Tucson Sounds: Hank Topless pairs heartbreak & homicide, pathos & pedal steel
Tucson blues rock, alt-country, and more local music news
Homicide, heartbreak and Hank Topless
A few months back, your humble reporter ran into Waterworks Recording's Jim Waters at a gig for a mutual friend and asked what recordings he was most excited about this year. The esteemed Mr. Waters proceeded to gush about some recent sessions with Tucson's purveyor of "lonesome country blues," Hank Topless, in which Topless revisited some influential tunes and lesser-known classics of the outlaw and classic country genres.
A couple of weeks back, the long-awaited volume appeared online, via Bandcamp. "Songs I Hate To Sing" is everything Waters promised it would be, an homage to a bygone era of brilliant lyricism with outlaw country balladry, early psychobilly and country noir sensibilities. Tales of drinking, heartbreak and homicide with twang, train tracks, pathos and pedal steel by masters of the genre dominate this record, with tracks by Whitey Gallagher, Dick Curless, Eddie Noack, the Hi Fi Guys, Red River Dave, Buddy Knox, Porter Wagoner and Margie Singleton in the mix, as well as a couple of not-at-all-out-of-place Hank Topless originals, the best of which is the cynically lovelorn "Please Be a Stranger," which sounds like a late '50s-era Sun Studios 45.
While "Songs" is a beautifully rendered collection of studio tracks and a brilliant nod to Topless' country forebears, Tucson's favorite sad country troubadour has a couple more tricks up his sleeve these days, including the surprise release a second full-length album, the live compilation, "Hank Me Crank Me I'm Dead." An intimate recording in the spirit of such records as Townes Van Zandt's "Live at the Old Quarter," the album features good old Hank and his trusty guitar at a live solo show at Owl's Club where he has a monthly residency known as Loser's Lounge.
Like most things Topless puts his talents to, the live album is a mix of practiced musicianship, reverent nostalgia, and heartfelt, genuine immediacy. A collage composed mostly of Topless' country blues originals, including such choice tracks as "Jim Carroll Blues," "Just for the Record" and the bittersweetly beautiful "December Girl," "Hank Me Crank Me" also features a pair of choice cover tunes, including a delicate and haunting interpretation of Nico's "Frozen Warnings."
Catch a double dose of Hank Topless on Saturday, October 19, starting at 6 p.m. at Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, followed by a 10 p.m. show at the Dusty Monk Pub.
This fall, it seems like Tucson has been seriously bitten by the music festival bug and our favorite local purveyor of all things good, vinyl and garagey, Wooden Tooth Records is riding the collective wave with this Friday's Woodenstock.
The two part event begins at around 6 p.m. at Wooden Tooth's retail location just off 4th Avenue with Tucson's own Cornelius sisters, better known as Acorn Bcorn, Austin band Rocket 808 and a headlining set by Memphis garage rockers the Oblivians.
Then, at 10 p.m. the party heads around the corner to Che's Lounge with performances by the Exbats, Lenguas Largas and a band formed from the ashes of the legendary Slim Cessna's Auto Club, DBUK.
Woodenstock, featuring the Oblivians, Rocket 808 and Tucson's own Acorn Bcorn takes place this Friday night from 6 - 10 p.m. at Wooden Tooth Records. Tickets are $20 and show is all ages.
Woodenstock, part two takes place at Che's Lounge at 10 p.m. and features Lenguas Largas, the Exbats and DBUK. Admission is free, show is 21+.
Electric Witch II (Electric Witch Boogaloo?)
At last year's Electric Witch Workshops, local women/femme musicians led a gathering for local players to explore live music gear, show off their pedals, learn recording and technical performance techniques and generally demystify the usually "dude-centric" realm of music tech and sound.
The event has turned into an annual occurrence and this year's edition promises a full roster of workshops, classes, vendors and performances including a live concert by local solo artist Mattea and an in person interview with drummer Alice De Buhr, an original member of the groundbreaking all female '70s rock band Fanny. This Sunday's Electric Witch II takes place at Xerocraft Hackerspace in Downtown Tucson.
