 9 p.m. on Monday, May 16 at The Red Room at Grill, 100 E. Congress St. For further details, call 623-7621.


VOTE OR DIE!

Finally, a quick reminder that this is the last week to get your TAMMIES ballots in the mail. They must be received at our office by Wednesday, May 18. See the ballot page in this week's issue for full details and rules.

Also, a request for local bands and musicians: If you've released an album in the last year and have not sent a copy to us, now would be a really good time to do so, as our critics will soon be voting on this year's TAMMIES Critics Picks. Please send 'em to: Stephen Seigel c/o Tucson Weekly, P.O. Box 27087, Tucson, AZ 85726. Thanks.

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