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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.

The former is Laughing Hands, by the band of the same name, and it brings together much of what's best about folk and world music on a single slab of plastic. The playing, by brothers Brian and Steve Mullins, Tim Cross, Ed Contreras and Ed Rudman, is impeccable whether the style is an Andean mood piece ("North of Peru") or a slice of the old West ("One Buggy"). There's humor, too, as in the plucky "Gypsy Quickstep"; the description of the tune in the liner notes accurately states, "The mandolin's lack of sustain leaves us with little choice but to play as fast as we can." That they do it so well is what makes this journey worthwhile (available in area record stores). Dead City Radio's new platter, creatively dubbed Dead City Radio, is more of an up-and-down affair. David Desch and Mark Pruisner split songwriting duties, but both stick close to the college-rock rulebook; you'll find few surprises. Sometimes that's okay--"Red Plug In," "She Said" and "Killin' Me" are ultra-listenable in spite of their predictability. More problematic are the lyrics, especially when the tunesmiths attempt to get meaningful. (The nadir is this Paul Anka moment in "Dakota": "I know you are the one/And if you have my son/It will be all right.") Of course, the problem may be me. I'll have to work on my sensitivity (available in area record stores).

The long-timers in the Jealous Saints keep on keeping on with Blue. Strong production values are evident throughout the Saints' stylistic shifts: the Band-like arrangement of "Walk On Back," the Southern rock of "Lidocaine," the environmental do-goodisms of the anthemic "Blue Marble." These are craftsmen capable of effectively shaping their musical presentations, and although that certain something that might lift them to the next level remains elusive, Blue is not without its old-fashioned attributes (available in area record stores). On their latest demo, Big Bad Freakies merge punk funk with the groove politics of 311. Vocalist Leland Smith has a gruff, restless voice that grapples efficiently with the predictable ennui of lyrics from "Warcry," "Colfax Annie" and "Leave," and he receives able support from bassist Justin Sandoval, drummer Jason Baker and guitarist Rob Vialpando. The recording isn't all that fresh, but the Freakies certainly can do the same old modern-rock shit as well as anyone (784-5533).

On Squiggly, the Simpeltones produce more hooks than a coat-hanger factory. James Dalton and his three associates improve on previous recordings by placing their pop melodies in a more focused context. That means that the vocal lines and harmonies are brighter, the song structures are tighter and the tunes are generally more entertaining. There are a few weak tracks on the disc--"Kill Me" dies quietly--but "Rise," "Tattooed Angels," "Gone" and most of Squiggly's other sweet, vapid croonathons will have you coming back for more (available in area record stores). It's mighty hard to capture in the studio what's best about a certain kind of strong live act--and as judged by its debut CD, Sideburns From Hell!, Brethren Fast may be such a band. The hirsute ones kick up plenty of dust in concert, but here the guitar-bass-drums sound is somewhat muted; hence, lead singer Don Messina's Elvis-meets-Jon Spencer warbling seems notably over the top. Which is not to say that Sideburns isn't fun in spite of this drawback: "Madge," "Galaxie 500" and "TV Theme Song" still provide a rockin' good time, relatively speaking. But boys, next time turn those amps up to eleven (available in area record stores).

Nuclear Sex, the latest extended-play cassette from Burning Cedar, is, well, pretty weird. This trio, fronted by Aaron Frederick, doesn't bother with either guitars or drums; a bass, a keyboard, a voice and some handy echo are the primary ingredients. Moreover, the tape doesn't bubble over with melody. Instead, compositions like "What," "Breath" and "Dirty Head" feature Frederick intoning spookily over a thumping, thudding backdrop. The result is rather one-dimensional, but at least it's different from anything else I've heard lately (782-6987). It would be understandable if the members of Baldo Rex were consumed with bitterness and resentment; after all, they've put out loads of swell music, and pretty much their only reward is the occasional positive blurb like this one. I Eat Robots I'm So Sad, on Boulder's sh-mow imprint, is filled with the combo's usual allotment of loopy, engaging madness. Particularly enjoyable are the jaunty "Yer a Genius" ("Yer mind is as clear as your skin, pimple face"), the mock lament "Goddamned Sex Change" ("Now the guy that ya miss and the girl that ya kiss are the same"), the self-explanatory "I Can Fuck" ("I'm a fine cook/I can drive a car/And also I can fuck") and the extraordinarily significant "Infinite Chick" ("If God is a woman, she must be pretty stupid"). In short, it's another wonderful Baldo disc. Buy it, already (available in area record stores).

Bleecker St. is no more, but before folding, this acoustic-blues outfit left behind a nice souvenir: a CD called Tumblin' Down. Produced by Charles Sawtelle, the offering contains a roughly equal number of originals and well-chosen covers from the catalogues of Bukka White, Muddy Waters and others. The two finest performances are conveniently placed back-to-back: Mississippi John Hurt's "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor," featuring a guest appearance by Taj Mahal, and Robert Johnson's "Dead Shrimp Blues" (available in area record stores). The folks behind Scrump tout the act as "Denver's new alternative sound," but the six-song cassette Who Says Ugly Isn't Fun?, on the Dragon Rox label, demonstrates that it's pretty much a straightforward rock band. The musicians manage a couple of decent tracks, including "Feminine Mystique" and "Fall Away," a mid-tempo chestnut with background vocals styled after the Rolling Stones. The rest is okay, but not exactly inspirational (contact Ken Wright, 4780 E. Jewell Avenue, Denver 80222).

Each Monday night/Tuesday morning at 12:30 a.m. starting on May 20/21, MusicLink (on KBDI-TV/Channel 12) will present a new flavor: BPM, a look at international dance videos and local shakers being produced in association with nightclub (america). The sub-show joins the original MusicLink and Punk TV, a previous spinoff that airs on Tuesday night/Wednesday mornings at the aforementioned time. So stay up late/get up early and check it out.

Look for an official announcement soon about what may be the biggest hip-hop show to come to Colorado in the Nineties: Cypress Hill, the Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Ziggy Marley and another band to be named later, appearing Tuesday, August 27, at Red Rocks. I could punctuate this notice with a term like "dope" or "fly," but I'm not feeling very stereotypical right now.

Sorry--I was only buggin'. On Friday, May 17, Chilean guitarist Oscar Lopez joins Green Linnett recording artist James Keelaghan at Swallow Hill Music Hall; Lynn Skinner previews her new CD, Interior Motives, at the Divine Science Church, 14th and Williams; Bad Religion gives a mass at the Paramount Theatre, with Unwritten Law; Epitaph labelmates Millencolin and Down by Law are arresting at the Aztlan Theater; Asylum Gallery, 4104 Tejon, hosts a "circus for the senses"; and the 'Vengers use "ska" as a verb at Soapy Smith's. On Saturday, May 18, Jason Bonham puts on a drum clinic at Rupp's Drums prior to an evening of Led Zeppelin-esque entertainment at the Buffalo Rose, and Soak gets wild while celebrating the release of its new, self-titled CD at Gate 12. On Sunday, May 19, lowercase has a capital idea at the Fox, with Unwound; the Pan Jumbies get steely at the Norwest CultureFest, on the Denver University campus; and the Judith Edelman Band, whose new album appears on Compass Records in June, brews at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Nederland. On Monday, May 20, Skin peels at the Fox. And on Wednesday, May 22, D.O.A. arrives dead at the Mercury, with Automatic 7; Tribal Folk pounds at Caffe Mars; and Dick Dale, the undisputed king of the surf guitar, shreds at the Bluebird. Take his advice: Be a Dick-head, not a ho-dad.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts @westword.com

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