Local Wire

On the Beach

Last month's closure of Tempe's Balboa Café was yet another damaging blow to a local music scene suffering from a dearth of venues with progressive booking policies. Over the past year, the club had hosted an array of eclectic shows, ranging from weirdo New Wave legend Jonathan Richman and California neo-surf band the Mother Hips to singer/songwriters like Alejandro Escovedo and Richard Buckner.

But the saddest result of Balboa's demise is that it also brings an end to the weekly acoustic performances from neo-country tunesmith Jim Beach. A former member of the Hucklebones and current leader of the Dialectrics, Beach is one of the Valley's most overlooked and underappreciated talents. Beach is a singular vocalist with a gift for writing penetrating tales of soured romance and despair. He is probably most recognized for his participation in a recent series of high-profile tribute concerts staged at the Balboa.

The moody weekday atmosphere of the club proved a perfect match for Beach's introspective country callings. Performing regularly as a solo act, the latter stages of Beach's residency brought with it the arrival of local musician/sound guru Jamal Ruhe on drums and vocals. The two, playing mostly unrehearsed, filled sets by drawing on a mix of classics and beautifully scarred originals such as the cutting "Juniper."

The cast was further expanded in April with the participation of gospel pianist Matt Mahr and jazzman Will Lovell on bass. The sparse accompaniment and ragged spontaneity brought out a nuance and depth in Beach's work that the bar band heroics of the Dialectrics never fully revealed.

Aside from a promo-only Dialectrics EP released in 1998, little of the singer's work has reached the public's ears. With that in mind, Beach, at Ruhe's urging, recently gathered the makeshift combo to lay down tracks for a solo album.

The songs were recorded on a portable eight-track at Beach's home -- an approach ideally suited to the unadorned confessional nature of the material -- over a two-day period. Ruhe, who also produced the sessions, says the collection, done mostly live, includes nine Beach originals, a cover of Willie Nelson's "Angel" and the traditional "Green Pastures."

In addition to the core ensemble, steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse (a former Grievous Angel and touring mate of Sally Timms, the Waco Brothers, and Neko Case, among others) also guests on the record.

Word is that any number of Rauhouse's alt-country connections would be willing to snap up the disc and release it, likely by the end of the year.

It still remains for Ruhe to mix the tracks, something he plans to do within the next couple of weeks at an as-yet-undetermined location. He may complete the project at Tempe's Mayberry Studios, where he's also set to work on mixes for Reuben's Accomplice's full-length debut, I Blame the Scenery.

For those who have yet to glimpse Beach and company in action, the group will be opening Los Guys' weekly Long Wong's sets during the first two Sundays in July. Before that, the band will appear as part of an excellent Modified triple bill with Juarez and headlined by Chicago's Handsome Family (see the story on page 100) on Wednesday, June 28.

An important side note: As of this writing, the Beach-led troupe has not yet decided on a name for the outfit, but is apparently leaning toward using the moniker Medium or the Charles II-tinged The Restoration. In the meantime, Beach plans to revive the quasi-dormant Dialectrics, which includes bassist Steve Flores and drummer Andy Mendoza, for a handful of shows. Flores and Mendoza have been occupying their time as part of guitarist Greg Simmons' Royal Normans.

Singles Going Steady: Expect a new release from local indie rock faves Jimmy Eat World in early August. The forthcoming disc is not the much-anticipated follow-up to the group's 1998 Capitol Records offering Clarity, but rather a singles collection, titled, appropriately enough, Singles. The disc, set to appear on the Boston-based Big Wheel Recreation label, includes a dozen hard-to-find and out-of-print Jimmy Eat World seven-inch cuts and compilation rarities. The band will follow that with a split EP featuring Aussie popsters Jebediah on August 22.

Meanwhile, JEW is still in the process of writing and preproduction for its next long player. As we reported in a January piece focusing on group front man Jimmy Adkins' orchestral-pop side project, Go Big Casino (which opened last week's Juliana Hatfield show), the group has not, as yet, aligned itself with a label, and may in fact release the disc itself.

On the performing front, JEW is tentatively set to headline a late July bill at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, and word is the band may make an unbilled weeknight appearance at the venue in the coming weeks as well.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr