Allison is known for a plethora of things: imbuing his songs with a sly mixture of blues and jazz idioms and a biting wit, long before it was fashionable; writing such classics as "Young Man Blues" (famously covered by The Who on the Live at Leeds album), "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy," and "Parchman Farm"; playing and recording with fellow legends Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, and Stan Getz; and influencing everyone from Van Morrison (who covered his "If You Only Knew") and his bandleader, Georgie Fame (who essentially made a worthwhile career out of imitating Allison), to Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, the Rolling Stones and the Clash (who covered "Look Here" on Sandinista!). It's generally acknowledged that he never got as big as those he influenced due to his inability to be pigeonholed into a single genre. (Ironic, since many who followed his lead ended up far more recognized for it.)
But Allison is truly the whole package: a songwriter's songwriter, a singer's singer, a pianist's pianist, who quietly changed the face of popular music as we know it. If his most recent studio album, 1997's excellent Gimcracks and Gewgaws (Blue Note), is any indication, even at age 76, Allison hasn't lost a step.
Plus, his name is Mose, ferchrissake. How fucking cool is that?
Mose Allison performs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, and Friday, May 16, at Belushe's, 1118 E. Sixth St. Tickets are $20, and are available at Hear's Music and the club. Call 903-9039 for more information.
SHOCK OF THE NEW: A couple local bands are holding CD release parties this week, both at Vaudeville Cabaret.
A feature article on the Knockout Pills is forthcoming in these pages, so I won't blow my load on them here and now. Suffice to say that if you haven't seen them, you're missing out on some of the finest punk rock and roll that Tucson has to offer. Be sure to bring extra cash, as you'll undoubtedly want to pick up a copy of their self-titled, debut full-length, on L.A.'s Dead Beat Records. The 13-track disc smokes like Bogey, Bacall, and Denis Leary combined.
Fronted by 6-foot-tall twin sisters Kee and Dawn--first names only, thanks--Sugarbush have garnered buzz (you'll get the pun in a sec--sorry) for their many live performances in recent months, including high-profile opening slots for the likes of Daniel Johnston, Pere Ubu, and Faun Fables. (They're also slated to open a bunch of shows, including those in Tucson and Phoenix, for K Records headmaster Calvin Johnson, in July.)
The band's bio says they've been compared to the Swirlies, the Slits, the Velvet Underground, the Pork Torta, and Patti Smith, and for once, the press kit makes sense. As evidenced on their brand-new CD, the charmingly titled Bee Fart (Solid Gold Records), whose cover features a childlike drawing of, well, a bee farting, the band combines the experimental tendencies of the Swirlies, the angular rhythms of the Slits, the repetitive drone of the VU (or, perhaps more accurately, the Kills), the haphazard garage-funk of the Torta, and the tone and style of Patti Smith's voice, to arrive at something utterly unique. Plus, we hear echoes of carousel music in there, too.
Intrigued? Check Sugar Bush out at their CD release celebration, which hits Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 16, with openers the Okmoniks and Amor (whose recent set at the Red Room totally killed).
The Knockout Pills perform, along with openers the Solace Bros. and Invisible City, at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, also at Vaudeville Cabaret. Call 622-3535 for further details on both shows.
GOD BLESS AMERICANA: Don't let the fact that the Sadies hail from Canada throw you off: They're more American(a) than most bands south of our northern border. Not unlike our own Calexico, the band incorporates elements of spaghetti Western soundtracks, country noir, and the lonely sound of vast, open spaces. And, also not unlike Calexico, they've moonlighted as backing band for the likes of Neko Case, the Mekons' Jon Langford, and even dirty old R&B man Andre Williams (who once collaborated with Jon Spencer and Tucson-based producer Jim Waters--jeez, talk about your degrees of separation).
Following a trio of releases for Chicago's Bloodshot Records, the band's latest release, Stories Often Told, is their first for North Carolina's Yep Roc, though it pretty much follows the trajectory we've come to expect from the brothers Good: It's a study in what happens when you mix three parts twangy country with an equal amount of reverby western, and top it off with a twist of surf music.
