Mark Growden: Lose Me in the Sand (Porto Franco) 

Inspired by the musical vibe in Tucson, Bay Area musician, composer and singer Mark Growden employed an all-star lineup of country and blues players from the Old Pueblo to record his explosive new album last year at Loveland Studio. Lose Me in the Sand explores some of Growden's musical roots while planting new seeds in the Sonoran Desert.

While he focused on the accordion on his last album, 2010's impressive Saint Judas, Growden mainly plays clawhammer banjo here. Robust accompaniment is provided by guitarist Clay Koweek (who also plays mandolin), fiddler Tim O'Connor, Dobro player Connor Gallaher, harmonica player Tom Walbank, upright bassist Ian Stapp and percussionist Andrew Collberg. They use the wooden instruments to kindle a fiery brand of old-time bluegrass that's also warm and inviting.

Among the highlights are the haunting "Bones"; the tale of a deadened city, "Killing Time"; the totally sexy "You Ain't Never Been Loved"; and the swamp-stomp "Takin' My Time."

In addition to his original songs, Growden and company perform lively versions of traditional tunes such as "John Hardy" and "Shady Grove," giving them a modern edge, as well as a lovely, slightly radical reinterpretation of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." Finally, Growden melds the melody of "The Star Spangled Banner" with lyrics from Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" in a topical burlesque titled "Star Spangled Benz."

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