Pick of the Week

Eat Local, Sing Local

Singer-songwriter Adrienne Young considers music and wholesome food both to be nourishing gifts that serve a common good.

"We listen to music with an open mind and an open heart, and we accept food internally, into our bodies, with that same openness," Young said in a recent telephone interview from Nashville. "When either is given and accepted with as high of an intention as possible, it can be a very powerful tool for moving us all collectively toward a better place."

All of which makes sublime sense, considering that Young makes acclaimed homegrown music and is a vocal activist for sustainable agriculture and the movement supporting the growing, buying and consuming of organic and locally grown foods.

Young, a spokesperson for the national Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign of the FoodRoutes Network, often plays benefits and/or consciousness-raising events in support of the local-foods movement.

She'll do just that at the Rialto Theatre on Saturday, June 21, to help launch a new coalition called Sabores Sin Fronteras (Flavors Without Borders), which celebrates the farming and food-sharing communities that span the U.S./Mexico border.

The concert also will benefit the Community Food Bank of Tucson, Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, Native Seeds/SEARCH and the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance.

Gary Paul Nabhan, a longtime Arizona ecologist, ethnobotanist, writer and local-foods supporter, will act as the master of ceremonies for the concert. Nabhan is the senior research associate at the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University.

Young, a tireless do-it-yourself artist, has released three albums since 2004 through her independent AddieBelle Music label, the most recent of which is 2007's Room to Grow. Her songwriting often focuses on such subjects as sustainable foods and resources, an agrarian-centric lifestyle and the wrestling match between populist trends and moral concerns.

But that's not to say that Young's songs are merely dry didactic exercises. Her albums--exemplified by the amazing title songs from the albums Plow to the End of the Row and The Art of Virtue--are moving metaphors for human struggle and the search for peace in a chaotic world.

The fact that Young, who also plays guitar and banjo, performs an invigorating blend of old-time music, bluegrass, Celtic, folk, country, rock, pop and jazz makes it all the more engaging. Her thoughtful choices of cover songs, such as the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace" and Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris," also show her range.

Young was born and raised in Florida on land that her family had farmed for several generations, but which lay fallow when she came along. Her parents' divorce sent her searching for meaning.

"My parents were not agriculturally inclined, but my grandparents were, and my ancestors were before them. I found that I was absolutely longing to reconnect with that heritage and try to understand where I came from and why I was there.

"So that is what initially got me into old-time music, but also the agrarian thing and the desire to know my own roots was complemented by an increasing awareness of what eating healthy foods did for the body and mind. It all sort of coalesced into where I am now."

Naturally, Young advocates for community gardens just about everywhere she goes. Her first album included a packet of seeds, and some of the proceeds from her latest CD go to help the American Community Garden Association provide non-genetically enhanced seeds for community gardens throughout North America.

For her first two albums, Young's band was called Little Sadie, named for an old bluegrass murder ballad. On Plow to the End of the Row, they performed a tune titled "Sadie's Song," which retold the tale from the victim's point of view.

These days, her group is known simply as the Adrienne Young Band. It features fiddler Oliver Craven, mandolinist Andrew Thacker and acoustic bassist Charlie Rose. They are working on a new album, to be titled Now the Green Blade Riseth.

Although Young heretofore has released her own records, she doesn't have anything against working with an outside label.

"Before, I got tired of waiting for someone else to 'get it' and release our records, so we did it ourselves. Now we made a new record and are working with another label to release it, and it is going to work out really well.

"No matter what you are working on, it always helps to create partnerships. A seed can't grow without the sun."

The Adrienne Young Band will play Saturday, June 21, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m., allowing concertgoers to peruse the displays and booths of local food groups and activists. The concert will begin at about 8 p.m., with two highly respected opening acts: Banjoist extraordinaire Tim Weed (aka Tim Wiedenkeller) will perform his forward-thinking take on bluegrass music, and the band Entre Peruanos, led by Jesus Garcia of the Kino Fruit Tree project, will play borderlands conjunto. General-admission tickets cost $21, or $11 for students. Call 740-1000 for more information.