Whether he's releasing solo albums or with Giant Sand, performing with his Danish cohorts or by himself, switching deftly between guitar and piano, Gelb and Sand have been doing that ramshackle, unpredictable thing they do for more than two decades, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Featuring a pair of sisters on bass and vocals/guitar, and a male drummer whose crash cymbal is way too high in the air, The Beta Sweat update Jimmy Page's riffs and adapts them to the punk ethos. Add tension, dynamics and a soulful singer who can whisper or scream, and make you believe both equally.
Howe Gelb has also experimented with his sound over the years, while still putting his indelible stamp on everything he does. This time, he's grouped together a batch of new songs, some old Giant Sand nuggets and some tunes written by his late friend Rainer Ptacek, and added a Canadian gospel choir to make things even more interesting. It's the best thing he's done since Giant Sand's 2000 masterpiece Chore of Enchantment.
Love Mound has been one of Tucson's best live bands for a while now, using the powerful guitar playing of gentle giant Mike Mihina as an anchor for a winning mixture of blues and hard rock. Blackbird is the first time that power has been successfully captured on disc.
Howe Gelb's been writing songs for so long--and without suffering a diminishment of quality--that he could probably do it in his sleep. Come to think of it, since so many of his songs have the surrealism of the dream state, maybe that's his secret.
Primary Calexico songwriter Joey Burns' work has evolved in great strides over the years. He can write political songs that aren't ham-fisted, and he's learned the art of the turn of a phrase.
The term "desert noir" could have been coined to describe the songs of John Coinman, whose literary tales fuse the myth of the Old West with the modern reality of living in the urban desert.
Bob Log III could have made this list based on his musical chops alone--his punky, breakneck-speed slide guitar take on Delta blues is simply dazzling. But add in the jumpsuit, the helmet wired to a mic from an old telephone, the hilarious between-song banter, the leg rides--well, you get the idea.
They're powerful. They're engaging. They're easy on the eyes, and they just plain fucking rock. What's not to love about Beta Sweat?
Composed of veterans of bygone local acts such as Mala Vita and Pathos, Found Dead on the Phone manage to sound current even as they trade in the memes of '70s-era classic rock, arriving at what can only be described as sprawling rock epics.
An ensemble of American high school students performing polyrhythmic Afrobeat grooves may not sound so promising, but if you don't know why they made this list, you haven't seen them perform yet.
In an era of homogenized commercial radio stations, KXCI is a beacon of light, providing oodles of info about organizations and events around town, playing an eclectic assortment of music you won't hear anywhere else and--gasp--music by local artists. Don Jennings' weekly Locals Only provides not only recorded music exclusively by local bands, and an hour-long interview and live segment by a local artist, but also a plethora of info about the local music scene, courtesy of Jennings' extensive knowledge.
You tend to hear an awful lot about all the famous acts that have recorded albums with Craig Schumacher, but the main reason he made this list is because he offers local acts reasonably priced studio time to record--something many of them couldn't afford to do if he wasn't around. Plus, he makes 'em sound good, too.
A former member of Sugarbush and Galactic Federation of Love, Dimitri Manos has become a utility drummer of sorts, a go-to guy, if you will--though he's a permanent member of some acts, too. In the past year alone, he's smacked the skins for Golden Boots, The Fashionistas, Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors, Amor and Marianne Dissard.
Country-rockers armed with poppy hooks, The Wyatts are tireless self-promoters--not shamefully so; they just believe in what they're doing and want to share it.
Molehill Orkestrah bring an authenticity to exotic gypsy and Eastern European music--its quiet passages that swell into soaring climaxes--and they function completely as a unit. They make a difficult endeavor appear easy.
Each member of The Determined Luddites has chops out the wazoo, but it's their ability to bring that talent to such a wide array of styles that truly impresses.
Though Pork Torta gigs have become less frequent, you still never know what to expect. Musically, you know you're going to get absurd garage-funk, sure. But it's the band's attire that shifts from gig to gig--if there's any attire at all. Tutus, bubble wrap--these guys could craft silly costumes out of a paper clip and a pencil.
Ditto the costume element for Spacefish. Additionally, we've seen 'em do choreographed dance moves in tennis outfits and serve omelets from the stage. At last year's Great Cover-Up, they were U2.
While some complained the Calexico/Iron and Wine/Salvador Duran show, while entertaining, dragged on too long, think about it: In roughly three hours of nonstop music, how many boring moments were there? And who didn't get a bit misty when Duran pounded his chest because he was so overwhelmed at the outpouring of love from the audience?
From the wigs and polyester attire to the panties being thrown on stage to the music itself, The Jons' take on Tom Jones was nothin' but a good, good time.