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HAT TRICK

It's a shame that Juliana Hatfield's recent solo work has been somewhat mediocre. A shame because after launching her career with a bang that included the excellent Blake Babies, a stint in the Lemonheads during their most fruitful period, and a couple rather good solo albums--1992's Hey Babe and 1993's Become What You Are (both on Mammoth)--she set expectations high for a respectable career, one with longevity. A shame because those who bought and liked her early material have likely gotten off the bus sometime during the last several years after being disappointed one time too many. And a shame because those very fans would probably find much to enjoy on her latest album, In Exile Deo (2004, Zoe/Rounder), if they'd only give her a second chance.

After a career built on tackling some uncomfortable truths in her trademark girlish voice, then wrapping them in indelible hooks, In Exile Deo finds Hatfield (rock crit cliché warning!) maturing gracefully while demonstrating a range heretofore unknown in areas of sonic texture and especially, vocals. It simply sounds like she woke up one day and decided to put forth more effort this time around, a bit ironic considering the topic of life's regrets--romantic ones, especially--is all over this album.

Opener "Get in Line," an up-tempo little stomper about the dichotomy of feeling the desperation and freedom that follows a breakup, is one of the album's lyrical highlights ("Come on baby kiss me / It doesn't really matter anyway / One more time / We're all gonna die someday / It's the one sure thing with a question mark for an answer / Everybody sing, my feeling for you endures like cancer ... Throwing rocks at clouds / to tear their silver linings / Knocking rainbows down / to keep myself from climbing"); the slightly bluesy guitar of "Because We Love You" matches its tale of a brother and sister trying to going to great lengths to make their substance-abusing father to get his act together: "Daddy, dance with me / Too far gone to even speak / Neil Young on the radio / 'Four dead in Ohio'"; piano ballad "It Should Have Been You" sees the narrator realizing she's with the wrong guy after having abandoned the right one.

Consistently satisfying, In Exile Deo is the Juliana Hatfield album her fans didn't think she was capable of making anymore.

Juliana Hatfield performs Friday, June 25, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The Damnwells open at 9 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $10. For more information, call 884-0874.


DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Music fans with wide-ranging taste have a tough call to make on Sunday, June 27. Do you go see the DKT/MC5 show at Club Congress (see article in this section), Mike Doughty's Band at Solar Culture Gallery, or Junior Brown at City Limits? The bad news is that it's logistically impossible to catch 'em all; the good news is you can't seem to lose, no matter which you choose.

Before breaking up shortly before the turn of the century, Soul Coughing released three brilliantly eclectic albums of Mike Doughty's stream-of-consciousness poetry laid over jazzy funk grooves and quirky samples. Since the band's demise, Doughty has been relatively quiet. Aside from releasing a long-lost solo album and embarking on solo acoustic tours to support it (as well as a live album culled from those tours), he's contributed to an issue of McSweeney's, in which he collaborated with They Might Be Giants, and provided vocals for a club track by BT. But that's about it. Until now, anyway.

Late last year, Doughty released the Rockity Roll EP, a collection of six songs recorded in the sparse solo fashion of his recent tours, meant to put a period to the end of that sentence. More recently, he's formed a band and has been in the studio with them to record his first full-length album with backing musicians since the Soul Coughing days. And at the moment, he's on his first tour with that band, which he'll bring to town this week.

The appropriately named Mike Doughty's Band performs an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., Sunday, June 27. Keaton Simons opens at 9 p.m.; admission is $10. Questions? That number again is 884-0874.

Just eight short months after his last visit to Tucson, Junior Brown returns this week. Perhaps his rigorous touring schedule is to blame for the fact that it's been a full three years since the release of his last album, Mixed Bag (Curb).

Brown began his career playing rockin' neo-traditionalist country tunes, dragging his beloved guit-steel--a combo electric guitar and steel guitar that Brown himself invented, and which sits stationary in a stand while he plays it--from town to town for those with any semblance of musical taste. Brown is a true triple threat: He's got one of the most distinctive voices in country music; he's one hell of a storytelling songwriter; and he's a shit-hot guitarist, putting that guit-steel through the wringer whether he's playing slow-burning licks or riding up and down the fretboard(s) at breakneck speed. Now if he'd only make a new album already.

