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On "From the Same Fire," the opening track of the CD Welcome Home, singer-songwriter Rebecca Folsom sounds as straight-backed and earnest as Joan Baez. However, that's followed immediately by "Pretty Song," a bluesy effort in which Folsom's voice sounds so different (rougher, more persuasive) that it's hard to believe she sang both tunes. The rest of the long-player seesaws between these extremes, with "Welcome Home," "Rose in the Water" and "Every Junkie" utilizing the former style, and "Will of a Woman," "Don't You Worry" and "Woman's Truth" embracing the latter. To these ears, the aggressive Folsom is the better one, but the instrumental backing throughout is first-rate. You'll probably like half of this--but only you can decide which half (Sunshine Productions, 5657 Sunshine Canyon, Boulder, CO 80302). The Donny Scott Group's latest four-song demo finds the band in familiar territory. Despite its moniker, "Zydeco Zebra" is energetic blues rock, as is a cover of Tab Benoit's "Downtown," and although "Holding Out" and "Want Too Much" turn down the heat a notch or two, they don't venture too far into other genres. The offerings are competently played but not exactly brimming with surprises. For fans of the same old thing only (contact Arlene Hattori, 12143 Melody Dr., #303, Westminster, CO 80234).

The Swallow Hill Music Association presents its seventh annual Folkathon this week. On Friday, July 24, a Folkathon '98 kick-off concert at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl, features the Heavenly Echoes, Mollie O'Brien, Rich Moore, Colcannon and other special guests. The following day, the event begins in earnest, with a wide variety of artists filling two stages and three tents on and around the Music Hall grounds (at 1905 S. Pearl) starting at 10 a.m. and continuing into the early evening. The bill includes John Magnie, Celeste Krenz, Chris Daniels and the Kings, Roz Brown and a full slate of children's entertainers. Call 777-1003 for ticket information and a complete rundown of activities.

And now, as a special bonus, two more items about recordings with local ties. Eric Richter, late of Christie Front Drive, is now based in New York, but he's making a return visit to Colorado on Friday, July 25, at Double Entendre Records, 120 Broadway, in the company of his latest group, Antarctica. No doubt the combo will be selling its new, self-titled EP, recently issued by Phila-delphia's File 13 imprint. The three songs on the disc--"Drown the Days," "Full Crescent Crusade" and "Closetful of Churches"--are moody dreams/drones that build to dramatic climaxes with the assistance of echoey vocals and crashing guitars. You'd be well-advised to pick up one for your very own. Call 744-9314 for more details. Also of note is Full Tank, Vol. 1, a wild compilation of independent alt-country acts from across the nation that features two of Denver's finest, the Foggy Mountain Fuckers and Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The Fuckers check in with "Always Country," a jaunty, tongue-in-cheek ditty that finds the players asking for "a Bible and a good-hearted woman," while Slim and company offer up "That's Why I'm Unhappy," perhaps the most joyful tribute to misery ever recorded. To get a copy of the CD, contact Jackass Records, P.O. Box 30488, Santa Barbara, CA 93130.

Finally, Jessie L. Wise recently sent quite an interesting letter my way. It begins, "I am a musician currently sentenced to death, and I recently completed a ten-work tape of alternative (soft) jazz under the pseudonym 'WiseGuy' for a fallen brother musician who was executed a couple of years ago. I would like to offer this music as a 'collector's' gift for a donation of $10 or more to my legal defense fund." If that sounds like your brand of easy listening, write to Jessie L. Wise CP86 5A32, Potosi Correctional Center, Route 2, Box 2222, Mineral Point, MO 63660.

But please don't marry him, all right? I'm not trying to play matchmaker here. On Thursday, July 23, the Hot Tomatoes stew at the Mercury Cafe. On Friday, July 24, Yo, Flaco! celebrates the release of its self-titled debut disc at Herman's Hideaway, and Youth Brigade, Pinhead Circus and Four Letter Word tear up the Raven. On Saturday, July 25, Wailer B & Axiom stage a funky reggae party at the Moon Time in Nederland; Dressy Bessy, profiled in these pages last week, joins the Apples and the Push Kings at the 15th Street Tavern; American Horse, featuring former members of Jackopierce, gallops at the Fox Theatre; Cindy Williams drops by the Vartan Jazz Club; Opie Gone Bad and Sherri Jackson team up at the Bluebird Theater; and Grandma's Area 39 hosts the semi-finals of its battle-of-the-bands contest. On Sunday, July 26, Senegal native Baaba Maal plays selections from his just-released (and extremely enjoyable) album, Nomad Soul, at the Boulder Theater for an E-Town that co-stars Skatalites founder Ernest Ranglin and the aforementioned Mollie O'Brien (Maal also appears the previous evening at the Fox). On Monday, July 27, Assorted Jelly Beans are on display at the Snake Pit. And on Wednesday, July 29, bluesman W.C. Clark bars none at Brendan's. Clark bars--get it? If so, please accept my apology.

--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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