Sound Bites FOLK'S ODD COUPLE: Despair. Suspicion. Beauty. Obsession. Honesty. Nostalgia. Deliverance. Devotion. Doubt. These are just a few words describing the emotional spectrum conveyed by the voice of Richard Buckner, who released one of the finest--and most overlooked--recordings of 1998 in the MCA-released Since, his third album overall (1995's Bloomed was released on Dejadisc) and his second for MCA (of 1997's Devotion + Doubt, Buckner commented caustically, "I'd had the title Devotion + Doubt in my head since my marriage. It made even more sense after the divorce.").

Since, like its predecessor, was produced by J.D. Foster, and finds Buckner once again surrounded by a bevy of talented backing musicians. Having worked previously with the likes of John Convertino and Joey Burns (of Tucson's Giant Sand and Calexico), this time out the tunes are embellished by such accomplices as John McEntire (Tortoise), David Grubbs (Gastr Del Sol), and acclaimed singer/songwriter Syd Straw. In addition to the usual twangy, moody introspection we've come to expect from Buckner, the disc rocks a little harder than his previous two releases--take the fierce opener "Believer," followed by the more traditional singer/songwriter fare of "Faithful Shooter."

And that's part of the beauty of Buckner: Where most singer/songwriters are top-heavy on one side of that equation, Buckner manages not only to write the songs that make the whole world cry, but he can sing 'em, too. On "Believer," his voice is downright menacing in its anguish, whereas the folkier "Shooter" delivers the lines, "Would you take another trip with a candle like her?/Strike another promise and watch it burn," with as much melancholy and resignation as the words imply.

And those words are always as smart and lyrical as that particular example.

Buckner divulges only enough detail to intrigue and compel, like some kind of Neil Young with the voice of a whiskey-drinking angel belting out songs by Raymond Carver.

His tour mate doesn't fare so well: While he was nice enough to call me himself to promote the gig, and send free stuff, the majority of Bryan Kelley's December 1998 release Charming the Gods (Groove House Records) is comprised of pretentiously written songs by a guy who takes his brand of "craft" a little too seriously for his own benefit. To his credit, those mediocre songs are graced by a sheen fit for the Adult Contemporary or Adult Alternative airwaves...if that's the pile of sugar this shoofly's aiming for.

His press materials stress the fact that Kelley cut his teeth in Seattle grunge bands before becoming the "edgy folk-rock" performer he is today. A self-proclaimed example is the "angry gait" of "She Crawls." Upon listening, the only anger I found in that track was a nifty electric guitar riff and the lyrics, "If she crawls through asshole hell/I know the gods will reach and touch her." Yeesh. As if the lyrics weren't just plain bad, I'm stuck conjuring unbidden visions of "asshole hell," too? Have mercy, man!

It's an odd pairing, to be sure, but one of the best singer/songwriters shares the stage with...uh...another singer/songwriter and Tucson's own venerable insurgent country faves Creosote, at an early show on Sunday, March 7, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m., and admission is $5.

And don't you dare fret about missing the sultry Latin grooves you've gotten so used to every Sunday night at the Hotel: DJ Tasha Bundy's Havana will follow the live music. Any questions? If so, call 622-8848.

BAND WAGON: If you're jonesin' to get a groove on, look no further than the aptly titled Groove-Fest going down this weekend. The lineup is as follows: Los Angeles' The Gila Monsters, known as the "premiere Party-Gras band in the Southwest," provide high-energy New Orleans grooves reminiscent of the Neville Brothers, The Meters, or for that matter, our own The LaLa. Call it "gumbo rock" if you must.

The groove of Greyhound Soul falls somewhere into the trad-rock territory of The Band. And they're the hosts of that burgeoning party game, Guess Who's Playing Drums For Greyhound Soul This Week? Spacefish genre-hop with the best of them, but you can always count on their groove factor. And Funky Bonz? Do you really think they'd call themselves Funky Bonz if they didn't get you groovin'? (Okay, that exhausts my weekly quota for permutations of "groove").

The Groove-Fest (doh!) will shimmy its way into the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 6. Tickets for this all-ages event are $5, available in advance at the Congress Street Store, Hear's Music, Guitars, Etc., and Zip's University. Call 740-0126 for more information.

If Buddy Holly played trebly garage punk and was weaned on Lou Reed's Velvet Underground songs, he might've sounded something like Subsonics, who hit town this week to support their snappy new release Follow Me Down (Get Hip Recordings), co-produced by the band and Matt Verta-Ray (former member of Madder Rose, current member of Speedball Baby).

Also on the bill are the experimental/instrumental duo Twine (attention filmmakers: these guys are ripe for a musical score for a desert epic), and brand spankin' new loudfasthard punk rock behemoths The Cheapshots. This intriguing trio takes the stage in the later hours of Friday, March 5, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.. That toll-free number is 622-8848.

One occupational joy is discovering the music of unknown and otherwise unknowable artists. One such impressive talent is Dewey, Arizona, singer/songwriter Pat Maloney, who could easily be filed in the Literate Folkie category right next to John Prine or Greg Brown. Peppered with a liberal dose of influences from his Irish forebears, Maloney and his brand new CD Perfect Oblivious Moon (Ratrick Records) hit town on Friday, March 5, at Goddard Hall in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, 4831 E. 22nd St.

Opening the show at 8 p.m. are Tucson's own Stefan George and Lavinia White. George, along with Maloney's wife Rosie, will also be joining Maloney on stage. Admission is $5 at the door.

BEBOP BUZZ: The Faddis, Hampton & Heath Sextet features some of the bigger names in jazz history: trumpeter Jon Faddis, trombonist Slide Hampton, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, and a rhythm section containing pianist Kenny Drew Jr., bassist Paul West and drummer Winard Harper.

Dizzy Gillespie discovered Faddis while he was still in high school, and took the young trumpeter under his wing for many years. Faddis continued to work with legends like Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and Charles Mingus, which would lead him to travel the world as music director of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.

Heath, nicknamed "Little Bird" for his Charlie Parker-like blowing, grew up as a brother to jazz virtuosi Percy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath. The musical blood in his veins would lead him to stints with jazz kings such as Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock.

The third Gillespie veteran in this sextet is Hampton, who gave the trombone a name in bebop, along with forefathers Art Blakey, Max Roach, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. In 1962, Hampton formed the Slide Hampton Octet, featuring the fresh, young talents of Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little and George Coleman--all of whom went on to become legends themselves. Hampton has continued to shine beside Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon and Jimmy Woode.

This unbelievable coup in local live jazz offerings happens at 8 p.m. Friday, March 5, at UA Centennial Hall. Tickets range from $16 to $28. Call 621-3341 for reservations and information.

--Mark Wyner TW

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