I can't say I have a wide-ranging knowledge of Spanish music, but I know what I like. And I love the new, self-titled album by DePedro.
Some backstory: While the new album by Jairo Zavala (he records under the name DePedro) may be his first to get wide distribution in the United States—it's the inaugural release on EMI's new National Geographic imprint, Nat Geo—Zavala has been a known entity in his native Spain for the last 20 years via his recordings with the bands Amparanoia, Vacazul and Los Coronas.
When our own Calexico began covering "Don't Leave Me Now," a song co-written by Zavala and originally recorded by Amparanoia, a friendship was struck. Zavala eventually visited Tucson to collaborate with Calexico on the album, which was recorded at Wavelab Studio. The disc features performances by Calexicans Joey Burns (upright bass, cello, marimba, piano and about a half-dozen other instruments), John Convertino (drums) and Jacob Valenzuela (trumpet), as well as help from Marco Rosano (Crawdaddy-O, Rosano Bros. Virtual Quartet) on sax, and harmonica from Craig Schumacher, who also mixed the album. (Zavala and Burns co-produced it.)
The album demonstrates the fine-guitar playing of Zavala, but lest you get the idea that this is just some flamenco album (no offense, flamenco lovers), be assured the disc contains flashes of genres from all over the map. Zavala's playing is decidedly Spanish in flavor, but anyone with a couple of Calexico albums in their collection will certainly recognize the band's contributions.
The album starts off with the mellow, pretty stuff: "Como el Viento" is a romantic and sultry love song (or at least it sounds like it: Like all of the songs on the album, save 1 1/2, it is sung in Spanish) that is clearly influenced by Brazilian rhythms, while a reworked version of "Don't Leave Me Now," the song Calexico covered and whose chorus is sung in English ("Don't leave me now, I'm coming to you"), is the sexiest damn song I've heard in a while. It is absolutely gorgeous, with a fantastic arrangement that flawlessly weaves together tenor and baritone sax, trumpet and trombone with Zavala's guitar and the supple rhythm section of Burns and Convertino. (Convertino's drumming is so distinct as to be instantly recognizable.) And Zavala possesses a voice that is warm and smooth, with just enough grit surfacing at the right times.
From there, things get a bit more interesting sonically. "La Memoria" imbues a memorable hook with flourishes of banjo and marimba; the slinky, atmospheric "Two Parts in One," the lone English-language song, is a duet between Zavala and Burns that wouldn't sound out of place on a Calexico album. ("Tomorrow," another Zavala/Burns duet, is half-English, half-Spanish.) "Comanche" combines a Latin dance beat with elements of funk and bluesy slide guitar, while "¿Qué Pueda Hacer Por Ti?" incorporates Vox organ, harmonica and a human beat box to arrive at something that sounds a bit like Kiko-era Los Lobos.
DePedro is one of the best albums I've heard all year, but if you don't trust my endorsement, here's a story courtesy of Burns: Apparently, Neil Young was in Spain earlier this year and asked a Spanish journalist to recommend some good new local albums. Young called the journalist back later to tell him how much he liked the DePedro album, which was among the journalist's recommendations.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, a visiting Zavala will team up with Burns, Convertino and Valenzuela, as well as a few members of Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, to perform songs from the album at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m. with an opening performance by Brian Lopez and Friends, whose set at Club Crawl® a couple of weeks ago was stunning. Admission is $10, and trust me when I say it'll be worth every penny. Call 884-0874 for more information.
(A related note: The following night, Sunday, Oct. 18, Calexico will be playing an extremely intimate show at Bisbee's Café Roka as a benefit for the local radio station KBRP. Call 432-5153 for more info.)
It's been two years since the tragic, sudden loss of Chris "Shorty Stubbs" Jones, beloved local musician, Raytheon employee and host of KXCI FM 91.3's Country Fringe program. And, as is tradition, local musicians will come together this week to perform at a tribute show to Shorty that doubles as a benefit for KXCI, the station he loved so much. The event takes place at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Sunday, Oct. 18.
Nine acts in all are slated to perform. Here's what the schedule looks like: Larry Armstrong and Copper Moon (3 p.m.), Clam Tostada (4 p.m.), Los Hombres (4:45 p.m.), Big Ludd, a collaboration between the Determined Luddites and Big Galoot (5:30 p.m.), the Loren Dircks Band (6:15 p.m.), Last Call Girls (7 p.m.), Cochise County Allstars (8 p.m.), Al Perry (9 p.m.) and the Kevin Pakulis Band (10 p.m.).
Admission is a suggested donation of $7, and you can call 623-3200 for further details.
Another benefit this week, to raise funds for the upcoming 20th anniversary edition of the All Souls Procession, takes place at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Oct. 16.
Here's your schedule of performers for this one: DJ Carl Hanni (a Weekly contributor) (7 to 9 p.m.), Blind Divine (9:30 to 10:45 p.m.), Alter der Ruine (11:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.) and PLOY (1 to 2 a.m.). Drag-king troupe Boys R Us will be performing brief sets between each of the acts, and performance artists Flam Chen will, of course, be on hand as well.
Admission is $10, or $8 if you're in costume. Call 622-8848 for more info.
'Tis the season for local CD releases, and this week is no exception, as it features four release parties for four new discs—though we're only talking about three acts here.
Lisa Otey and Diane Van Deurzen are back with a new disc called Wild Women, which, according to a press release, "pays tribute to 100 years of blues women." It's being released on Otey's Owl's Nest Productions label, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The pair will perform songs from it at two scheduled release parties, where they'll be backed by violinist Heather Hardy, Rich Brennion on pedal steel, Scott Black on bass and drummer Chip Ritter.
First up, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, they'll be at the Desert View Performing Arts Center, 38759 S. Mountain View Blvd., in Saddlebrooke. Advance tickets are $20; they'll be $25 at the door. More info is yours by heading to tickets.saddlebrooketwo.com or calling 818-1000.
Then, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17, the duo will perform at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $20 in advance for general admission and $25 in advance for reserved premium seats; they'll be $5 more at the door. For more details, point your browser to lisaotey.com, or call 370-5912.
Also on Saturday, Oct. 17, the acoustic folk duo Nobody, et al., which includes Seth Phillips (vocals, guitar) and Brian McClain (electric cello), will celebrate the release of two new EPs: Two Tanks of Gas contains five songs performed by the duo, while Clean Slate is a full-band affair that includes contributions from saxophonist Marco Rosano and drummer Jim Howell.
The show takes place at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave., and begins at 7 p.m. with opening sets by The Tangelos and The Earthlingz. Best of all, admission is completely free. For more info, call 623-6024.
Finally, at 9:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 19, singer-songwriter Chris Holiman, former frontman of River Roses, 35 Summers and the Downtown Saints, will celebrate the release of a new CD with a free gig in the lounge at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. For further details, call 798-1298.
There are literally dozens of great shows that we didn't have space to mention, so be sure to study our listings thoroughly.