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FORK IN THE TRAIL: Those with a fondness for the merging of country and rock face a mighty stiff dilemma this week: Slobberbone or Hank Williams III? Both are scheduled to play on the same night this week, January 14, at different venues. But here's the good news: With the Williams show set to begin at 8 p.m. (albeit with an opening act) and Slobberbone slated to play for two hours, starting at 10:45 p.m., you just might be able to have your Hank and chew on your Slobberbone, too, provided you've still got enough dead presidents in your post-holiday pockets.

Just in case you can't figure it out, Williams is the son of Hank Jr. and the grandson of Hank Sr.--country royalty, if you will. His two Curb-released albums showcase his traditional country side a la his grandfather, while the albums he's made with his band Assjack, which he burns himself to sell at shows, demonstrate the fact that along with his grandfather's albums, he also grew up on the likes of KISS, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, AC/DC and punk rock. Typically, he delivers both sides of his persona in his live sets, reputed to be "most kick-ass."

Definitely kick-ass, both on stage and CD, Slobberbone absolutely slayed a way-too-small crowd in its last local appearance at Plush nearly a year ago, but then that's what we've come to expect from these Denton, Texas beer-drinkin' rowdies over the years. In September, the band released its fifth album, Slippage (New West), another winning slab of tunes that comes off like the glory days of The Replacements, albeit with a healthy dose of twang. (Indeed, Slobberbone's ties to that band run deep, as it once released a song called "Placemat Blues," and the head of its label is one Peter Jesperson, whose former label, Twin/Tone, released the Mats' early albums.)

Not quite as great as its previous release, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (2000, New West)--a stone classic, and admittedly tough to top--Slippage veers further to the rock side of the fence than any of the band's previous releases, and earns personal bonus points for being the first band to ever reference my hometown in song, on the killer opening cut, "Springfield, IL."

If any of this sounds vaguely interesting, do yourself a favor and go see 'em live. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Hank Williams III performs on Tuesday, January 14, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. An opening act to be announced starts the show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $12 at all Zia locations. They'll be $15 on the day of the show. For more information call 385-ROCK.

Slobberbone appears at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Tuesday, January 14. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. with an opening set from Rian Greene. For further info call 798-1298


PICK-ME-UP: Roughly 15 years ago, the woman I was then dating dragged me to a Doc Watson show at the now-defunct Mesa club, After The Gold Rush. I knew very little of Watson at the time, merely that he was an old, blind, Appalachian folk dude who was supposed to be really good, or in my girlfriend's words, "fucking amazing." She was right.

Performing alongside a guy whose name I can't recall (a surrogate of sorts for his old picking partner and son, Merle, who died tragically in 1985), Watson was astounding, combining lightning speed on the frets with more soul than most guitarists with that much dexterity can boast, not to mention his sweet, ancient-sounding voice. Only later did I learn exactly what I had seen: Watson is widely considered the greatest flatpicker alive, and a national treasure. Though he turns 80 years old in a few months, he's reportedly still in the fine form in which I witnessed him years ago.

Doc Watson performs two shows, one at 4 p.m. and another at 8 p.m., on Saturday, January 11, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Tony Furtado opens both shows. Advance tickets are available for $32 at Antigone Books, Brew & Vine, CD City, Enchanted Earthworks, or online at www.dotucson.com. They'll be $35 at the door. For more info call 297-9133.


SWITCHED ON: This week brings another of those multiple-bands-playing-short-sets deals that we've all come to love so much lately, this one hosted by The Red Switch (yes, they've added the article to the name). Being billed as "Last Exit: The Anti-Musical (In Six Parts)," the band's keyboardist, Justin Miller, offers up the alternate title "All Tomorrow's Junkies," while singer/songwriter/guitarist Josh Levine describes the gathering as "a musical history in progress that demonstrates six vastly different ways you can still shake your hips." Confused yet?

In addition to the evening's headlining hosts, the show will also include performances from Great American Tragedy, The Swoon Theory, West Cool Seven, Musica Obscura, and The Plastic Romance.

It all goes down at 9 p.m. on Friday, January 10, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $4. Call 622-8848 for bonus info.


PUNKS NOT DEAD: With our punk rock heroes dying off at an alarming rate (R.I.P., Joe Strummer), now might be a good time to go see Marky Ramone's current band, The Speed Kings, a faster-than-The Ramones punk band fronted by Nick "CQ" Cooper, the former leader of Belgian punks (that's right, "Belgian punks!") The Buckweeds. Conveniently enough, they're slated to play in town this week along with graying Orange County punks D.I. and relative babes scratchingthesurface.

Head on over to Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 13. For more info call 620-1824, or log onto www.skrappys.com.

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