FIRST FAMILY OF BLUEGRASS: While many casual fans of bluegrass first became aware of Del McCoury upon the release of The Mountain, his 1999 collaboration with Steve Earle, the die-hards will inform you that his legacy reaches much further back.

McCoury, who was born in North Carolina 63 years ago, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and playing bluegrass tunes for Southern migrants and Appalachian dwellers. But it was in the early '60s that McCoury caught his first big break, when the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, invited Del to join his band as lead singer and guitarist.

Though the stint only lasted a few years--McCoury soon moved back to Pennsylvania to start a family, playing gigs on weekends--its mark on McCoury was indelible. Once sons Ronnie and Rob grew old enough to pick the mandolin and banjo, respectively, they soon joined dad's band. In 1992, the family moved to Nashville, added bassist Mike Bub and fiddler Jason Carter, and formed the lineup of The Del McCoury Band that exists to this day, and which released last year's excellent, Del and the Boys (on Ricky Skaggs' Celli Music label). The album provides proof that no one does the high lonesome like Del and his family--for proof there's no nepotism going on here, check out the Ronnie-penned instrumental "Goldbrickin'," an instant bluegrass classic, if ever there was one.

The Del McCoury Band performs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. Tickets are $25 at the door. For more information call 297-9133.

MUSH FOR ALL: Just as in most forms of popular music, the real deal in hip-hop lurks in the underground. So when L.A. indie label Mush Records brings five of its acts to town this week, don't expect anyone to flow about "bitches" or "hos," no emcees to sing about Cristal and "bling-bling;" no straight-up raps 'bout bustin' caps, and best of all, no recognizable samples from '80s mega-hits.

Instead, headliners cLOUDDEAD, who wowed audiences at Solar Culture in March, are probably the only rap group to ever be compared to both Radiohead and Cypress Hill. The comparison isn't unfounded. Yes, the emcees have that nasally thing going on a la the Hill, but they manage to be nowhere near as whiny or cloying. And as for that Radiohead parallel, perhaps no one in hip-hop since Tricky has sounded so creepily claustrophobic.

Radioinactive, meanwhile, rhyme about spaceships and mythological existence at light-speed, over beats and effects even more psychedelic than you might expect; and while Baltimore's Labtekwon might be the most traditional emcee on the bill, he still sports better flow than 90 percent of the chart-riding "playas." Reaching Quiet and Boom Bip & Doseone round out the bill. Three of the five--cLOUDDEAD, Reaching Quiet, and Radioinactive--will be performing strictly with live bands.

If you've never heard of the Mush clan, but keep a place in your heart for the brainy likes of Black Star and Company Flow, do yourself a favor and educate yourself.

The Mush Records Tour stops into Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21. Eight bucks gets you in the door. For details call 622-8848.

CREEPY COOL A GO-GO: Two worthy Phoenician bands that haven't made the trek down I-10 in a while finally do so this week, albeit on the same night, at different clubs. The good news is, whichever you choose to attend, you can't lose.

Ever been watching one of those movies, made in the mid- to late-'60s, where the narrative leads to the inevitable party scene, which exists merely to show a few minutes of hot young girls and boys go-go dancing as if their entire existence depends on it, before resuming the actual narrative? OK, now be honest: ever wish you could transport yourself back in time, so you could be smack-dab in the middle of all the action? Probably the closest you'll get these days is a Hypno-Twists show.

Musically, the band explores not only the shag and go-go vibe, but also taps into spy themes, rockabilly, exotica, surf, garage rock, and spaghetti western soundtracks. And the Twists seek to give you the full-on dance-party-fantasy scenario in its live shows, complete with swirling psychedelic lights and film projections.

Throw on that micro-mini, lace up those white thigh-high boots, and order up a cocktail, as The Hypno-Twists, opening for headliner ISM, take to the stage of Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17. Questions? Call 798-1298.

On a different edge of the musical spectrum--but equally as, if not more, edgy--lies The Hamertoes, who take the gypsy music of our own Molehill Orkestrah and add a healthy dose of the oddball clang 'n' clatter of latter-day St. Tom Waits. Can you say "creepy-cool?" What's that? You can, but you don't want to? Fine. Be that way. Just show up on Friday, okay, jackass?

The Hammertoes, along with openers Liberty School and Fatigo, perform at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.

A FRIGHT NITE: How scary can any band that declares itself "The Scariest Band in the World" be? Find out for yourself this week, when San Diego's Deadbolt pulls into Tucson, one of its very favorite tour stops. (To find out why, just inquire as to where the after-party is.)

Perhaps the coolest thing about Deadbolt is that each of its seven full-length records--all released on Headhunter/Cargo--is a concept album. While the band starts with a base of creepy rockabilly, it also alters its sound according to whatever the current album's theme is (e.g., Voodoo Trucker, Tiki Man, and Tijuana Hit Squad).

Just yanked out of the box, the seventh in the series is Hobo Babylon, which tackles the subject of the Freight Train Riders of America, an odd tribute to what the band's bio calls "the mysterious brotherhood responsible for deaths, assaults and thefts along the rail lines for the past two decades. A railroad riding mafia, of sorts." Or, as anyone familiar with these guys will attest, just another slice of the Deadbolt life.

Deadbolt appears, along with openers Last Call Brawlers, at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St.

MOST IMPROVED BAND: It's been a full three years since resident ass-kickers Love Mound released their second album, My Friend Monster (Hover Tank, 1999), and that's about two years too long. This week sees the release of the band's new full-length, Dust Devil, and the requisite CD release party for it, as well.

Combining Nugent-ian riffs with the southern (tube steak) boogie of ZZ Top, the Mike Mihina-fronted trio, rounded out by Chris Mihina on drums and bassist Chris Callahan, is one of Tucson's most criminally under-appreciated bands. Louder than a steam engine, and you can still shake yer hips to 'em, Love Mound freakin' rocks!

Love Mound's Hover Tank labelmates, Lucy Chair, have come a long way since the days when they were called DG3. I hadn't heard anything by 'em since I checked out some of their tunes a few years back at ( I wasn't impressed at the time), but their brand-new The DG3 EP shows why it sometimes pays to stick to it.

There are traces of The Runaways, X, and mid-'90s alterna-rock along the lines of Foo Fighters--OK, so originality isn't their strongest point--but the EP also demonstrates catchy tunes and tight arrangements. Do the TAMMIES have a Most Improved Band award? 'Cause this co-ed quartet has come a long way, baby.

Love Mound and Lucy Chair open for Negative Spaceman at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Bonus details are yours by calling 622-8848.