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WILCOULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA

In case you haven't heard by now, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy checked himself into a rehab clinic last week for treatment for his addiction to painkillers, taken to combat his chronic migraines. The band has already cancelled their European tour and pushed the release date of their new album, A Ghost Is Born, back to June 22. Still in question at press time was the fate of Wilco's mini-tour, scheduled to hit Tucson on April 29 (their first local date in eight years), but a definitive announcement was expected by week's end. Unless you know something we don't about sub-30-day rehab programs, though, we advise you not to hold your breath for the show to go on as planned. Even worse, Howe Gelb was slated to open on all dates of the high-profile tour. Here's wishing Tweedy a speedy recovery, and hoping that when it comes time to reschedule the dates, Tucson and Gelb aren't forgotten.


KNOSH ON JOSH

The critical accolades just keep pouring in for Idaho-born singer/songwriter Josh Ritter. Ritter's songs have been described as "hugely ambitious and perfectly balanced" (The New York Times) and "crafted with the sort of simple, burnished depth that transcends eras and turns 26-year-old tunesmiths into folk heroes" (The Boston Globe), while Details magazine called Ritter "the best young songwriter we've got."

They may not be that far off the mark. On his third and latest album, Hello Starling (2003, Signature Sounds), Ritter's gentle melodies and the sparse production recall heavyweights like Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and occasionally, Bob Dylan, while his voice falls somewhere along the lines of Drake's, Cohen's and The Waterboys' Mike Scott. But it's his instantly recognizable character sketches and lyrical attention to detail that mark him as a true contender.

"Kathleen," for example, is told from the point of view of a shy guy at a party observing a crush that he knows he doesn't have a chance with, and imagining being the one to drive her home. "All the other girls here are stars--you are the Northern Lights ... They try and they try but everything that they do / is the ghost of a trace of a pale imitation of you," Ritter sings. "I won't be your last dance, just your last goodnight / Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied / I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen."

Perhaps most impressive is that I could have picked any one of the 11 songs from Hello Starling to demonstrate his lyrical prowess. He's that consistent. And that good.

Josh Ritter performs at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Friday, April 9. Opening the show at 9 p.m. is Rosie Thomas (see Rhythm & Views, page 82). Admission to the all-ages show is $8. For more info, call 884-0874.


FIGHT THE POWER

Kudos to Fat Mike of NOFX for being one of the most outspoken and active musicians to rally the troops (read: punk-loving kids of voting age) for the upcoming presidential election. With the punkvoter.com Web site, which receives more than 900,000 hits a day and has been garnering mainstream media attention from the likes of Newsweek, ABC News and The New York Times, The Fatman has arguably done as much as anyone to encourage normally apathetic youngsters to get involved in the political process.

As a complement to the site, Mike has gathered together some of his famous, equally pissed-off friends to take the message straight to the people. The Punk Voter Tour is currently hitting college towns across the nation, and this week brings Tucson's turn to rage against the machine.

While the tour will feature a rotating cast of the disillusioned, the current leg includes NOFX, currently in their 21st year of raising punk-rock hell, dour-but-hummable Chicago punks the Alkaline Trio, the ever-provocative spoken word musings of former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and energetic Mesa punkers Authority Zero.

The Punk Voter Tour hits the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 15. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $25 at the Rialto box office and Bookman's, online at rialtotheatre.com or by phone at 740-1000. For more information, call 798-3333.


HIP-HOP HOMECOMING

Sure, it was a drag when Murs, the most-recognized and respected Tucsonan in hip-hop, packed his bags and left town a few years ago. A drag for us, anyway. Give him some credit: Do you honestly think his career would be anywhere near what it's become since he left if he'd stayed?

The guy's cred is undeniable: Before dropping The End of the Beginning (Definitive Jux), one of 2003's most anticipated and acclaimed hip-hop albums, he had already formed 3 Mystic Journeymen and the Living Legends crew, guested on too many tracks to count and teamed up with Atmosphere's Slug for an EP devoted to their mutual appreciation for Christina Ricci.

This week's homecoming performance comes in support of Murs' second solo album, Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition, released in March on Def Jux. While 9th Wonder's production--all simple, straightforward beats and groovy soul samples--has taken a few disses for a sped-up vocal sample a la Kanye West, Murs is in fine form here (if a bit more serious than usual), spewing 10 examples of the trademarked streetwise tales that got him where he is today. In other words, it won't disappoint the faithful.

Catch Murs on Friday, April 9 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Oddjobs open at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $14 at All City Records, Zia Records and all Ticketmaster locations. They'll be $16 on the day of the show. For further details, call 622-8848.


ONE-WOMAN BAND

Tracy + The Plastics aren't your average electro-punk band. For one thing, there's really only one member, and her name isn't Tracy.

Rather, the "band" is Wynne Greenwood, who sings live as her alter ego, Tracy, while backing herself on video screens as keyboard player Nikki and drummer Cola. Greenwood takes the multimedia aspect of a Le Tigre performance one step further (and her music is also inspired by that band), expanding boundaries in the relationship between music and video, reality and fantasy. If all this sounds like some half-baked art project, guess again: How many bands get invited to perform at the Whitney Biennial, as Tracy + The Plastics have this year?

Tracy + The Plastics performs on Monday, April 12 at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The show starts at 9 p.m. with openers King Cobra, featuring Tara Jane O'Neil (Rodan, Retsin) and Rachel Carns (The Need). Admission to the all-ages show is $7. For further details, call 884-0874.

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