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COUNTRY WITH A TWIST: Boasting two drummers (Travis Olsson and Mark Minnick), a female upright bassist (Merrie Sloan, who also takes an occasional turn on the mic) and a pair of brothers on guitars, mandolin and vocals (Toby and Jason Purnell), Crooked County is the latest band on Phoenix alt-country label Rustic Records' fabulous roster to make its way to our burg. The band is the first Rustic signing to hail from east of the Mississippi--Indiana, to be more precise--and recently made its way around the Midwest with support from labelmate the Trophy Husbands, which includes Rustic founder Dave Insley. Now the Husbands return the favor, using its drawing power to introduce a new audience to Crooked County, whose debut album, Drunkard's Lament, was released in June.

Album opener "High on the Hog" recalls the golden age of Southern-fried rock: It could pass for a Skynyrd ballad if it bore that band's twin leads, while the rest of the record bears a more traditional stamp. The title track wouldn't sound out of place in a Fourkiller Flats set (if the Flats had a harmonica player), all wistful longing and subtle seduction, while the Sloan-sung "L & N Railroad" mines deeper roots to come off like an ol' time, uh, train song. The band sounds heavily influenced by bluegrass music, like it set out to make a bluegrass record but found the wrong instruments in its hands (the band has also toured with speedgrass combo Split Lip Rayfield) and decided to go ahead and record it anyway. Good stuff.

The Trophy Husbands and Crooked County perform at 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 17 at Che's Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave. Admission, as always, is free. For more information call 623-2088.


HARP ATTACK: The Boondocks hosts a Harmonica Extravaganza this weekend with two veteran blooze bands.

Celebrating nearly three decades in the biz--though it's undergone more lineup changes than anyone can count, it's still fronted by founding member, harpist and singer Mark Wenner--Maryland's The Nighthawks brings its holy trinity of blues, soul and rockabilly to the club at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 15. Tickets cost $8 in advance, or for TBS and KXCI members, and they'll be $12 at the door.

Then for the next two nights, Friday and Saturday, November 16 and 17, harp-heavy Phoenix faves The Rocket 88s will hold court at the club. Those shows start at 9 p.m. and cover will be $5 at the door.

The Harmonica Extravaganza takes place at The Boondocks, located at 3306 N. First Ave. For further details call 690-0991.


LAND OF THE DINOSAURS: The rather odd assortment of acts that is the Young Guns and Legends Tour brags three of the '70s' best-known rootsy rock bands. The Doobie Brothers, which retains the core of its original lineup (Michael McDonald, who represents the Steely Dan-ization of the band in its later years, won't be present, but he wasn't an original member anyway), is one of the most reliable dinosaur acts on the road today. Just about every song the group plays live is one you've heard on classic rock radio at some point, and amazingly they still sound pretty fresh. The Marshall Tucker Band, one of the driving forces behind the commercialization of that behemoth known as Southern rock, still boasts original singer Doug Gray from its hit-making period, but the rest of the band is comprised of hired hands. Smart money says it'll play "Heard It in a Love Song" at some point during its performance. Poco was the red-headed stepchild to like-minded peaceful, easy Californians the Eagles (former Poco members Timothy Schmit and Randy Meisner both did stints in the chart-toppers) before hitting the charts itself with "Crazy Love" and "Heart of the Night."

The Tucson stop will be rounded out by Alana Davis and Restless Heart, as well as locals Troy Olsen and Teddy Morgan (each worth the price of admission), the Bad News Blues Band, the Voodoo Dudes, Tim Moyer and The Winters Brothers.

The Young Guns and Legends Tour hits Tucson Electric Park, 2500 E. Ajo Way, on Saturday, November 17. Gates open at noon, and advance tickets are available for $22 at all Zia and Ticketmaster locations, or by phone at 321-1000. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Southern Arizona Red Cross.


SKA-DADDLE: Likely named by a snickering 10-year-old, the Crouching Fish, Hidden Finger Tour will answer the question, "Does anyone still care about pop-ska bands, and if so will they pay upwards of $20 to see them?" Headliner Goldfinger is a decent enough specimen, but the consistent highlight of its shows is a set of mostly '80s covers, so take it for what you will. Meanwhile, co-headliner Reel Big Fish sucks ass in a large way. After attending its last Tucson show, I demanded my money back, but was denied when reminded I hadn't paid for my ticket.

Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish and Sugarcult perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $20 (plus service charges) from Ticketmaster, or by calling 321-1000. For more info call 798-3333.


GET JUCED: Just like The Glands, which played in town last week, Jucifer is based in Athens, Ga., and records for Velocette Records (formerly Capricorn). The similarities end there. Jucifer comprises singer, guitarist and pianist Amber Valentine and her drummer boyfriend Ed Livengood, and the duo's tunes from its 2001 EP, The Lambs, bring Melvins-style sludgy doom and gloom, Slayer-style speed metal, and 4AD-style ethereal vocals to the dinner table for a combo platter the likes you've never tasted anywhere else.

Its live shows are reputed to be outstanding, and you can check 'em out for yourself at 9 p.m. on Sunday, November 18 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Chicago's Evil Beaver, a pummeling drums and bass duo from Chicago in the riot grrrl style, and good-time Tucson slop rawk outfit Winelord open. Cover is $5. For additional information call 622-8848.


WRIGHT MINDED: More people have heard of Shannon Wright than have actually heard her. She's plugged in, one of those performers that a lot of bands that you love, love. Her former band, Crowsdell, was produced by Stephen Malkmus; she's toured with Low, the Dirty Three and our own Calexico; and her newest album, Dyed in the Wool (Quarterstick, 2001), features guest spots by members of Shipping News, The Glands, Rachel's, Rock*A*Teens and Japancakes, to name but a few.

On ealier albums Wright played most of the instruments herself, and the difference in Dyed versus her former work is dramatic, akin to hearing a bunch of demos compared to the final product. The new songs are simultaneously far more complex, diverse and listenable, a hint of math rock head-scratching here, a touch of the ethereality of Tori Amos minus the annoyance factor there. The reason you're plunking your money down, though, is Wright's otherworldly, ginger-fairy voice, which veers from Cat Power ghostliness to PJ Harvey caterwauling from one tune to the next.

Shannon Wright appears along with Tucson's Twine at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20 at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $6. For more info call 884-0874.


NAME THAT TUNESMITH: No Use For A Name has been writing and performing that sun-baked California pop-punk that all the backpack-wearing emo kids love so much since 1987. The band's just released a live album, Live in a Dive, on Fat Wreck Chords. Lotsa catchy guitar riffs and hooks galore. You know who you are. See ya at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 19 at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Diesel Boy, Zero Down and HBA open the show. Advance tickets are available for $15 at the club. For further details call 620-1824.

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