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Various Artists : Tucson Songs (Le Pop Muzik)

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Imagine yourself a casual European music fan listening to this 18-song sampler of music by acts from the Sonoran Desert. Tucson actually sounds pretty damn credible as a musical hotbed on this compilation CD, released by the same German label behind recent recordings by locals Marianne Dissard, Naïm Amor and Andrew Collberg, each of whom is included here.

The breadth and depth of Tucson's musical talent is shown in a combination of previously released material and fresh stuff found nowhere else. Calexico, featuring guest singer Françoiz Breut, turn in an excellent, smoky reading of "Keeper of the Flame," a song made popular by Nina Simone. The much-loved Al Perry nugget "Dreaming" is a gorgeous slice of Bakersfield-style honky-tonk, enlivened by tremolo-laden guitar and mariachi horns. And Giant Sand repeats "Recovery Mission" (first heard on the compilation Luz de Vida, a benefit for the victims of the Jan. 8 shootings); it's priceless and worth multiple listens.

A few younger acts pop up as well, including Otherly Love (haunting, lo-fi neo-Americana) and lone Phoenician Courtney Marie Andrews (twangy torch pop). Players from some groups sit in with others—Salvador Duran sings on cuts by Brian Lopez and Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, while Lopez appears on a Dissard track. Gabriel Sullivan contributes two tracks—one from his solo album, and another recorded with his Balkan-gypsy-cumbia big band, Taraf de Tucson, featuring guest vocals by another local legend, hard-boiled singer-songwriter Billy Sedlmayr. All this, plus Silver Thread Trio, Amy Rude, J. Daniel Twelker, Bread and Circus, and Golden Boots, too. Represent!

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