The second annual Electric Witch Workshop takes place Sunday, October 20, at Xerocraft. Workshops begin at 1 p.m. followed by a live performance by Mattea at 6 p.m. Suggested donation is $5 at the door.
Indie rock pioneer and Throwing Muses/50 Foot Wave founder Kristin Hersh has built a solo career around wearing her jagged heart on her sleeve, weaving beauty and chaos in a folk, punk, rock orchestral haze that is both honest and abstract.
This Monday night, Tucson fans are in for what's certain to be an emotionally draining yet exhilirating performance as Hersh makes a rare solo appearance here. The show takes place Monday at 191 Toole, starting at 8 p.m.
Check your local listings...
Friday, October 18
- The Peep Show - 6:30 p.m. Rialto
- Desert Dweller Hardcore Fest (Multiple Bands) - 4 p.m. Global Justice Center
- Oliver Ray w/ Whiskerman - 7 p.m Hotel Congress Plaza
- Taco Sauce w/ Sur Block and Stevie Rose - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Woodenstock w/ Oblivians, DBUK, Lenguas Largas - 6 p.m. Wooden Tooth Records
- Hip-Hop and Metal Memorial to Lil Peep - 6:30 p.m. Rialto
- Roll Acosta and Jacob Acosta Band - 8 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Belinda Esquer Duo - 8 p.m. Westbound
- REVEAL w/ Tucson Libertine League - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
- Ghostbusters Dance Party- 9 p.m. Surly Wench
- Dry & Dusty w/ Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. Exo
- Method to the Madness - 7 p.m. Thunder Canyon
- Gilabyte, In Lessons, the Ohmlauts - 8 p.m. Irene's Holy Donuts
- Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, Spencer Thomas - 8 p.m. Boxyard
Saturday, October 19
- Mad Hatter's Tea Party w/ For Love Or Absinthe - 12 p.m. Monterey Court
- Different Strokes - 8 p.m. Kinetic Arts Tucson
- The End of America w/ Ryanhood - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Cody Ko & Noel Miller - 7:30 p.m. Rialto
- Club Sanctuary - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
- The Senators, Rebekah Rolland - 7 p.m. Exo
- Early Black, Soda Sun, Andrew Gardner - 8:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Jesse Malin, Joseph Arthur - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Maria Muldaur - 7 p.m. House of Bards
Sunday, October 20
- Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12 p.m. La Cocina
- 2nd Annual Electric Witch Workshop - 1 p.m. Xerocraft
- Atreyu - 6:30 p.m. Rialto
- Miss Gay Metropolis America 2020 - 5 p.m. 191 Toole
- Flames Of Durga, Dead Writers U.S., Silent Movie Actress - 8 p.m. House of Bards
Monday, October 21
- Kristin Hersh - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- First Responder Fest w/ Sofia Rankin Trio, John Hisey, the Turnouts, and the County Line - 4 p.m. Hotel Congress Plaza
- Comedy at the Wench - 7 p.m. Surly Wench
Tuesday, October 22
- POSIS8N Presents:DJ Underground Rising - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Stephen Chopek - 6:30 p.m. Sky Bar
- Plague Vendor - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
Wednesday, October 23
- Ladytowne Live - 7 p.m. Congress
Thursday, October 24
- FST! Presents: Smashed - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Jazz Guild of Tucson Jam for Vets - 8 p.m. Irene’s Holy Donuts
Friday, October 25
- Gem Show, Shooda Shook It, Thee Deores - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Two-Door Hatchback - 6 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Final Fridays w/ Elyzian and Silent Movie Actress- 7 p.m. The Runway
- Nightmare on Congress w/ the Surfbroads - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Tantric - 8 p.m. Encore
- Pigmy Death Ray, Copper Queens, Cadaver Dabba Doos - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
- Naim's Jazz Trio - 8 p.m. Exo
- No Sleep Podcast - 8 p.m. 191 Toole