Over the next couple of months, loads of local bands will be releasing new CDs and holding release parties. The action begins this week, with a reunited Drakes--now called The New Drakes--releasing their second album, Staircase Wit, more than 11 years after their self-titled debut came out. For more information on that, check out this week's Nine Questions column with New Drakes guitarist Gene Ruley.

Oddly enough, the other band celebrating a CD release this week underwent a name change, too. As The Sweat Band, the trio comprising singer-guitarist Marina Cornelius, her bassist sister Leann and drummer Jake Bergeron released a self-titled EP in April 2005. After learning that there had been several other bands with that name (including a P-Funk offshoot) and being invited to play a showcase earlier this year at the South by Southwest music festival, they decided that there was no better time to change their name. (Would you want a bunch of music geeks showing up at your gig expecting to see Bootsy and Maceo?) Thus, The Sweat Band became The Beta Sweat, who release their debut full-length, Let's Shake Some Dust, this week.

Like the EP, the album was recorded with producer Nathan Sabatino. But while the EP was done at Sabatino's Loveland Studio, this time, the band recorded on the stage of the Rialto Theatre over three days in July. According to Bergeron, all of the 11 songs on Shake were recorded "live to 2-inch tape (yes, we lugged a gigantic tape machine all the way down there). Nathan was kind enough to essentially move his entire studio down to the theater for a few days. All the music was recorded live (no tracking), and Marina did a handful of the vocals live as well."

While the EP only hinted at just how powerful the band's live shows are, the album does a far better job of recapturing that potency--which, one would guess, given how they recorded it, was what they were going for. Some of the songs from the EP, including "Save the Mazurka for Me" and "Union Jack," reappear here in improved versions. While the EP ably captured the band's Zeppelin-meets-White Stripes blues-rock riffery, it also buried Marina's forceful whisper-to-a-wail vocals--an essential Beta Sweat ingredient--in the mix. Thankfully, that mistake is rectified here.

Let's Shake Some Dust will be available in both CD and LP format, and is the first release on Mudhouse, a label that Bergeron created to give some of his favorite local bands a home and to try to garner them exposure outside of Tucson. Upcoming releases by The Deludes, Golden Boots and Army of Garbage are currently in the works. Here's hoping the label is a smashing success.

Appropriately, the release party for Let's Shake Some Dust will take place at the Rialto, 318 E. Congress St., on Friday, Nov. 10. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. with opening sets from Al Perry and Golden Boots. Admission is $5, and the first 20 people through the doors get free hand-printed Beta Sweat posters. For more information, call 740-1000.


As much as we might try to convince ourselves that it's not the case, the world of music is still a largely male-dominated one. Which makes it all the more refreshing--and frustrating, given the decisions to be made--that on Tuesday, Nov. 14, three excellent female-centric acts will be playing in town. One of them is the Slits, who you can read all about in a feature article this week written by yours truly, while the other two can be lumped under that large umbrella called "rootsy."

After leaving the Vancouver-based Be Good Tanyas, which she co-founded, native Texan Jolie Holland moved to San Francisco and recorded a batch of demos, which she self-released as the album Catalpa. It fell into the right hands: Tom Waits nominated Catalpa for the Mercury Prize, which led to its re-release on ANTI-, whose roster of artists includes Neko Case, Nick Cave and Waits himself. The 2004 follow-up Escondida (ANTI-) was even better, capturing Holland's timeless amalgam of blues, folk, jazz, country and just about every other form of indigenous American music with a newfound sonic clarity and expanded arrangements. Her songwriting skills are to be lauded, but it's her distinctive voice, which betrays her Texas upbringing and boasts unusual phrasing, that really grabs you.

Earlier this year, Holland released Springtime Can Kill You (ANTI-), which sounds far more modern than its predecessors, though it takes more risks. It's a bit languid and meandering, with fewer hooks and further expanded instrumentation. But it's also a grower if you're patient enough to let it flourish with more listens, as Holland's gorgeous, ancient-sounding voice contrasts nicely with the updated arrangements.

Jolie Holland performs an all-ages show at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Sonny Smith opens at 8 p.m. Admission is $12. Questions will be answered by calling 884-0874.

Though Alison Krauss and Union Station began releasing albums that merged folk with bluegrass in 1987, when Krauss was only 16 years old, it wasn't until a best-of collection, Now That I've Found You: A Collection (Rounder), was released in 1995 that Krauss brought bluegrass to the masses, sold more than a million copies and became a superstar in the process. Her influence on the resurgence of bluegrass music is too great to be calculated, and she's the rare artist who pleases critics and fans alike. Though she and her group haven't released an album since 2004's Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder), Alison Krauss and Union Station will make up for a previously postponed date when they perform at the Tucson Convention Center Arena, 260 S. Church Ave., at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14. Advance tickets are available for $43.50, $38.50 and $31.50 at all Ticketmaster outlets, at or by calling 321-1000. For further details, call 791-4101.


When Chris Gaffney, former frontman for Cold Hard Facts and one of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men, and Paladins honcho Dave Gonzalez teamed up with legendary producer and songwriter Dan Penn for last year's self-titled debut album Hacienda Brothers (Koch), a new genre was born. The album, which was recorded at The Cavern Recording Studios in Tucson (the band's manager is Jeb Schoonover, who used to run the Rialto Theatre and organizes the Weekly's Club CrawlTM events), was dubbed "country soul," and the description was apt enough. But on the band's second album, What's Wrong With Right, which was released earlier this year on Proper American, the "country soul" tag really begins to make sense.

Even more than its predecessor, the album merges classic R&B sounds with a country twang, and the results are tremendous. Penn again produces, and they stuck with The Cavern to record the album, which contains both newly written songs (by any combination of Gonzalez, Gaffney, Penn and even Schoonover) and covers, a pair of which were written by Penn and his songwriting collaborator Spooner Oldham (e.g., the Box Tops' "Cry Like a Baby); unless you recognize the covers, you likely won't know which songs are new and which are classics (I checked and double-checked the album credits just to make sure the Gonzalez-written "Different Today" wasn't some old chestnut). It's that solid all the way through, and they earn bonus points for the cover of The Intruders' "Cowboys to Girls." As good as the debut was, What's Wrong With Right surpasses it by leaps and bounds.

Now comes word that Gaffney and Gonzalez are leaving their California homes to live in Tucson full-time, a move that will further enrich our burg's talent pool. Give 'em the ol' soon-to-be-hometown welcome when the Hacienda Brothers perform at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., next Thursday, Nov. 16. Heather Rae and the Moonshine Boys open the show at 10 p.m. For more info, call 622-3535.


There are oodles of fine shows hitting town this week that we didn't have space to cover in depth. Among them: Princess Superstar at Plush next Thursday, Nov. 16; Deftones at the Rialto Theatre on Monday, Nov. 13; +/- at Plush on Wednesday, Nov. 15; Rachael Sage at Old Town Artisans on Friday, Nov. 10; Jello Biafra (spoken word) at Solar Culture Gallery on Wednesday, Nov. 15; Trilobite at Vaudeville Cabaret on Sunday, Nov. 12; and Wolf Eyes at Club Congress on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

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