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THE FIRST SIGN OF 'FALL' (WHATEVER 'FALL' IS)

It happens every year at this time: After holing up in the studio for the hottest months of the year, local acts emerge with new music for the masses.

Usually, at the end of the summer and beginning of fall (what's fall again?), a spate of new albums flood the local market (i.e., the merch table at bands' shows)--but this year, maybe because the summer hasn't been quite as hot as usual, bands have gotten a bit of a jump.

Recent weeks have seen new releases from the likes of Andrew Collberg, The Okmoniks (No. 112 on the CMJ Radio 200!); onetime Tucsonan (and current honorary Tucsonan) NoBunny; Kevin Pakulis and Larry Lee Lerma (see this week's Rhythm and Views); and surely some others I'm forgetting. And you can bet we'll see even more in the coming weeks and months, including new full-lengths from both Giant Sand (proVISIONS is due out on Yep Roc on Sept. 2) and Calexico (Carried to Dust, on Quarterstick, will be released on Sept. 9).

This week, though, there are a couple of other new releases to tell you about.

If you're reading this on Thursday, Aug. 14, the day the issue officially comes out, you still have time to head over to The Living Room, 413 E. Fifth St., to catch the Fell City Shouts' release party for their debut EP, Music Is Medisin. The disc is being released in a limited edition of 150 hand-numbered copies. Also on the bill are Brooklyn's Jason Cimon and Andrew Collberg, whose recent EP-release show was opened by the Fell City Shouts (awww!). Things get underway at around 7 p.m.; all ages are welcome, and the cover will be cheap.

The very next night, with their CD release out of the way, the Fell City Shouts (and, according to his MySpace page, Jason Cimon) will perform at Club Congress as openers at yet another release party. Thee Mighty Tom Walbank will be releasing Sugarmama, a 10-song vinyl-only LP, on local Mudhouse Records, the label owned and operated by Deludes drummer Jake Bergeron.

As we all know by now, Walbank, who took home the Tucson Area Music Award this year for Blues, is a ferocious performer--a killer guitarist and harp player with a versatile voice who is able to get even wallflowers up and dancing. But for the most part, Walbank has mostly stuck to a tried-and-true formula: paying homage to his beloved dead heroes of the Delta blues scene. The reason he's been able to do it, mostly unchanged, for so long, is because he's so damn good at it. On Sugarmama, though, Walbank stretches his wings more than he ever has before, and the album's all the better for it.

I was sent digital copies of the tracks, which didn't contain song titles, so please forgive their absence here. But the album kicks off with what would seem to be the title track, which finds Walbank in familiar territory--blues abetted by harmonica. Production-wise, the song (as well as the entirety of the album) is fantastic: The stereo separation puts the harmonica in the left channel only, and the guitar solo is a blast of slide work that's louder than anything else, which makes it jump out of the speaker. In other words, it resembles those age-old blues recordings that sound so great for their primitiveness. The second track, which just might be my favorite, is a rollicking dose of pure swagger with a killer chorus of, "My hand on your skull, just pullin' on your locks," delivered quickly and repeatedly. It sounds like T. Rex-era Marc Bolan fronting Bob Dylan's current touring band, and it totally fucking rocks.

The song that seems to have everyone talking, though, is Track 4, in which--over a barely-there muted guitar shuffle that mostly serves as percussion, and what sounds to be a far-away melodica (but is probably a harp)--Walbank croons a chorus of, "Don't ask why, just hold me / 'cause winter always comes too soon," in the style of Morrissey or Jeff Buckley. It's beautiful and haunting, and no one would ever guess it was Tom Walbank, who is about to release what is easily his best album yet. Here's to taking risks.

Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors celebrate the release of Sugarmama at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15. Club Congress is located at 311 E. Congress St. Cover is $3. Call 622-8848 for more information.


TUNES FOR OBAMA

The name is just so good that you knew it was bound to happen sooner than later. Barack 'n' Roll, a fundraiser for (God willing) our next commander in chief, will run from 3 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The all-ages event, organized by the Obama Street Team and other volunteers, will feature live performances by American Android, Feel Good Revolution, Neon Prophet, Ciphurphace, Kailey Carranza, Artistic Melody, Cinder Bridge, and Sally Withers and Pablo, as well as speeches from state Reps. Nancy Young Wright and Steve Farley, and City Councilmembers Rodney Glassman and Nina Trasoff. Donations are encouraged, and you can call 622-8848 for further details.


GET YOUR TICKETS NOW

Tickets are on sale this week for a pair of shows for which planning ahead is probably a good idea.

While we're still on the subject of the upcoming election, know this: Calexico with Mariachi Luz de Luna and Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins and Friends will be headlining a fundraiser for U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is facing a tough re-election campaign against Republican Tim Bee. The event will take place at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., and will feature voter registration, about 20 booths for political organizations, food from The Cup and, we're willing to wager, a few speeches here and there. Tickets are on sale now, and are priced like this: $25 general admission, $35 balcony, $15 students and $75 for the VIP treatment, which will include a rooftop reception at Hotel Congress with Giffords, Adkins and members of Calexico, as well as other enticing goodies (those tickets are very limited). Point your browser to Giffords' Web site to get them.

And KFMA 92.1 FM has announced that tickets for its Fall Ball 2008, which will hit Tucson Electric Park on Sunday, Sept. 28, will go on sale at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 16, at all Catalina Mart locations. Get 'em while they're hot: For the first 24 hours, tickets are priced at a mere $20; starting Sunday, they'll jump up to a still-manageable $29. This year's lineup includes Pennywise, Atreyu, Bullet for My Valentine, Atmosphere, Alkaline Trio and Hawthorne Heights.


MAKE NOW BECOME 'BACK WHEN'

Back in April, Zia Records released You Heard Us Back When, a CD compilation featuring songs from 20 unsigned Southwestern bands. In pretty short order, the disc sold out, with a portion of the proceeds going to music-related nonprofits that promote music education in schools.

Now Zia is gearing up to release You Heard Us Back When Volume 2, slated for the fall, and they're looking for songs to include on it. That's where you come in: Zia is currently accepting submissions. Just drop off a CD of your, or your band's, original songs; fill out a brief submission form; and do it before the end of the month--the deadline is Aug. 31. For more info, head to the Zia Web site.


XIU XIU BONUSES!

A couple of quick notes for those of you heading to the Xiu Xiu and Evangelista show (see the article about Evangelista in this issue) at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Saturday, Aug. 16: Xiu Xiu fans know that the group is constantly trying new things to enhance the performer/audience relationship, and the band's current tour is no exception. Here's the scoop, from an e-mail Soundbites recently received:

"Over the past few months, Jamie Stewart has been asking a random question a week on Xiu Xiu's blog and posting fan responses at random. The current question, 'What do you hate about your life? What do you like about your life?' is the last one. So to turn the tables a bit, on this upcoming Xiu Xiu tour, fans are encouraged to bring (a) self-addressed, stamped envelope to the show with one question inside for Jamie to respond to personally. Letters would immediately be mailed back to the person or to whom the envelope was addressed to.

"Another Xiu Xiu happening on this tour is the disposable camera project that David Horvitz will be doing. If you bring David a disposable camera at any of the upcoming U.S. shows, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, he will shoot photos and send them back to you personally."

For further info about the all-ages show, call Solar Culture at 884-0874.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Two more shows worth mentioning this week: Sheryl Crow, Toots and the Maytals and James Blunt will be at AVA at Casino del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road, on Tuesday, Aug. 19; and Forever the Sickest Kids, Mayday Parade and A Drive will be at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., on the same night, Tuesday, Aug. 19.

R.I.P., Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac.

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