Junior Brown performs Sunday, June 27, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Mark Insley opens the show at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $18 at the venue's box office, all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 321-1000. Call 733-6262 with questions.


SEE SHAVER; NELSON SAYS SO

Speaking of Mark Insley, Junior Brown isn't the only big-name country star he'll share a stage with this week. Insley pulls off a mighty coup, reeling in country legend Billy Joe Shaver for Wednesday's installment of his Arizona's Most Wanted series.

Though he never became a household name like Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash or Tom T. Hall, all those big-timers have covered Shaver's songs over the years. Additionally, Shaver pretty much single-handedly invented the genre of outlaw country: The first album that got labeled as such was Jennings' 1973 LP Honky Tonk Heroes, which was composed almost entirely of Shaver's songs.

Billie Joe Shaver performs at Mark Insley's Arizona's Most Wanted Wednesday, June 30, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. The show begins around 9 p.m. For more information, call 622-3535.


REV IT UP

You probably missed Reverend Horton Heat's last Tucson performance, but don't worry; you weren't alone. The good Reverend (aka Jim Heath) played a private birthday party at Vaudeville Cabaret last year, but returns this week to perform a high-profile show for which you don't need an invitiation.

Singer/guitarist/songwriter Heath and bandmates Jimbo Wallace (stand-up bass) and Scott Churilla (drums) are touring in support of their new album, Revival, out this week on Yep Roc. The CD, which comes with a bonus DVD, represents the trio's finest work in years, a laudable representation of the Rev.'s balls-out brand of psychobilly that also veers off into detours of country twang and boozy ballads. But fret not; Heath's sense of humor is still intact, as evidenced by "Callin' in Twisted," whose opening lines are, "I'm callin' in sick, I'm callin' in twisted / I was drinkin' two-fisted."

Also on the bill are The Detroit Cobras, who exclusively play covers of relatively obscure R&B nuggets in garage rock fashion, and Atlanta's The Forty-Fives, whose latest album, High Life High Volume (out this week on Yep Roc--sound familiar?), demonstrates the band's able grasp of all things vintage rock 'n' roll. Trust us; it's a doozy.

Reverend Horton Heat, The Detroit Cobras and The Forty-Fives perform an 18-and-over show at 8 p.m. next Thursday, July 1, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tickets are $16.50 and may be purchased at the venue's box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 321-1000. For further info, call 733-6262.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Since we're running out of room due to an unusually busy summer music week, here's a brief recap of some other shows that warrant your time and money.

Denver's DeVotchKa bring their glorious combination of gypsy music and Anglo-pop back to town for their devoted Tucson following this week. The band's latest album, 2003's Una Volta (Cicero), was recorded at Wavelab Studios and ended up on Weekly contributor Annie Holub's year-end Top 10 list. Not to be missed live.

DeVotchKa perform at 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is a fiver. Call 622-8848 for more information.

Ever heard that bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice"? Pretty kick-ass, right? Did the person who played it for you tell you it was Phish? Well, they were wrong. It was Texas-based combo The Gourds, who are one of the few alt-country bands in which the "alt" is more telling than the "country." They'll be at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., Monday, June 29, performing two sets starting at 10 p.m. Cover is $8. Call 798-1298 for further details.

The Punks Protect Kids show at Skrappy's this week will benefit Protect, a national organization that, according to its Web site (protect.org), is "committed to building a powerful, nonpartisan force for the protection of children from abuse, exploitation and neglect." The local fund-raiser, organized by Emily Budd, will feature performances from Fusty Luggs, Line of Fire, the Mundays, Por La Hente and San Diego's Lia Fail. Additionally, a raffle will be held at the event with prizes that include a guitar from Guitar Center, a skate deck courtesy of Starr Skates, a signed T-shirt from The Bled and passes to upcoming Skrappy's shows.

Punks Protect Kids kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, June 25, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission to the all-ages event is a $5 donation. Call 358-4287 with questions.

The Pharcyde, responsible for one of the finest hip-hop albums of the '90s, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, will perform at 9 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., Wednesday, June 30. Advance tickets, available at Hotel Congress' lobby, are $18. They'll be $22 on the day of the show. Call 622-8848 for more information.

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