Fort Lowell Records went and upped the stakes on their 7" single series of Tucson based bands and went all out recently for a 12"...on yellow vinyl! But the radical departure from the 45 format isn't the real story here...this is a benefit album for victims of the Tucson tragedy. It's a pretty amazing homegrown compilation of bands and a label that wanted to help. They looked at what they know how to do, and donated it to the families of the victims of a really terrible tragedy. When you pick this up from Fort Lowell Records, the proceeds are going to the Tucson Together Fund... in this case, buying a record can directly make a difference.
James got this extensive release together of local bands for the vinyl.... you've got previous Fort Lowell artists Tracy Shedd and Dead Western Plains, along with a Giant Sand track from another FL contributor, Howe Gelb. There's also tracks from heavy hitters, Calexico, Rainer and Holy Rolling Empire among others. There's even a live cover of "A Change is Gonna Come" from Chango Malo which is exclusive to this vinyl release.
Let me start right out by saying, it feels bad even talking about these tracks in any kind of way, I mean, this is such an unselfish idea from everyone involved that it's a foregone conclusion it's good...you can't possibly listen to this any other way.
The A-Side starts out with The Dead Western Plains and their heavily layered, optimistic sound, bouncing along with a Brian Wilson experimental edge. A familiar direction for this oddly named local band...I don't think I'm wrong in thinking this complex dance sound doesn't bring to mind a lonesome prairie. I keep confusing them with someone else. The Kiss & Tells have this great nostalgic '60s girl group sound, but I hear the Shangri-La's in everything these days. Big, belted vocals, backup harmony, and on vinyl, it completes the great detached layering feel, making it instantly timeless...in fact I wouldn't be surprised if you told me this was a revered Tucson band from 30 years ago.
Rainer includes a homemade, live room sounding track, with steel guitar and what sounds like an upright bass. A real south western folk sound, from the late Rainer Ptacek. Mariachi Luz de Luna, collaborators with Calexico, gets traditional on their track that might be right at home in another universe with the neo-traditional acts on Electric Cowbell. Giant Sand plays dirty using a chorus of little girls in the chorus...didn't see that one coming...aren't Howe's somber, blues vocals enough? Apparently not.
The live cover of "A Change is Gonna Come" from Chango Malo includes a horn section and is a strong contribution of the classic material. Tracy Shedd lifts the B-Side up with a Magnetic Fields sounding "Encourage Me", the unusually warbly guitar and her layered harmonic vocals reminded me a lot of some of Claudia's contributions. La Cerca is a indie guitar-pop patch of Tucson and Calexico gets introspective again with their especially Iron & Wine sounding track "Absent Afternoon". (Do they need to be compared to anyone? No. Nice going.) I'm just saying be careful with this one. Lenguas Largas is buried in swirly-shoegaze with their dreamy "Such a Thing" while Holy Rolling Empire switches gears again with a flamenco ballad on "Gabynda (Yolanda)". It's a diverse collection of the various sounds of Tucson, a reflection of the people coming together to help out neighbors. It's that simple.
This Saturday in fact, Fort Lowell is having a Record Release Benefit show at The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, AZ. The showcase will feature artists from Luz de Vida, such as Kiss & The Tells, Reno Del Mar, Mariachi Luz de Luna, HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS, Tracy Shedd, La Cerca, Golden Boots, Silverbell, Rich Hopkins, and Tom Walbank. All proceeds will go to the Tucson Together Fund, and patrons will receive $5.00 off the price of the vinyl record or digital download card of Luz de Vida when purchased at the showcase.
Get this one from Fort Lowell, giant yellow 12" vinyl, an edition of 1500 copies compiling a crazy array of sounds from the Tucson, AZ part of the country, while supporting a truly good cause.