THE WORM TURNS: Formerly known as Gloworm, the Tucson trio now called Worm released its debut CD under the new moniker a few months back. Full Throttle, on Shiloh Records, culls the band's influences--'60s and '70s British blues-rock, psychedelic pop from the same era, melodic prog--and thrusts them into the future, or at least the not-so-distant past sound of bands like Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, often all in the same song ("Empty Sack" being a prime example). There are, in fact, several inspired tracks here, the bulk of which is found at the front end of the album.

"Stronger Side of Laughter" kicks off with guitar reminiscent of the bassline of Fugazi's "Waiting Room" and culminates in a chorus and bridge that will have the college kids groovin'. "Professor" opens with a surprisingly not-annoying cross between pseudo rap and spoken word, backed with high-neck string bending, before delving into a simple, but effective, if semi-run-of-the-mill modern rock chorus, and eventually making its way to a Zeppelin-style instro riff workout.

But the strength of these tunes makes others from the tail end of the album, like the promising but somehow pedestrian "Laugh About It" and the 311-meets-early-'90s-Seattle "Cleaning Process," sound like mere filler.

Still, it's a decent first effort, and Worm--guitarist/vocalist Steve Brookbanks, bassist/vocalist Ed Nossem and drummer/vocalist Dean Raspanti--knows its way around that old cliché about brevity, as only one song in 10 pushes its way past the four-minute mark.

While it's difficult to imagine what the band would sound like in a largely unplugged setting, we can all find out together when Worm plays its first-ever acoustic gig at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 22 at The Red Room in Grill, 100 E. Congress St. Admission is free. For more info call 623-7621.

GYPSY KINKS: Shows from the Molehill Orkestrah, Tucson's premier gypsy music ensemble (though that soundbyte description--no pun intended--dumbs it down, as the band encompasses a myriad of ethnic styles), are always an orgiastic affair, and the group's show this week should be even more spectacular than usual, as it'll be rounded out by a stellar supporting cast. In addition to members of pyro-peddlers Flam Chen and the whimsical Tucson Puppet Works--frequent Molehill collaborators, both--the show will also feature spots from Iraqi oud player Samir Riahi and a pairing of Crawdaddy-O drummer Jimmy Carr with Ukrainian accordion player Sam Bikov.

Make it a multi-culti Winter Solstice as Molehill and friends occupy Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, December 21. Cover is four bucks. Questions? They'll be answered at 622-3535.

STRUNG UP: A late addition to the holiday album round-up of a few weeks back: While there must be others in existence, the only blues violinist besides Papa John Creach I can think of off the top of my head is Heather Hardy.

Best remembered from her days as a Tucsonan violinist in Sam Taylor's band--she now calls Brooklyn home--she still performs with the also-NY-based Taylor, and recently returned from playing a series of shows in France and Latvia with him. (She also maintains a steady schedule of gigs with her own band all over New York and Jersey.) Her travels will bring her back to town this week for a pair of Christmas shows in support of the recently released What We Need for Christmas Is a Little More Music!, her highly danceable bar blues take on Christmas tunes past.

Highlights include the rollicking "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," a duet with a honey-throated guy who's uncredited on my promo copy, and the only funk version of "Joy to the World" I've ever heard (which works surprisingly well). Her take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is simply gorgeous, her violin melding perfectly with tasteful acoustic guitar, and easily the finest vocal performance on the disc.

To both its credit and detriment, nearly all of the songs on the album are rendered in arrangements we're not used to hearing, which when it works is inspired, but when it doesn't, simply sounds forced. Still, it hits the target more often than not, and the sheer risk-taking itself is refreshing.

Catch Li'l Mama herself live from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, December 21 at Barnes & Noble, 5130 E. Broadway Blvd., and again at 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 22 at Boondocks, 3306 N. First Ave. For more information call B&N at 512-1166, and Boondocks at 690-0991.