RICHMAN RETURNS: Non-Modern Lover Jonathan Richman is a 25-year veteran of the biz who long ago traded in his youthful angst for musicianship and sincerity, with nary a backward glance. The Modern Lover's influential debut, recorded in 1972 and produced by John Cale, figures heavily into the reason the Modern Lovers, and Richman in particular, are credited with getting punk rock rolling--an unlikely attribution given the gentle and unassuming demeanor of today's Jonathan Richman.

While the other Lovers continued on to such bands as the Talking Heads and the Cars, Richman pursued a more earnest, folk roll. He's remained true to the anti-commercial sentiment that's a cornerstone of the punk rock attitude. He's an entertainer first and foremost, with no aspirations for media saturation or world domination. Although boasting is not at all his style, Richman lays claim to a 20-year touring schedule on par with that of the perennial Paladins', as well as a discography 20 albums strong. The stage show has ultimately been Richman's priority and forte, some critics would even say to the detriment of his Rounder recording efforts. Not so with his newest release.

Recently signed to Vapor Records, a new indie label co-owned by Neil Young and Elliott Roberts, Richman presents his newest release, Surrender to Jonathan. The recording features a bounty of new material alongside fresh arrangements of old favorites like "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar" and his European hit "Egyptian Reggae." Produced by long-time friend Andy Paley, Surrender to Jonathan is Richman's most careful, colorful and cohesive effort in years, enriching his endearing, amusing, even hokey appeal.

Richman's last appearance at the Congress featured his vocals and guitar accompanied only by Tom Larkins on drums for the kind of stripped-down, intimate and enormously entertaining performance that's his hallmark.

This most charming and approachable of performers to grace the stage at the Club Congress of late, unless you count the Reverend Horton Heat (just kidding), thankfully returns after two years straight of touring the U.S., which might explain why he's dubbed it "Palm Trees, Beaches, Bongo Drums?" Richman is backed by a full band: Nick Augustine on bass, Tommy Larkins on drums, and Dan Isenberg playing the organ. The show is Monday, November 11, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Arrive early for Tucson's own fabulous, most groovy Al Foul and the Shakes, scalding the stage around 10 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 d.o.s. Call 622-8848 for information.

HOT PICKS: WILCO! WILCO! If you were excited by a rumor that Wilco was coming to town, you're in luck! Just in case you don't realize how exciting this is, here's a brief score. After the tragic post-Anodyne break-up of country-rock innovators Uncle Tupelo, members split to form primarily Son Volt and Wilco. Their first release, A.M., received well-deserved rave reviews. Wilco's second and newest release, Being There, a two-record set, comes about after a nine-month hiatus and is the sole songwriting effort of Jeff Tweedy. Also featured on the album are Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, John Stirratt and Max Johnston, who departed the band following the recording sessions. With 19 ambitious new songs, this is a must-see, landmark performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 9, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Special guests The Handsome Family open the show. Hailing from Chicago, this crunchy country alternative is on tour supporting their second release, Milk and Scissors. Tickets are a pittance--$5 at the door. Call 629-9211 for information.

LAST NOTES: Splendid. Splendiferous. Splendida. You've seen them open for Al Perry at the Airport Lounge, but Saturday, November 9, Splendida are Lords of the Underground, headlining a show opened by Kathy Rivers and the Red-Eyed Cows. Suave, sultry and only $2, you can't bypass Splendida downstairs at the Plaza Pub, 20 E. Pennington St. Phone 882-0400 for details.

Luaka Bop recording artists Geggy Tah play a free show, presented by KAMP in association with the ASUA at the University of Arizona Student Union, at 5 p.m. Thursday, November 7. Garnering extensive radio and MTV airplay for their single "Whoever You Are," Geggy Tah have reached No. 12 on the alternative rock charts; and if their last appearance at the Congress is any indication, they promise a fun, high-energy show.

Fat Opie breaks out the banjos, accordions, and mandolins at the Third Stone, 500 N. Fourth Ave., on Tuesday November 12, in support of their second album, Hipsters, Freaks, Fags & Homeboys. Tight, catchy and tangy with twang, Fat Opie takes the stage at 10 p.m., an eclectic electric pause in the Third Stone's Tuesday Unplugged series. Cover is an afterthought at $1, and further information is available by phoning 628-8844. TW

--Jennifer Murphy
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