SECOND OPINION: When Mason Jennings came to town last year, I wrote a rather lukewarm preview of the show, based on my only exposure to him--his third album, Century Spring (2002, Architect), which I called "a collection of reaffirmingly uplifting, literate tales sung over a pleasant-if-bland backing of acoustic pop/MOR rock." I remarked that "it will likely appeal to fans of sensitive boys who wear Birkenstocks, like John Mayer and Jack Johnson, with whom Jennings has toured as opener." Several friends and readers took exception to my assessment, and most of them have decent taste in music. "You got him all wrong," they said, then urged me to attend his performance to realize why I was wrong. Alas, I didn't make it to the show; but I did just receive Jennings' latest album, Use Your Voice (2004, Bar None), and it goes a long way in convincing me that they were right.

My main gripe with Century Spring was that it fell into the same trap that so many singer/songwriters find themselves in these days, i.e., the Dave Matthews Syndrome. The songs were over-earnest and sounded too forced in the college-meets-adult-contemporary setting in which they were framed. With Use Your Voice, Jennings sought to correct that problem, stating in the press materials of the new album, "I wanted it to sound like I was playing in my living room, because that's where I play and write my songs. I was really influenced by Johnny Cash's American recordings and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks--I love the no-frills sound on those records and that recording style makes the songs stand out and it sounds real to me." The same could be said for the songs on Use Your Voice. By placing them in a more organic context than those found on Century Spring, the songs' literary qualities stand out and in the process they become more believable.

Jennings may not be the next Dylan--and, really, who is?--but with Use Your Voice, he reveals himself to be at least the next Steve Forbert, the underrated singer/songwriter who was quickly ghettoized by being called "the next Dylan."

Mason Jennings performs on Friday, Feb. 27, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The Beautiful Girls open at 9 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $8. For more information, call 884-0874.

FIDDLE-DEE-DO: Maybe it's the hangover from O Brother, Where Art Thou? fever, but there seems to be a recent revival of Old Time music in all its various forms. For proof, look no further than Portland, Ore.'s youthful The Foghorn Stringband, appearing in Tucson this week.

At the behest of a guy named Bill Martin, who's been calling dances at weddings and parties in the Portland area for more than a dozen years, The Foghorn Stringband--P.T. Grover, Jr. on banjo, Brian Bagdonas on stand-up bass, Stephen "Sammy" Lind on fiddle, guitarist Kevin Sandri, and Caleb Klauder on mandolin--met with great success playing square-dance music, comprised of traditional mountain fiddle tunes and Appalachian dance music, for a bunch of rambunctious kids used to haunting rock clubs. Come to think of it, maybe the trend is less the result of digging deeper into the roots of bluegrass music, and more a case of young people looking for a new dance scene now that swing and salsa seem to be passÉ, and the new-wave revival has about five of its 15 minutes left.

Any way you cut it, though, the spirited takes on 20 traditional songs found on The Foghorn Stringband's latest release, Rattlesnake Tidal Wave (2002, Siren), which was recorded live with one microphone, are difficult to not enjoy, whether you're swinging your partner 'round and 'round in a dance hall or relaxing on the front porch.

The Foghorn Stringband performs at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 29 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $5. For more info, call 622-8848.

SO YOU SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY: This week's second annual Live and Local and Loud Birthday Bash, a showcase of some of Tucson's finest hard-edged bands, will serve three purposes: exposure for the bands themselves; to celebrate two years of the local music Web site www.liveandlocal.net, which is owned and operated by KLPX DJ and local music champion, Chita; and to raise funds to aid in the foundation of a nonprofit music grant organization aimed at educating Tucson youth about music and the music industry. The organization is called MAGENTA!, which stands for Music Arts Grants and Education Now, Tomorrow, Always! In addition to a portion of ticket sales for the event being donated to the cause, the show will be recorded and videotaped for a future CD/DVD release, which will also benefit the organization.

"At a time when our schools are cutting the art programs, we need to realize what a large part of American culture music arts really are--and what a positive impact it has," says guitarist Sean Terry, whose band, Blynd, headlines the event. "MAGENTA! will give our children a chance to learn about what may otherwise be lost in red tape and bureaucracy."

The scheduled list of performers, in order of appearance, is: Self Born, Distorted, Troy's Bucket, Innisfail, Namaste, Hollowed Highrise, Aggressive Persuasion, Gat Rot and Blynd.

