Music News


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"[Booking more local bands] is definitely something we're trying to do," says Tennent. " It's not unlimited, because we're only open four nights a week, but between that and the national bands it's something we want to have a good balance of.

"Since Modified opened, there's been a lot of excitement about it," he continues. "The music scene has grown because of it, at least the local rock scene that doesn't go to the bars. It's definitely gotten a lot bigger in the last year. I'm just excited to be able to help keep pushing it forward."

Modified is located at 407 East Roosevelt. For concert, booking or other information, call 602-252-7664.

Texas Top Hand: In March, Bash & Pop had the pleasure of spending a few days in Austin, Texas, just prior to the annual South by Southwest music conference. Before the city was inundated by the annual migration of unctuous business types, corporate flacks, publicity hounds and, yes, even media slime, we were fortunate to catch a set by country singer Don Walser at Jovita's, a south Austin beer garden.

The notion that certain bands or artists are the "missing link" in certain musical chains is not a new idea. For years, critics and writers have suggested that Cheap Trick is the missing link between the Beatles and the Replacements, or that the Stooges are the missing link between the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols. Judging solely by appearances, you'd have to scratch your head at those who claim Walser to be the missing link between Bob Wills and the Butthole Surfers. But listening to the 65-year-old's unabashedly rural vocals and simple, stirring songs, it becomes apparent why he's been given that tag.

It's not that his craft is revolutionary in and of itself. But within the context of "new country" (the kind dominated by Shania and Garth, or whatever he's calling himself these days), Walser's piercing falsetto, dexterous vocals and sincere, unironic delivery seem about as uncountry as a Butthole Surfers song -- maybe even more so (that and the fact that Walser is probably the only human being ever to share stages with the Surfers and Buddy Holly).

Walser is a late bloomer. The man dubbed the "Pavarotti of the Plains" has been playing and singing his whole life, but his musical career began in earnest after he retired from a 40-year career in the Coast Guard. Walser moved to Austin in the mid-'80s, eventually gaining a dedicated local and national following through a series of vibrant albums on the Watermelon Records label. His latest release, Here's to Country Music (Sire), is his fifth album; and, as the title suggests, it's a celebration of the genre.

Unlike the current spate of dreaded all-cover albums, Here's to Country Music actually equals and in many cases improves upon the original versions -- or at least lends something different to the songs. Walser puts his own stylistic signature and patented yodel on material by Hank Thompson, Marty Robbins, Felice Bryant, Cindy Walker and Bob Wills.

Those put off by the idea of a yodeling oldtime cowboy singer should note that Walser's vocal acrobatics are much more genuine than Jewel's "Watch me yodel the way my daddy taught me when we were singing in Alaska" shtick. Unlike the toothy, mammaried mutant/wanna-be poetess, Walser's yodel isn't simply for show. It's a natural element of his singing and a dedication to the similarly styled crooning of his hero, the "Singing Brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers. Walser salutes Rodgers on the new album, with the record's only original composition, "My Ride With Jimmie." No stranger to the Valley, Walser makes his Phoenix return on Tuesday, November 9, at the Rhythm Room. Local guitar legend Al Casey will lead a pick-up combo backing Walser.

Don Walser is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, November 9, at the Rhythm Room. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Lakestock: The nonprofit Arizona Music Forum is staging an all-day festival at Tempe's Club Rio on Sunday, November 7, featuring 60 bands performing on five stages. The event is ostensibly designed as a celebration to coincide with the opening of the Tempe Town Lake. In truth, the size and scope of the event reflects the significant inroads the AzMF has made within the local music community in a fairly short time. Fair warning, though: Any event boasting a lineup with 60 bands -- regardless of whether they're local or national acts -- promises its fair share of crappy music. Still, proceeds for the event are going to a good cause. Admission is two cans of food or $2, all of which will go to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr