As January ushers in the dead of winter -- or at least our very mild Arizona version of it -- the news and happenings in the local insurgent country ranks have been heating up. Here are a few morsels that found their way to our desk.
Name Game: Local alt-country twangers Shoeless Joe have undergone a name change. It seems that a band in New Hampshire already had rights to the moniker and began threatening legal action if the boys did not cease and desist. After some soul-searching, the group decided to revert back to the name that original members Dave Wolfmeyer and Theron Wall used when they were a Seattle based guitar/cello duo -- Truckers on Speed. The switch comes just in time, as the Truckers recently completed basic tracks for their full length debut, No Sense in Runnin'. The group has been holed up at Mind's Eye Studios for a few months working on the disc, which is tentatively slated for a March release.
Among its songs: "Tales of a 25-Year-Old Nothing" and "Heart at Home." The two cuts were featured as the A and B sides of a promotional single the group released last fall. No Sense in Runnin' will also feature eight other originals, including "Desert Sun," "Orange Pick-Up Truck Girl," "Bookmark," "Zamora" and "Pretty Horses," a stunning country composition that receives an acoustic/lap steel/cello treatment.
Before the full-length hits stores, a five-song digital EP of material will be available for download from MP3.com in February.
For those eager to catch the band in a stripped-down form, Truckers on Speed have been showcasing their quiet side during a handful of informal sessions at Long Wong's Monday Acoustic Night. The group's "unplugged" shows are highly recommended as the Truckers serve up stellar acoustic guitar/cello reworkings of their own songs as well as a handful of tastefully rendered covers. The group's next acoustic set is scheduled at Wong's on January 24.
Meanwhile, the full-blown electric version of the band will make the rounds this month, starting with a spot opening for former Gear Daddies leader Martin Zellar, who brings his solo act into the Balboa Café this Saturday.
Truckers on Speed are scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 15, at the Balboa Café in Tempe, with Martin Zellar. Showtime is 9 p.m. The band is also scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 22, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, with Ashbrook, and Ghetto Cowgirl.
Dang Me: It was just about a year ago that Bash & Pop had the opportunity to profile Phoenix's Cartwheels, the countryish alter ego of local pop practitioners the Zen Lunatics. At the time, we reported that the Cartwheels' full-length debut, Dang!, would be released in February of 1999. Well, after a seemingly unending string of delays and false starts, the CD has finally arrived in stores -- 11 months after its original release date. Happily, we can say the wait was well worth it, as the disc is a shining piece of punchy country/pop that falls squarely in the vein of No Depression acts like the V-Roys and Six String Drag.
Guitarist Chris Hansen-Orf sings lead on 11 of the 12 tracks (including the standout, "Josephine") while co-front man Jim Speros' pulsating piano drives such cuts as "One Dozen Roses" and "Dust and Bone." Speros also handles lead vocal chores on the stellar "Heaven Help Me."
In the meantime, the Lunatics are readying an expansive multi-disc live set, as well as plundering Garvin's considerable vault for reissue and archival material (including a possible rerelease of 1992's Juanita). Watch this space for details of the group's forthcoming projects.
That's Nitpicking, Innit?: January's mailbag brought a pair of releases from Rustic Records, the new label formed by local music vets Dave Insley, Jeff Farias and Michael Dannerbeck. Rustic is launching the company with the Nitpickers' self-titled debut and songstress Tammy Patrick's White Album.
The credits for both records read like a local country and roots music who's who. The Nitpickers disc features contributions from the core lineup of Insley, Farias, Steve Borick and Jim Bolek, as well as guest turns from the Ramblers' Mario Moreno, the Royal Normans' Tom Post and Flathead's Kevin Daly. The group has an official release party scheduled for Friday, January 28, at the Arizona Roadhouse in Tempe.
Daly also turns up on Patrick's solo set, as does Revenants drummer Bobby Dommings and Grievous Angels steel virtuoso Jon Rauhouse.
Patrick makes a strong case with the immediately appealing 12-song disc, featuring nine originals or co-writes, as well as covers of "Blue Again" and "This Old House." However, the hands-down highlight of the record is a lilting mandolin-tinged ballad titled "1968." Surprisingly enough, this engaging paean to family life was penned by Daly, one of the Phoenix roots scene's true godfathers and a musical hell-raiser of long standing.
Speaking of Daly, the Flathead bassist and his mates will be quite busy over the next few weeks, starting with an opening set at the Peacemakers' January 21 show at the Bash on Ash. The date will be Flathead's last for several weeks as they head into producer Clark Rigsby's Tempest Studios to begin work on a follow-up to last year's Play the Good One. No release date has been set for the untitled album.
Daly plans to continue performing during the recording hiatus, as he, Flathead drummer Vince Ramirez and the Rumble Cats' Rich Merriman are set to revive their much-talked-about psycho-surf-a-billy side project, Grave Danger, with some limited engagements next month.
And finally, Daly, Insley, Farias and Post will perform in yet another side project, the Trophy Husbands, on Saturday, January 22, at the Arizona Roadhouse. The show should whet the appetites of those anticipating Dark & Bloody Ground, the group's first release. The loose-knit effort from the roots collective was recorded last summer and will be issued by Rustic Records in April.
Flathead is scheduled to perform on Friday, January 21, at the Bash on Ash in Tempe, with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Showtime is 9 p.m. The Trophy Husbands are scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 22, at the Arizona Roadhouse in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m. The Nitpickers' CD release party is scheduled for Friday, January 28, at the Arizona Roadhouse.
Wherefore Art Thou, Revenants?: There's been a steady stream of shake-ups in Bruce Connole's Revenants/Pearl Chuckers camp. First, Connole oversaw wholesale changes in the lineup of the Chuckers, the bluegrass side project he started last summer. The Revenants' Paul Schneider has taken over bass duties for the departed Ruth Wilson. Wilson has been playing the occasional solo show as well as working out material with her new band, Blue Ruin. Guitarist Amos Cox has also lent the group his considerable picking talents, filling in the slot left vacant by Richard Taylor.
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Though the future of the Revenants appears to be secure, Taylor's tenure (fraught with substance-abuse problems) is less certain. The Revenants are in the midst of a six-month performing hiatus. However, Connole has been busy recording material for a new album, the group's first since 1998's Artists & Whores.
Look for the Revenants to return to the stage at the beginning of February with a revamped lineup and a batch of new material.
The Pearl Chuckers perform every Tuesday at Long Wong's in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: firstname.lastname@example.org