Under His Spell Again

A Buck Owens tribute turns into a celebration of the local music scene

The Secret Fox show will likely be a much more solid affair as the band plans to offer up faithful covers of some of the Dayton rock collective's "greatest hits." The show also promises to feature a number of special guests, including local luminaries Larry Hicks (formerly of Aquanaut Drinks Coffee) and Jimmy Eat World guitarist Jim Adkins. Secret Fox's all original alter ego, Red Shifter, will be performing its brand of GBV-influenced arena minimalism at the Green Room in Tempe on Thursday, September 2. Death Takes a Holiday will open the show.

In the Rauhouse Now: Local steel guitar virtuoso Jon Rauhouse is quickly becoming alt-country's favorite guest musician. A member of country insurgents the Grievous Angels and pop trio Sleepwalker, Rauhouse has earned a rapidly growing reputation as a sought-after session man and road hand. After a successful East Coast tour with Bloodshot labelmates the Waco Brothers, Rauhouse has returned to the Valley.

The pedal-picker has played a handful of shows with local country act the Ignitors, and is scheduled to make a series of further appearances (including a September Hayden's Ferry label showcase) with the group. This week, Rauhouse joins the band for a showcase date at the Gavin Americana convention in Boulder, Colorado. Rauhouse will return from the trip just in time to perform with Sleepwalker, which is set to open singer-songwriter Richard Buckner's August 22 show at the Balboa Cafe in Tempe (Rauhouse is also scheduled to sit in with Bloodshot buddies Split Lip Rayfield at the same venue on August 27). At the end of September, Rauhouse will return to the road as part of former Mekon Sally Timms' band. Timms' solo tour will include a month's worth of cross-country dates with Freakwater.

Yee-Haw, Mon: Billed as the "West Indies meets the Wild Wild West," Toronto's Reggae Cowboys first began mixing those two seemingly incompatible geographical and cultural styles in 1993. However incongruous the two may seem on the surface, reggae music has long flirted with Western imagery. From Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" to "Buffalo Soldier," the idea of the noble outlaw has played an integral metaphorical role in the genre. The Reggae Cowboys were similarly born out of a fascination with the black cowboy and the lives of those African Americans who settled in the West.

The group recently released its second album, Rock, Steady, Rodeo, on its own independent label, Tumbleweed Records (distributed by Rykodisc). The new album furthers the group's idiosyncratic style by mixing the band's reggae/country foundation with dashes of ska, R&B and jazz. The band makes a case for its unique mix with tracks like the spry "bronco bustin' dub" of "Reggae Rodeo," the barroom candor of "All That Drinkin'" and the Klondike boom anthem "Gold Rush." The band will be making its local debut with a performance at Tempe's Green Room next Thursday.

A more traditional form of reggae comes to town in the person of Burning Spear. The Jamaican singer (real name Winston Rodney) will be making an appearance at the Red River Music Hall this Friday. Burning Spear's career began nearly 30 years ago after a chance meeting along a rural St. Ann's road with Bob Marley, who recommended the young singer to the island's legendary Studio One. Beginning with 1969's self-titled debut and its follow-up Rocking Time, Burning Spear has created a vast and influential body of work. Since 1985, the artist has also been a favorite of Grammy voters, receiving a total of seven nominations for his Heartbeat label albums.

His latest effort, Appointment With His Majesty, continues a tradition of songs containing thoughtful cultural and social commentary. Influenced heavily by the teachings of Marcus Garvey (whom he has long cited as a source of lyrical inspiration), the elder statesman of reggae infuses Appointment with a dignified sense of culture and history on songs like "Glory Be to Jah" and "My Island." However, the album's most touching moment comes with a much more personal statement; a musical eulogy for late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, called "Play Jerry."

The Reggae Cowboys are scheduled to perform on Thursday, August 26, at the Green Room in Tempe. Showtime is 8 p.m. Burning Spear is scheduled to perform on Friday, August 20, at the Red River Music Hall in Tempe, with Walt Richardson. Showtime is 8:45 p.m.

Hard Road: Sometime in 1994, I received a copy of a single from Alejandro Escovedo's second solo album, Thirteen Years. The five-song disc included the album cuts "The End"/"Losing Your Touch," but it was a trio of live covers that caught my attention. One of these was the Ian Hunter chestnut "I Wish I Was Your Mother." Backed only by a cello, violin and his own guitar, Escovedo's elegiac reading of the song is still one of the most beautiful and stirring musical moments I can recall. Five years later, I stood (along with 50 or 60 others) watching Escovedo in the backyard of a South Austin house/taco shop. On that sun-kissed March afternoon, I listened again with the same rush of amazement as Escovedo and his mini-orchestra played song after song for an equally enthused crowd of locals and visiting industry types.

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