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NO RELATION TO WAYLON

When Epic Records announced a couple of years ago that it was giving Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock his own imprint, Glacial Pace Recordings, indie-rock fans everywhere eagerly anticipated whatever discoveries he would make. This was, after all, a guy known for spotting great bands early in their careers, often taking them out on the road to open for Modest Mouse in order to give them some choice exposure. A prime example: When the mighty Mouse played the Rialto Theatre back in 2000, no one had heard of openers The Shins, and we all know what's happened to them since.

So, it was a bit of a shock when the first release on Glacial Pace wasn't by an indie-rock newbie at all, but last year's Boneclouds, by neo-folkie Mason Jennings.

Jennings, who had released five albums prior to Boneclouds, had built a grassroots following by touring his ass off, winning fans over one room at a time. In fact, his earliest albums were released on his own label, Architect Records, even though he had offers from major labels to release them. (To date, his first four albums have sold more than 100,000 copies.) But Jennings was more interested in creative control than the lure of big money and the risk of being lost in the major-label shuffle. It appears to have taken a fellow-minded artist like Brock to convince him to make the move. And move, he has, as in moved up from the cozy confines of Solar Culture Gallery, where he performed in 2003 and 2004, to the Rialto this week.

Boneclouds sees Jennings stretching out a bit more stylistically than he has previously. It's not a huge departure from his past work, and certainly won't alienate longtime fans, but there are some subtle differences. It would be difficult to imagine, say, the reverb-treated vocals on the chorus of sing-songy album opener "Be Here Now," on his more stripped-down 2004 release Use Your Voice (Bar/None). The prominent pounding of drums on the bluesy stomper "Some Say I'm Not" is a new twist that suits the darkness of the lyrics: "To look at a baby / you've gotta be brave / In the black of his eye / is your own grave." In fact, one of Jennings' best gifts is coming up with arrangements to best serve his songs. "If You Ain't Got Love," a gorgeous, heartbreaking tale of nearly losing a significant other to illness is, suitably, composed of just hushed vocals and a single, sparsely fingerpicked guitar. Boneclouds feels like a natural progression in an already remarkable career of a gifted singer/songwriter.

Mason Jennings performs an all-ages show on Tuesday, June 12, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Ferraby Lionheart opens at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $16 at the Rialto box office, online at rialtotheatre.com or by phone at 740-1000.


THE MOST FAMOUS TUCSONAN

As far as I know, Linda Ronstadt's never written a song in her life, but as far as interpretive singers go, she's aces. She's got the smarts to know a good song when she hears one--be it by Warren Zevon or Rodgers and Hart, Buddy Holly or George and Ira Gershwin--as well as the range to pull the song off. And she's got the good sense to work with pros ranging from the Eagles to Nelson Riddle. But none of this would matter, or even be possible, were it not for that rich, versatile voice that can handle everything thrown its way--who's counting octaves?--be it covers of songs by obscure singer/songwriters, Afro-Cuban pop songs sung in Spanish, or tunes from the Great American Songbook.

For the first time in a while, that voice will be on display in Tucson proper this weekend. Still the most famous Tucsonan (sorry, Garry Shandling), even if she doesn't spend as much time here as she used to, Linda Ronstadt performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 8, at Casino del Sol's AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road. Advance tickets are available for $65, $45 and $25 at casinodelsol.ticketforce.com or by calling (877) 840-0457.


BEACH BUMS

With a recently released compilation, The Warmth of the Sun (Capitol), that seeks to cull their most important work, as opposed to their greatest hits, The Beach Boys this week kick off the summer with an appearance here.

But, wait. Which Beach Boys is it? There are no fewer than three different Beach Boys-related acts that regularly tour and perform. Purists stick to the shows performed by damaged genius and head Boy Brian Wilson, while folks who either haven't done their research or simply don't care who's singing the songs, as long as they get to hear "I Get Around" and "Good Vibrations," go see the Endless Summer Band (former Beach Boy Al Jardine's knockoff, formerly known as Beach Boys Family and Friends, then the Alan Jardine Family and Friends Beach Band), or even The Beach Boys themselves, who currently count two original members among their ranks: Bruce Johnston and Mike Love. (If you're not prepared for a vitriolic, hours-long monologue about how evil the litigious Mike Love is, don't mention his name to any serious Beach Boys fan. Right, Al Perry?)

It's that "official" version of The Beach Boys that will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road. Advance tickets are available for $32, $37 and $45, at all Ticketmaster locations, the casino's box office, by phone at 321-1000 or online at ticketmaster.com. For more info, call 393-2799.


AIR-RAISING FUN

Back in the mid-'80s, when I was in middle school, some friends and I caught wind of an air-band contest at a local summer festival. This was around the time when the concept of air guitar and air bands was new, and it was the first opportunity to flaunt the talents we had so diligently cultivated while alone in our bedrooms, listening to records at ear-splitting volume. The rub, of course, was that there wasn't really much talent involved, just an awful lot of enthusiasm--and who's got more enthusiasm than a pack of middle school-age dudes? After debating what song would captivate the judges' hearts, we settled on a now-forgotten Billy Idol song, and ended up winning first place.

I don't play much air guitar these days; come to think of it, I don't think I've played any since that fateful day. But if I had the enthusiasm today that I had back then, I'd surely be spending a lot of time in front of the mirror, practicing for this week's Air Guitar Battle Royale, at the Loft Cinema.

As evidenced by the new documentary film Air Guitar Nation, which opens at the Loft on Friday, June 8, and will be screened following the Battle Royale, air guitar has come an awful long way since the concept was originally introduced. Air guitarists these days take their craft awfully darn seriously, working their way toward the Air Guitar World Championships, in Oulu, Finland. In other words, chumps need not apply.

Battle Royale participants will compete in two rounds: In round one, the air guitarist picks his or her own song to rock out to, while in the second round, the air guitarist must improvise to a mystery song chosen by the staff. The audience then decides the winner by applause. And, yes, there are prizes involved.

Throw on the spandex and head over to the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12. Admission is $8.50 for the general public, $5.50 for students and $4.75 for Loft members. For further details, head to loftcinema.com or call 322-5638.


ON THE BANDWAGON

Also appearing in town this week: Clear Channel-hating rapper Sage Francis, at Club Congress, on Wednesday, June 13; The Voodoo Organist opening for The Mission Creeps, at Vaudeville Cabaret, on Saturday, June 9; Tucson favorite Bob Schneider, at Club Congress, on Sunday, June 10; and bluegrass masters the Del McCoury Band, at the Rialto Theatre, on Wednesday, June 13. Be sure to check out our club listings for other good stuff.

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