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Local consumers interested in picking up the latest music by area artists know they can find it at a handful of locations, including Wax Trax, Twist & Shout, Albums on the Hill and Jerry's Record Exchange. Beginning next week, however, a new outlet should be added to the list: King Soopers.

No, I haven't been spending too much time in the beer aisle. King Soopers, a massive grocery chain currently embroiled in labor strife, plans to stock Colorado music in all 68 of its branches beginning Wednesday, May 22. On that date, the tapes and CDs in question will be part of a display sporting the following slogan: "King Soopers Presents Local Colorado Musicians."

The retail giant's decision to become a local-music booster was spurred by Timothy P. Irvin, leader of the act Timothy P. and Rural Route 3. Irvin--whose new solo album, After the War, will be part of the displays--suggested the idea to Gary Crandall of Anderson News, the company that supplies merchandise for the audio-video departments in 21 King Soopers operations. The pair knew each other because Crandall had earlier hired Rural Route 3 to perform at the grand opening of the music department at King Soopers' Parker center. "We played right there in the produce department, next to the fruits and vegetables," Irvin announces.

A few days after Irvin's initial recommendation, Crandall met with Rich Harris, who's both the manager of the theater at Teikyo Loretto Heights University and the founder and president of Resounding Records, a label that he calls "a nice little hobby that's worked since day one." Some scenesters might have questioned the notion, but Harris took to it immediately. "The foot traffic is enormous through some of these stores, and that's really going to help us in terms of visibility," he remarks.

Resounding artists will be prominent among those going to market. King Soopers spokesman John Kuhns reveals that Irvin's opus will be joined by Wild Jimbos II, by (you guessed it) the Wild Jimbos; Laughing Hands' self-titled offering; and Liar, the latest from Monkey Siren. Like the aforementioned acts, the other artists participating in the program--Bobby Wells, Chuck Pyle, Colcannon, Lannie Garrett, Dotsero, Bryan Savage, Celeste Krenz and Acoustic Junction--operate within the mainstream, something that Kuhns confirms is important to King Soopers. So don't expect to see I Want to Eat Your Liver, by the Satan Porkers, on the shelves anytime soon.

Restrictions aside, Monkey Siren bassist/ vocalist Katrina Sibert is excited by the opportunity. "They're making a big push," she says. "We've got high name recognition already, and this can only help us." Because of the impressive size of the order, Sibert reveals, Harris gave King Soopers a break on the price--which is fine by her. "They're selling on commission," she notes, "so if they move, it'll be worth it."

Also jazzed by the King Soopers connection is Irvin, whose platter (featuring guest appearances by Baxter Black, Chris Daniels, Mollie O'Brien and a slew of additional notables) is his most ambitious to date. "On the front cover, we put 'Not just your typical rock-and-roll, blues, bluegrass, pop, jazz, doo-wop, R&B, barbershop, big-band, gospel, Dixieland, folk, Western swing, country recording,'" he discloses, laughing. Still, he's proudest of the title track, which germinated following a visit to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C., several years ago. While there, Irvin, a veteran, was looking for the name of a fallen comrade, Ernie Gallardo, when he stumbled upon the moniker of another friend, Hector Gonzalez. Irvin was stunned by this discovery and subsequently co-wrote the song "After the War" with former Denver songwriter Jon Ims, best known for penning the number-one C&W hit "She's in Love With the Boy" for Trisha Yearwood. Another Colorado vocalist, Jim Saelstrom, covered the composition and was invited to sing it on Memorial Day 1993 at a ceremony near the wall. Irvin, who joined Saelstrom for the occasion, remembers, "It was amazing. We sang it to 30,000 people, including Bill Clinton and Colin Powell. And since it was covered by C-SPAN, it basically went all over the world. It was the most meaningful thing I've ever done professionally."

Even better, Irvin later discovered that the reports of his friend Hector's death had been greatly exaggerated; the man referred to on the wall shared Gonzalez's name, year of birth and general army assignment but turned out to be an entirely different person. With the help of the Veterans Administration, Irvin tracked down the Hector he knew in Texas. "It was bizarre," he says, "to have to say to my friend from 1968, 'I've got a picture of Bill Clinton on the front page of the Washington Times, and he's crying because you're dead."

Irvin has high hopes for After the War and believes that the King Soopers connection will aid the project immeasurably. In his words, "I'll be fifty years old in September, and I think a lot of my peer group don't go to a music store very often anymore. But they go to grocery stores, and now they'll find my CD there."

And now, a review of one album you can find at King Soopers and several others you can't.

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