XOXO: Mark your calendars

momento mori, Flickr/Creative Commons

Mark your calendars…

This week sees John Legend, Rickie Lee Jones, Jack Russell’s Great White, Zoé, Waxahatchee, Metalachi, and more, pass through town. Read on...

Thursday, Sept. 23  

“Honky-tonk ain’t what it used to be. Somewhere along the way the lines got blurred.” Guitars ablaze, Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts dole out their Southern-fried, honkyfied, backseat rhythm & blues for mass consumption. On Club Congress Plaza. With a set of psycho post-country damage by Hank Topless...

Friday, Sept. 24 

It was poet J. Ivy who christened this R&B/soul singer. “You sound like one of the legends [from the old-school]. Ivy muses, “That’s what I’m going to call you...John Legend.” Before the release of Get Lifted (2004) propelled Legend to Grammy Award-winning success, he was simply mild-mannered John Stephens—background singer, keyboardist and collaborator on Kanye West’s breakout album The College Dropout and subsequent tour. As his star ascended, Legend remained reticent, careful not to cause any waves. Robert Christgau, the éminence grise of rock critics, tabbed him an “ordinary soul man.” But that’s all changed. These days, Legend stands as a “political firebrand dosed in petrol,” using his platform to rail against trigger-happy cops, white supremacists and abusive, narcissistic ex-presidents (drawing Trump’s ire in tweets). He’s advocated for the #MeToo Movement, spoke out against R.Kelly and championed Black Lives Matter. Despite constraints created by the pandemic, his badassery continues. In 2020, Legend and Common dueted on “Glory” (from the motion picture Selma) at a Joe Biden rally in Philadelphia on the eve of the presidential election; he reverently rendered “Never Break” at the 2020 Democratic National Convention; and, in January 2021, Legend belted out Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” at the Biden-Harris Celebrating America inauguration event in Washington, D.C. Multi-platinum artist John Legend brings the Bigger Love Tour to AVA Amphitheater... “Once Bitten, Twice Shy?” Well, maybe not. Formed in Los Angeles (1977), Great White peaked during the late 1980s with singles “Rock Me” and the Ian Hunter penned gem, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” moving over 10 million copies worldwide. Fast-forward to 2011, following a series of accidents, legal entanglements, tragedies, and addictions, after numerous falls, a now sober Jack Russell wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Tucson guitar legend Robby Lochner recalls, “Jack decided he was firing his old band and asked if I wanted to join. I was reluctant, but said, ‘Yes.’” Since then Lochner has become an integral part of the band. “It’s a powerful band,” Russell proclaims. “The music is dynamic and gone where I’ve never gone before.” Recognizing his talent early on, Russell credits Lochner’s as being a catalyst for moving forward. “He’s my copilot and one of my best friends.” Jack Russell’s Great White is still on a feeding frenzy. At Rialto Theater. Backed by the ultimate tribute to AC-DC, The Jack...

Sunday, Sept. 26 

Truly, a songwriting great, Rickie Lee Jones’ 15 critically acclaimed albums know no musical boundaries—rock, R&B, pop, soul and jazz. She is both a character in the songs and the storyteller who brings them to life. Recently adding author to a résumé teeming with accomplishments, Jones published her memoir: Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour (Grove Press, 2021). “With songs [you have] about 10 lines to create the whole fiction,” says Jones. In her memoir, over the span of 400 pages, the 66-year-old performer looks back on the adventures of a fierce-hearted girl, taking desperate chances, who grew to become one of the most legendary artists of her time. “I’ve sat quietly for a lifetime now. Let me set [the record] straight, without any bitterness.” With eclectic boho-chic stylings and sometimes brazen sexuality, the Duchess of Coolsville, Rickie Lee Jones continues to defy convention. At Fox Tucson Theatre... Coming of age in Sonoma County, California. Just “Downstream” from the Valley of the Moon—a mystical place where early settlers claimed to see the moon rise and set seven times. Freddy Parish credits his Arkansas born father—and their Ozark family heritage—for inspiring a lifelong love of country music, informing his folk and bluegrass imbued neotraditional style. Arising from the dread when one’s very existence is in question, yet, offset by one certainty, that there is no turning back, on “Back Anywhere” Parish chokes back the tears. “And I miss what we started and where I come from. I was trying to get home. Not enough to get me there. You can never really go, back anywhere.” Like a fine single-malt Scotch, possessing a voice that carries “just enough sweetness to make the heartbreak go down smoother,” Freddy Parish celebrates the release of A Cold July (2021). On Club Congress Plaza... Preceded by an R&B force of nature, Connie Brannock’s Little House of Blues, as they return for a monthly Congress Cookout... Recorded at famed Village Studios in Los Angeles, Faster—revealing her affinity for North Mississippi blues heroes like R.L. Burnside and wild innovators like Prince—captures Samantha Fish’s extraordinary inner power in combustible guitar licks, primal rhythms and adrenalizing vocal work. “The whole record has a theme of taking charge and taking the reins, in a relationship or in life.” Fish adds, “I fell in love with music from going to shows. I know how cathartic it can be. It heals your heart,” Wild Heart Samantha Fish will Kill or Be Kind. At 191 Toole. With the “gnarly riffs” and bluesy soul of Jackson Stokes...

