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Singer-songwriter Bradford Robinson receives help from some famous friends on his CD, It's Ironic...But So Is This: Sara Hickman croons in the background on the title track, and Boyd Tinsley, of the Dave Matthews Band, fiddles on "Stray From Suit." The latter has that rolling beat with which Matthews is associated, and "Please Bring Me My Wine" rocks in a manner of speaking, but many of the other compositions are hushed, overtly sensitive airs that make David Wilcox seem like Shecky Green by comparison. (Sample lyric from "Yesterday's Door": "Too many doors and only one key/All of the rest are for others, not me.") The playing, singing and production techniques on the disc are thoroughly accomplished, but there's not a lot on Ironic to differentiate Robinson from the pack (5795 East Hinsdale Place, Englewood 80112-1502). The title of Frank Mortality's CD--Raw Sweat--creates certain expectations that the music does not quite reward. "Downside" has a synthesized dance beat, but it's too bland to do its work--and Mortality's tentative singing and fairly uninspired words ("So you're being quite nasty and just devouring/Like scratching and grabbing and getting some action") don't help matters much. "Picture for Plus" and "Baby Dream" suffer from similar weaknesses, while "The Industrial Difference" is an array of purposeless racket. How modern (7081 Canosa Court, Westminster 80030).

Jimi D'Andrea, who fronts Hank & the Hankstirs, spent some of his fifteen minutes of fame earlier this year when he was chosen as one of the winners in a Paul Shaffer look-alike contest and appeared on Late Night With David Letterman. He's looking to win more spotlight time with a new EP titled Hank & the Hankstirs: Vol. 1, but the four songs he offers up are not grabby enough to turn the world on its ear. "Turn Back the Clock," "The Proof's in the Pudding," "I'm Fallin" and "One Bad Apple" are sincere in a Dylan-esque sort of way, but they're fairly interchangeable and a bit dull. A little more variety next time would be welcome (234-9788). The blues icon named Robert Johnson has been dead for more than half a century, but the Robert Johnson whom Denver audiences have known as a member of the 17th Avenue All-Stars is alive and well, and his latest album, Richard the Third, finds him sounding stronger than ever. He's capable of getting funky/soulful, as he demonstrates on "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and "Brother John," but his forte is the insistent, pleading tone he uses on "Save Me." The unadorned musical settings on the disc keep the focus firmly on Johnson, and he does not disappoint. He possesses a formidable pair of lungs, and Third gives him a chance to use them (available in area record stores).

If you haven't done so already, be sure and fill out the Westword Music Awards Showcase ballot on page 114 of this issue. It's not just a right; it's a responsibility. And be sure to look for the Showcase guide in next week's edition. Featuring profiles of all 65 nominees, it will be the year's most extensive, most up-to-date look at the wide range of Colorado music--if I have anything to say about it.

Folks into a road trip might consider heading to Colorado Springs for the Southern Colorado Roots & Culture Festival on Sunday, September 14. Judge Roughneck is part of a bill that also includes California's Amandla Poets and the Tejano sound of Los Jalapenos. Camping is available for the daylong event; call 719-549-2414 for more details.

A note: The Friday, September 12, show at the Acoma Center that features Venus Diablo (see page 86) serves as an album-release party for the Czars. Their debut CD is titled The La Brea Tar Pits of Routine. It's Paleolithic!

Between rock and a hard place. On Thursday, September 11, Bile Geyser spews at the 15th Street Tavern, with Hell's Half Acre, and Dirty Pool is cleaned at Cricket on the Hill. On Friday, September 12, the eternal Sugar Hill Gang provides a rapper's delight at the Fox Theatre; Willie Nelson entertains for the benefit of KBDI-TV/Channel 12 at the Auditorium Theater; the Rok Tots, the La Donnas and the Emirs are as subtle as a flying mallet at Area 39; Laughing Hands shake at the Dickens Theatre, 300 Main St. in Longmont; Logical Nonsense uses its noggin at CU-Boulder's Club 156; and Scotland's Old Blind Dogs have a devil of a time finding the Bluebird Theater. On Saturday, September 13, Pete Wernick's Live Five displays plenty of pluck at Cameron Church, 1600 South Pearl; the Baggs Patrick Band opens up for Blind Dog Smokin' at the Cricket; Acrobat Down and the Blast-Off Heads perform for free at the 15th Street Tavern in honor of their new split seven-inch; and Swine wallows at Seven South, with Mutant Sadface. On Sunday, September 14, Flowers of Aphrodite bloom at Boulder's Chautauqua Community House in honor of the group's new CD, Grace. On Monday, September 15, Tony Rice leaves you hungry for more at the Boulder Theater, with Norman Blake. On Monday, September 15, Modest Mouse squeaks at the Bluebird, with Red Star Theory, and Sub Pop signee Damien Jurado slinks into the Lion's Lair. And on Tuesday, September 16, Ten Foot Pole will touch you at the Ogden Theatre, with Guttermouth; Auntie Christ, led by once-and-future X woman Exene Cervenka, headlines at the Mercury Cafe; and Brand New Unit shows itself off at Area 39, with Casualties and John Cougar Concentration Camp. Sounds like a good place for him.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com

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