The band's first Tucson appearance, in 2001, at Solar Culture (they returned to play Club Congress about a year ago), reminded of those bygone days when country and Western bands threw revivals rather than just just getting up and playing a bunch of songs. It prompted one attendee in our camp to declare it "the best show (he'd) seen in a long, long time." High praise from the jaded.
The Sadies perform at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, May 16. The always-great Al Perry opens the proceedings at 9 p.m. Admission is $6. Call 622-8848 with questions.
HELL ON WHEELS: When I received the new CD from Go Kart Go, I said to myself, "Oh, no, a three-piece from San Francisco that's produced by Kevin Army. How could they help but sound exactly like Green Day?" I needn't have worried.
Instead, GKG harks back to a day when "alternative" wasn't such a bad word, and roots-derived rock and roll bands like Buffalo Tom, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum were not only still together, but they still kicked ass (all three wussed out in the end). While Go Kart Go's brand-new album, Flying (House Cat), doesn't quite match the output of those bands' heydays, it's an enjoyable ride, nonetheless, wherein Westerberg-isms like "There goes my future ex-girlfriend" abound.
Go Kart Go perform at Skrappys, 201 E. Broadway, on Thursday, May 15. The show begins at 7 p.m. with opening bands that hadn't been announced at press time. For more information call 358-4287 or log onto www.skrappys.com.
BELL CURVE: Having learned his blues harp chops from some of Chicago's finest--Sonny Boy Williamson II, Big Walter, Little Walter, Average-size Walter (OK, I made that last one up)--Carey Bell went on to record and tour with blues legends Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, in their respective bands, before embarking on his own. And as befits a true bluesman, Bell seems to get better with age, as his albums from the '90s--Mellow Down Easy (1991, Blind Pig), Deep Down (1995, Alligator), and 1990's Harp Attack! (Alligator), which teamed him up with fellow esteemed harp-blowers Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Billy Branch--are considered the best in his long career.
Carey Bell performs, with Phoenix's Rocket 88s backing him up, on Saturday, May 17, at the El Casino Ballroom, 437 E. 26th St. The show starts at 8 p.m. with opening sets from Tucson's Tony & the Torpedoes and the Rocket 88s, but get there at 7 p.m. to toss back some barbecue. Advance tickets are $16, or $12 for KXCI members, and are available at Hear's Music, Reader's Oasis, Antigone Books, and KXCI, by phone at 623-1000, ext. 13, or online at www.kxci.org. They'll be $3 more at the door. For more info call KXCI at the number above.
DAR GOES ELECTRIC: A perennial Tucson favorite, folkie Dar Williams leaves behind her acoustic ways on her latest album, The Beauty of the Rain (2003, Razor & Tie), and, instead, fleshes out the songs' arrangements for a more streamlined approach that should win her new fans without alienating the old ones. Featuring guest spots from John Medeski, John Popper, Alison Krauss and Bela Fleck, the album has been garnering the most positive reviews of her already lauded career.
Opening for Williams this week is the Ben Taylor Band, fronted by the offspring of James Taylor and Carly Simon.
Dar Williams and the Ben Taylor Band perform at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Advance tickets are available for $20 at all Zia Record Exchange locations. They'll be $22 on the day of the show. For further details call 887-6898.
GYPSY SPELL: Local gypsy-jazz combo Molehill Orkestrah performs this week as part of the ongoing Rhythm & Roots Concert Series, and since the promoters quoted me in the press release, I'll take the lazy way out and quote myself (thus fulfilling my diabolical scheme to get paid twice for the same words. Aaaa-haaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaaaaaa--my best diabolical laugh): "Molehill plays with a primal urgency that is undeniable -- nothing short of mesmerizing every time they set out." I'll stand by that.
Molehill Orkestrah performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 16, at Cushing Street Café & Bar, 198 W. Cushing St. Advance tickets are available for $8 at the venue, Antigone Books, CD City, or online at www.dotucson.com. Call 297-9133 for more info.
BRING ON DA FUNKAMENTALS: Following a stint at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Café, in New York City, Tucson eight-piece hip-hop outfit Funkamentals is performing in an increasingly rare hometown show this week. In addition to live performances, the group, formed in 1997, presents motivational lectures for teachers and students across the country. This week's show will be filmed and recorded for possible use in the future.
Funkamentals perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, at the Pima College West Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road. For more information call 206-6988.