Monday, Sept. 27 

Recorded in the windswept Texas borderlands, following Katie Crutchfield’s decision to get sober, Saint Cloud (2020) is a departure from the guitar-driven, sharp-edged noise of Out in the Storm (2017). Stripping away inessential layers, foregrounding her voice and soul-baring storytelling. The time spent healing between records, in bulldogged self-examination, became the record’s conceptual polestar. Addiction and codependency, she says, “are the twin demons that necessitated this record.” Coming to a deeper understanding of love, on “Fire” she sings, “If I could love you unconditionally, I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky.” Waxahatchee stoke the flame with twigs and dried flowers. On Club Congress Plaza. Performing “prayer music for agnostics,” Texas indie rock practitioner Katy Kirby opens... During the late 1960s and early ’70s, this guitarist honed his chops on the rough and tumble side of San Jose, California. A place where street-tough Mexican Americans, with their soul music, and counterculture hippies, with their blues and rock, came together to party and listen to tunes. He learned well; earning accolades from guitar hero Joe Bonamassa. “Tommy has always been top of the heap among blues guitar players.” Traveling untold miles, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers fête the release of A Bluesman Came To Town. At 191 Toole... 

Wednesday, Sept. 29 

Formed in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1997, before signing their first recording contract (the following year), faced with a lack of venues to stage performances, these Mexican rockeros embraced the DIY spirit, self-published demo and organized concerts. Flooding the internet, the word of mouth began to spread, helping them gain airplay on radio stations in the U.S. Determined as ever, Zoé are touring in support of their latest release, Sonidos de Karmática Resonancia (2021). At Rialto Theater. From Barcelona, Spain, electronic/indie/new wavers Dorian open... 

Thursday, Sept. 30 

Heavy metal has a pleasurably sordid affair with mariachi music? Say it isn’t so? Copious amounts of tequila must’ve been involved, without doubt. “From Juarez, Mexico via Hollywood,” quite possibly this band of dissenters rose from unconsecrated graves. Like at El Tiradito, where Juan Oliveras rests not so peacefully after being murdered by his father-in-law who caught him in flagrante delicto with his enraptured mother-in-law. Metalachi, “The world’s first and only heavy metal mariachi band,” do unholy things to metal classics. Bring your holy water aspergillum. At 191 Toole... Remembering her childhood fear of arachnids, bassist Shannon Shaw says, “My mom always told me that they were drawn to me. They’d drop down and dangle in my face or get in my bed.” A few years ago, during a time of tribulation, Shaw consulted an astrologer, when emotional threads began to unspool. The astrologer advised her to invoke Durga—the Hindu goddess of protection whose eight arms hold weapons—when she felt powerless. “The symbolism of the spider made a full turn,” she says, knowingly. “I was getting protection from the thing I feared the most.” Infusing neo-psychedelic garage rock with Motown flourishes, Shannon & The Clams pay deference to the Year Of The Spider (2021). On Club Congress Plaza. With the fuzzy-wuzzy, classic horror flick campy, softcore porn pop of The Paranoyds... 

Until next week, XOXO...

In Memoriam 

He was called by some “the greatest country singer in the world,” while others might say a “piece of work.” 

Ned Sutton was born in Belleville, Illinois, to an Air Force father and a gospel piano playing mother. He started singing as a youth in the Methodist church before the family relocated to Tucson. Sutton took up guitar while attending Catalina High School where he graduated in 1966. “I had awful little folk country combos with names like The Travelers Three,” Sutton said in an interview with Tucson Weekly (April 8, 2021). He studied to be an EMT, graduating from the University of Arizona. 

Over the years, Sutton performed roots country and old time rock-n-roll with various bands: Fast Eddie and the Rodeo Kings, the Disco Ramblers, Ned Sutton and the Rabbits, Ned Sutton & Last Dance and others. In 1978, he released his only album, with The Rabbits. The long out-of-print, German release Drugstore Cowboy, produced by George Hawke (The Dusty Chaps). 

Sutton’s influence went way beyond his musical milieu: Rainer Ptacek, Howe Gelb and Giant Sand, Billy Sedlmayr, The Band of Blacky Ranchette, all owe a debt. Al Perry named Sutton “a personal and musical influence for decades.” His deep knowledge and relationship to country music was said to be “astounding.” 

Dave La Russa, former KWFM disc jockey, remembers Ned’s influence on the burgeoning music scene of the 1980s. “Ned’s local rep...everyone knew who he was; his voice was angelic. People responded to that.” 

In 2012, Sutton was inducted into the Tucson Musicians Museum Hall of Fame.

He was a man of many talents. After perfecting his cartooning skills, Sutton’s work appeared in the pages of the Tucson Weekly, City Magazine, Phoenix New Times and more. 

His book Grey Matter was published in 1981. 

“Ned coached little league, went to school band meetings, PTA meetings, worked the snack bar, all of it while doing freelance graphic work.” Katherine, his wife of nearly 50 years, recalls, “He was really the stay-at-home dad.” 

“The Grandpa. The Man. The Myth. The Bad Influence,” read the imprint on one of Sutton’s favorite sweatshirts. 

Late last week, Ned Sutton left this world. He was 72 years old. 

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