THE BUSY TIMES RETURNWith the holiday season firmly behind us, it seems we're finally back to our usual hectic pace of fine shows around town--and it's an especially good week for fans of roots music of all varieties. Sure, you've got the high-profile Ryan Adams show at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Jan. 18 (see our article on Page 56), but there's oh so much more, too. Read on.
PLUSH PREPARES FOR SOME SHAKIN'Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers have become, well, maybe not quite legendary yet, but they may be on their way. Following 2004's Believe and 2006's Pandelerium, last year, the group released the third and final installment of their "Tentshow Trilogy," Swampblood (all appeared on Yep Roc). Frontman J.D. Wilkes wrote in the band's bio that while Believe was "set within the inner sanctum of a tent revival," and Pandelerium took place at a "circus sideshow," on Swampblood, "the motif continues with a bone-chilling visit to our own canvas-shrouded graveside service." While the band has always incorporated elements of rockabilly, blues, rock 'n' roll, country and punk, they've also always added new ingredients to the mix with each release--let's not forget that Believe hit the ground running with "Agony Wagon," a dose of hillbilly klezmer.
So, narrative arc aside, what's new on the latest Shack*Shakers album? Look no further than the title for your answer: The songs on Swampblood encompass every possible variety of swamp-dwelling music imaginable. "Old Spur Line" is down-South swamp-blues that recalls old ZZ Top. Always had a soft spot for Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tony Joe White? "Hellwater" won't disappoint. The marching "Down and Out," meanwhile, approximates the dark, swampy, creepy, carnivalesque work of Tom Waits, and "He Ain't Right" is a rollicking straight-up rockabilly ditty.
If there's one thing propelling these guys toward actual legendary status, it's their live shows, and you'll get your chance to see why on Tuesday, Jan. 22, when Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers hit the main room at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Al Foul opens at 9:45 p.m., and admission is $8. Call 798-1298 for more information.
SULTRY CLIMESA hop, skip and a jump away from the Shakers show, on the very same night, Club Congress will host another worthwhile rootsy bill. Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell returns to town in support of his first solo album, last year's Sirens of the Ditch (New West).
Here's an excerpt of what our own Linda Ray had to say about Isbell prior to his Tucson performance last August: "Isbell's songs are as soulful as his voice, and the sultry-climate character of his arrangements supports and highlights them both. But not all of his songs are blues- or soul-based; they're as likely to incorporate ballad pop and country folk, and the sorts of ruminations more typically associated with singer-songwriters."
On the bill along with Isbell are Will Hoge, whose brand of country-soul-inspired Southern rock has garnered comparisons as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker, Tom Petty and Otis Redding; and opener Jeremy Fisher, who has also been compared to Petty, as well as Paul Simon.
This triple-bill, sponsored by Harp magazine, begins at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Advance tickets are available for $10 at HotelCongress.com; they'll be $12 on the day of show. For additional info, call 622-8848.
DYNAMIC PSYCHOBILLYOne of the pre-eminent psychobilly bands of the last decade, Tiger Army, bring their brand of ghoulishness to town this week. The group--essentially singer-guitarist Nick 13 and his rhythm section of the moment--stand out among the pack of others who merge punk and rockabilly for a couple reasons. For one thing, Nick 13, whose voice is perfectly suited to this stuff, can sing circles around just about anyone else doing it. Secondly, he writes great songs. Sounds simple enough, right? But while a good deal of psychobilly and rockabilly bands sometimes seem to be going through the motions--"This is what rockabilly sounds like, so that's what we play"--Tiger Army aren't afraid to stretch the boundaries enough to write songs that are actually interesting and demonstrate some dynamics as well as dynamism.
Tiger Army will appear at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 19. Opening the all-ages show at 7:30 p.m. are Revolution Mother and The Dear and Departed. Advance tickets are available for $13 at Ticketmaster outlets, Bookmans, pconcerts.com and Ticketmaster.com. For further details, call 629-9211.
A SUPPORTER OF THE LOVABLE LOSERThough Todd Snider first gained notoriety via his folk-rock tune "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," a humorous and then-timely jab at a certain flannel-clad generation, the song could have been written off as mere novelty; it's not something you'd probably play your friends in the 21st century.
However, although Snider hasn't gotten as much attention from anything he's released since, his work has only improved in the ensuing years. He's no also-ran folk-rocker, as his most recent album, 2006's The Devil You Know, goes a long way in proving, and his narrative songs are top-notch. Here's what I wrote about The Devil You Know on his last pass through town:
"The album opens with the rootsy, raucous, Chuck Berry-inspired rocker 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' ('If tomorrow never comes / I don't give a damn'), and only occasionally lets up to allow the listener to catch his breath. And even on those more tempered tunes, such as 'Just Like Old Times,' the lyrics betray a rebellious streak missing from most country-folk artists. ('Just Like Old Times' is a plea to a former lover to blow off her boyfriend and hang out to do cocaine and stay up all night talking, reliving the old days.)
"Snider's songs can be funny, honest and heartbreaking, sometimes all at once, and he's got a soft spot for the loveable loser, the ne'er-do-well with good intentions who just can't seem to stop fucking up. His press bio states that Snider is 'the rare artist who understands and celebrates the connections between the Stones, Dylan, Bill Hicks, John Prine, Mitch Hedberg, Kris Kristofferson, Hunter S. Thompson and Randy Newman'--a bold statement borne out by the character sketches found here."
Todd Snider performs an early show at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $15 at HotelCongress.com. Questions? Call 622-8848 for answers.
ON THE BANDWAGONStill on the roots tip, Cross Canadian Ragweed will be at Club Congress on Sunday, Jan. 20, while Sofia, a duo comprising Po' Girl members Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira, will be at Solar Culture Gallery next Thursday, Jan. 24. Other notable shows this week include Sole (Monday, Jan. 21, Plush), Saosin, Armor for Sleep, The Bled and Meriwether (Monday, Jan. 21, Rialto Theatre), Sick Sense, U.S. Bombs, Orange and The Johns (not to be confused with The Jons, on Sunday, Jan. 20, Vaudeville Cabaret), The Deludes, Iceage Cobra and Early Black (Saturday, Jan. 19, Plush), and Goat Whore plus six other bands at The Rock on Friday, Jan. 18.
R.I.P.Finally, we were saddened to hear about the passing of multi-instrumentalist Evan Farrell, who performed with Rogue Wave, Japonize Elephants and Magnolia Electric Co., among others.
Farrell died of smoke inhalation in a fire at an Oakland, Calif., apartment two days before Christmas. He had many friends in Tucson, including the members of Golden Boots, who recently toured with Magnolia Electric Co. The Boots supplied us with this statement: "We were fortunate enough to spend every day with Evan for a month during our tour last fall with Magnolia Electric Co. We learned that Evan was not only an amazing musician, but one of the kindest people we'd ever met, as well as the absolute funniest. We'll miss you, Evan."
Donations to Evan's wife and two young children can be made through PayPal at email@example.com.