The event kicks off at 4 p.m. and runs until 1 a.m. at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 28. Admission to the all-ages show is $5 in advance (tix available at the Rialto and Bookman's, online at www.rialtotheatre.com, or by phone at 740-1000) and $6 at the door. For more info, call 798-3333, or go to www.liveandlocal.net.

SWEET DREAMS (OF PATSY): For a while there, it seemed like Tucson had caught a tribute-show bug that it just couldn't shake, then all of a sudden, poof!, they were gone. Perhaps the fine folks at Plush sensed the vacuum, because this week, the club hosts a bevy of local acts performing songs made popular by country music diva Patsy Cline. Hosted by Cathy Rivers and club proprietor Maebelle Reed, the scheduled lineup also includes Jaime Harris, Beautiful Bird, Emily Long, Love Mound, Tammy Allen and Dawn Miller-Friedland.

The Tribute to Patsy Cline goes down at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St. Admission is $5. For more information, call 798-1298.

BANG YOUR HEAD: After years of alienating their fan base by releasing two albums that were the aural equivalent of re-heated frozen dinners (Load and Reload, anyone? Anyone?) and a stopgap live album--not to mention the whole Napster debacle, their loss of bassist Jason Newsted, and singer/guitarist James Hetfield's much-publicized stint in rehab--last year, Metallica put the bullshit of band squabbles aside long enough to record and release St. Anger (Elektra), widely touted as a full-on return to form. This week, the band arrives in Tucson to do what it's always done best--take it to the stage.

Metallica performs on Wednesday, March 3 at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave. Godsmack opens the show at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available for an ungodly $75 and $55 (plus service charges, of course) at all Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For more info, call 791-4266.

RAP RUCKUS: One of the West Coast's most critically lauded rappers, Aceyalone began his career as part of the celebrated Freestyle Fellowship crew. Since going solo in 1995 with the release of the classic All Balls Don't Bounce (finally brought back into print this year, complete with a bonus disc, on Red Urban), he's released a string of string of exceptional albums, including 1998's A Book of Human Language (Project Blowed), 2001's Accepted Eclectic (P-Vine Japan) and last year's Love and Hate (Red Urban), which features collaborations with RJD2, El-P, PMD, Antipop Consortium and Casual.

Aceyalone appears at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Feb. 28. The show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets from The Visionaries, Bus Driver and Influence. Advance tickets are available for $13.50 at Zia Record Exchange and all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 321-1000. They'll be $15 on the day of the show. For further details, call 622-8848.

NUMBERS RACKET: Whenever I receive an e-mail from a PR flack raving about a band that he or she doesn't represent, it usually piques my interest. Such was the case recently with San Francisco co-ed trio Numbers. The band cites the usual influences bandied about by groups that are jumping the danceable-punk train--Gang of Four, Kraftwerk, Wire, No Wave. But Numbers' new album, In My Mind All the Time (Tigerbeat 6), reminds more of late-'90s Scottish co-ed trio Bis, which mined the then-unlikely combo of punk angularity and ironic disco cheesiness and danceability, complete with boy-girl-vocal, call-and-response chants, to arrive at something greater than the sum of its parts: namely, a hell of a lot of fun. The same can be said for Numbers, which is quite a feat when you're mixing silly songs about going to shows with semi-ironic political ones ("I could get a disease from the air that I breathe").

The band performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E Toole Ave., on Wednesday, March 3. X27 and Da Hawnay Troof open at 9 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $7. For more 411, call 884-0874.

STRING 'EM UP: Recently relocated to Tucson from Texas, violinist Michi Regier will showcase two sides of her multifaceted musical career this week at a release party for her new CD, Curved Space (self-released). A former member of the Celtic group The Bringers, Regier will begin the evening performing solo violin pieces from the disc, ranging from a handful of originals to traditional Ukranian songs to works by Bartok and Bizet. For the second act, Regier will be joined by Scottsdale's Walt Kuhlman on guitar, and Shanan Capes on flute and vocals, and the trio will perform as Gypsy Waltz.

Michi Regier and Gypsy Waltz perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Wilde Playhouse, 135 E. Congress St. Tickets are available for $10 in advance at the venue or by calling 770-1000. They'll be $11 at the door. (Students and seniors are $5.) For more information, call the aforementioned number, or log onto www.michimusic.com or www.gypsywaltz.com.

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