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MASTER BLASTERS

On and off for more than a quarter-century, The Blasters have been playing what they call "American music"--a brand of bluesy, countrified, soulful, rockabilly-informed rock 'n' roll that never seems to go out of style. The band was formed by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin in 1979, but has undergone several lineup changes over the years; the current roster comprises singer-guitarist Phil Alvin and bassist John Bazz, both original members, as well as guitarist Keith Wyatt and drummer Jerry Angel.

In 2005, that incarnation released 4-11-44 (Rainman), the first new Blasters studio album in 20 years. In keeping with past releases, it's a mix of original songs and lost country classics penned by the likes of Charlie Rich and George Jones, as well as the occasional cover of young'uns like James Intveld. And while it's difficult to feel like nothing's missing (we're looking at you, Dave), the new release at least proves that The Blasters are still plenty able to let loose on their patented brand of roadhouse boogie.

Perhaps the fact that 4-11-44 doesn't sound quite as fresh as early Blasters albums has less to do with Dave Alvin's absence and more to do with the fact that they influenced a generation that currently peddles this stuff regularly in clubs across the country, whereas in the early '80s amid the L.A. punk scene, they had no choice but to conquer: There were few bands doing this sort of thing. Still, the new album proves that the brothers Alvin were prescient: Due in no small part to their efforts 25 years ago, this is still vital, viable music that should have no problem pleasing old fans and creating new converts alike.

The Blasters take the stage at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Jan. 11. The show also features sets from the Fraidy Cats and Al Foul and the Shakes. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $10, available at hotelcongress.com; they'll be $12 at the door. For more information, call 622-8848.


TUNES FOR THE TUCSON TWO

A hearing on the motion to drop all charges against Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, who were arrested by the United States Border Patrol in July while medically evacuating three people in distress from the desert near Arivaca, resumes Thursday, Jan. 5.

You've likely seen those "Humanitarian Aid Is Never a Crime" signs all over town in support of the pair (who have become known as the "Tucson Two"); you might have attended the benefit show thrown on their behalf at Club Congress in November; and you may know that organizations such as Amnesty International have taken up their cause (read all about it at nomoredeaths.org).

But what you might not know is that a crew of volunteers, including Hannah Gibson and our own Linda Ray, spent Christmas weekend duplicating and distributing copies of a CD that pairs two unreleased Howe Gelb songs, in an effort to raise funds for Strauss' and Sellz's case. The A-side, as it were, is "Ballad of the Tucson Two," recorded free of charge by Duncan Hudson and Jim Blackwell at KXCI's Studio 2A, and features guest appearances from Freakwater's Katherine Ann Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean, on vocals. It was written specifically as a response to the current case, while the B-side is "Underground Train," which Gelb wrote and recorded 20 years ago in support of the similar Sanctuary movement, under The Band of Blacky Ranchette moniker, who on this track include Rainer, Tom Larkins, Neil Harry and Jack Martinez.

The CDs have been released in a limited run of 100 numbered copies and are available for a donation of $10 or more at Hear's Music, Antigone Books, Bohemia, CD City, Chicago Music Store, Hotel Congress, Rainbow Guitars, The Planet Café and Sticks and Strings.


IT'S HIP-HOP FRIDAY!

The hip-hop inclined have two interesting shows from which to choose this week--one underground, one a bit more mainstream.

The latter comes courtesy of Houston rapper Mike Jones, who, in a genre in which self-promotion is a huge part of the game, stands alone in his efforts. He promoted his early albums on the Swishahouse label by encouraging his fans to call him on his personal phone number (281-330-8004--which he went so far as to repeatedly include in his lyrics), before he released 2005's Who Is Mike Jones? (another one of his attention-grabbing battle cries), on Warner Bros., which included the hit "Still Tippin'" and blew him up into the mainstream. He still includes his phone number in his lyrics, but chances that you'll actually be able to chat with him by calling it have become increasingly slim.

Mike Jones performs an 18-and-up show at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress. St., at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6. Advance tickets are available for $36 (!) at the Rialto box office or online at rialtotheatre.com; they'll be $38 on the day of the show. For further details, call 740-1000.

Those more experimentally inclined may want to check out the show on the same night at Plush. Headliner Daedelus made his name releasing a trio of albums that use a sound-collage technique inspired by DJ Shadow and RJD2, among others, that taps all kinds of sources for samples that he then mixes into a newly unified whole. His latest release, Exquisite Corpse (2005, Mush), is the first on which he collaborates with others, including MF Doom, Prefuse 73 and Mike Ladd.

Eliot Lipp and Leo 123 open the show, which kicks off at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6. Plush is located at 340 E. Sixth St., and admission to this show is $5. Call 798-1298 for more info.


I GOT YER INSTRUMENT RIGHT HERE

Also on Friday, Jan. 6, the 17th Street Guitars and World Instrument Store, located within the 17th Street Market, is celebrating its grand opening with a performance by Richie Havens, to benefit Katrina's Piano Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to put instruments back into the hands of New Orleans musicians who lost theirs in Hurricane Katrina. (The organization also accepts the donation of actual musical instruments.)

The store-within-a-store was started recently by Bonnie Brooks and her husband, reknowned bassist Harvey Brooks, whose friendship and collaboration with Havens dates back to the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early '60s. When Brooks learned of the fund, and that his old pal Havens was championing it, he contacted Havens to see if he'd be interested in performing a benefit show here; Havens, whose unique voice and percussive guitar-playing style garnered widespread recognition from his performance at Woodstock, agreed.

This week, those efforts culminate in the benefit, which will kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6 with a performance by Harvey Brooks and Friends. Haven's set begins at 7:30 p.m. There are only 150 tickets available, for a minimum $50 donation to the fund, by calling 624-8821, ext. 145. The 17th Street Market is located at 810 E. 17th St. For further details, call the number above or head to katrinaspianofund.org.


ON THE BANDWAGON

A pair of locals teams up this week to bring you a night of classical North Indian music. Sitarist Pete Fine and tabla player Todd Hammes will flaunt their skills in a collaboration set to take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Green Fire Music and Art Collective (formerly Green Fire Books), 925 E. Fort Lowell. Admission is $10. For more info, e-mail sitariya@cox.net or call 408-0677.

Chris Gaffney (Cold Hard Facts, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men) and Dave Gonzalez (The Paladins) return to town this week with their latest project, the country-soul band Hacienda Brothers, whose acclaimed 2005 self-titled album, on Koch Nashville, was recorded by the legendary songwriter and producer Dan Penn ("I'm Your Puppet," "Do Right Woman"). Tucson's Loveland open the show, which takes place at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7. Admission is $8. For more information, call 622-3535.

Golden Boots headline a triple bill this week, in celebration of the release of their Blunderlust Chapter 1 four-track demos, as part of Nightpass Homemade Records' Quilt Series (No. 37 in the series). Each release in the series is a 3-inch CD-R, with a hand-sewn cover, and eventually each one will be stitched together to form a quilt (hence the series' name). The Boots' contribution comprises eight songs, and will sell for $3. Copies are extremely limited, and only five will be sold at this week's show, which also includes Jason Anderson (K Records) and the Love Letter Band. This all-ages show hits Itl Cafe, 415 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 7. Donations will be accepted for the touring acts. Call 624-4411 for further details.

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