It's always a special treat to hear the music an artist makes at his or her creative peak. It's that time for the idiosyncratic Southern Gothic blues-rock duo The Black Keys, who will release their magnificent fifth album on April 1.

Produced as a collaboration with hip-hop impresario Danger Mouse (who has played integral roles with Gnarls Barkley and Gorillaz), Attack and Release is truly a breakthrough album for The Black Keys, as were Girlfriend for Matthew Sweet, Fisherman's Blues for The Waterboys, Dirty Mind for Prince and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for Wilco, to name a random few by acts that sound nothing alike.

Yep, Attack and Release is that good. I can't stop playing it, forsaking other CDs so I can hit repeat over and over. It's likely to end up on many critics' best-of lists at the end of 2008.

This may surprise Black Keys fans who reserve their passions for the duo's 2006 album, Magic Potion, which was acclaimed far and wide. But with the help of Danger Mouse and an actual studio to record in (reportedly a first for The Black Keys), vocalist-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have created an entirely new sound, rather than rehashing old country and blues influences.

Although Auerbach and Carney hail from Akron, Ohio, they've always been in touch with the gritty sound of Delta blues and yonder-hilltop wail of Appalachian bluegrass.

With magisterial psychedelic freakouts, down-and-dirty swamp stomps, cameos by guitarist Marc Ribot and saxophonist Ralph Carney (Patrick's uncle), the occasional flute or vibraphone for seasoning, and oodles of spacey keyboards, The Black Keys are now forging ahead into uncharted territory. With this album, they have created lowdown American roots music for the future.

And guess what, y'all? The Black Keys are opening their new tour in Tucson.

If you want to get a preview of Attack and Release, and hear some tunes from the duo's earlier records, check out their concert next Thursday, March 27, at the Rialto Theatre, 311 E. Congress St. Punk-rock icon Jay Reatard will open the show at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $16 in advance, or $18 the day of show. If you need to learn more, call 740-1000.


"Driving into work / Sometimes you want to shoot that jerk," opens Steve Poltz's brilliant song "What Would Gandhi Do?" on his brand-spanking new album, Traveling. Who hasn't felt that way and then wrestled with the morality of that feeling?

Only some of us can relate to the lines with which Poltz opens the next verse, but if we can't, we likely know someone who can: "Your stomach's growling and you wish you had / A ton of groceries in a big bag / You spent all of the cash you had / on a 40-ouncer and a porno mag."

That sense of human recognition is part of the appeal of folk-pop-rock singer-songwriter Poltz, who hails from San Diego and used to be a member of the rock band Rugburns. But when Poltz works his magic, he also exercises a charming sense of humor and the ability to hope even in the most hopeless situations.

Known by some fans as "the Poltz," Steve not only co-authored Jewel's massive hit "You Were Meant for Me," but he has gathered a devoted following in Tucson over the course of his appearances here in recent years.

He'll return to town to perform with his backing group on Saturday, March 22, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Special guests the Truckee Brothers will open the show at 7 p.m. Advance tickets cost $8, or $10 the day of show. All ages are welcome. For more info, call 622-8848.

Although Traveling is Poltz's latest official release, he also has recorded a companion album, Unraveling, which is available at his live performances, so this show is your chance to complete your Steve Poltz collection.


Fans of acoustic blues would do well to seek out the music of Eric Bibb. Weaving together a combination of folk, blues and gospel, New York City native Bibb has been playing since the late 1970s, often eliciting comparisons to such stellar players as Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder and Keb' Mo'.

Bibb's earliest success came touring Europe--he now lives and works as music teacher in Sweden--and he was popular on the blues-and-folk festival circuit before eventually gaining an audience in his home country.

The Grammy Award-nominated Bibb just released his 12th album, Get Onboard, which has been amassing a satchel full of accolades.

He'll kick off the 11th annual Courtyard Concert Series at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 22, downtown in the intimate environs of Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave. Advance tickets cost $20 at Antigone Books, Plaza Liquors and the 17th Street Market. At the door, they'll set you back an extra $3. Call 760-4135 for more information.


If you've been yearning for more mad-scientist psychedelic pop that delights the dancing moonbeams in your head, and are wondering where Andy Partridge (he of XTC fame) has been ... well so have I. Fear not, dear reader. That craving for eccentric pop beauty will be satisfied when School of Language visits the Old Pueblo for its upcoming gig.

School of Language is the side project of David Brewis, drummer for the English art-rock trio Field Music. After Field Music toured the United States a year ago, Brewis retreated to his laptop to create, almost completely on his own, the quirkily adorable new album Sea From Shore. On said album, Brewis moves from the Beach Boys-by-way-of-New Pornographers sound of Field Music toward balancing the aesthetics of bright-eyed pop-rock and cacophonous prog-rock. It's a lot of fun.

When School of Language hits town, it will share a bill with Travis Morrison Hellfighters. Morrison is a former member of the Washington, D.C., band Dismemberment Plan, and his new joint is a groovy jazz-funk-pop dance band. (Read a review of the Travis Morrison Hellfighters' new album in Rhythm & Views.)

Both groups will play Sunday, March 23, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. This special early-evening BBQ show will start at 6 p.m. Admission is free. What could be better?

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