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The Love Me Nots, Blessedbethyname, Hacienda Brothers, Lori Bravo & The American Black Lung

It has just snowed in the Arizona desert. That's rare. Even rarer, I'm pretty sure I saw a Gila monster sitting in Starbucks drinking a hot cocoa, but that may just be the tequila talking. Anyway, we're not here to give a weather report. You already know that it's Hot in the City, 24/7/365, and here's why:

The Love Me Nots - In Black & White
(Atomic A Go Go)

Phoenix will not be able to keep this dynamic four-piece a secret for very much longer. Word is out that these cats are hot and they are about to embark on a national tour to support the release of In Black & White, a gem produced by Detroit studio wizard, Jim Diamond. Like he did with the White Stripes, Diamond has put just a touch of polish on the group's rawness, giving each cut a pop sparkle while still allowing a street-smart savvy to run the show. And what a show it is as lead singer Nicole Laurin smokes the keys of her Farfisa organ as she seduces a potential lover ("Move in Tight"), gets a bit possessive ("Mine"), enjoys the ride ("I Do") and ultimately says goodbye ("Broken"). With a voice not unlike that of Morningwood's Chantal Claret, Laurin has the perfect vehicle to convey the aura of lust that surrounds a nascent relationship and that excitement translates into the music 100%. The Love Me Nots also need to be commended for knowing just how much of a good thing to dole out at any given time---most of these tunes clock in at around the two-minute mark, leaving the listener in no way feeling shorted but in every way craving more. Laurin and bass player Christina Nunez wear go-go girl outfits while guitarist Michael Johnny Walker and drummer Jay Lien favor suits with skinny ties, all in black & white. The dress is a nod to the '60s garage-rock era that the band borrows heavily from---Link Wray, ? and the Mysterians, the Sonics, etc. The coordinated dress is also a subtle hint that this band is together; they are with nary a bad moment on this debut. This is one band not to be missed live when you have the chance; in the meantime check out their music at

Blessedbethyname - Phallus in Viscera
(self released)

With a title like Phallus in Viscera, you can easily figure out what this concept album is about. Or can you? The songwriting here is extremely visceral in the respect that the lyrics are deeply touching, far more than you may notice at first. Blessedbethyname play an interesting mix of heavy music that although not satanic in nature has a sort of Rosemary's Baby feel to it. The songs here are broken into five acts and the overall theme seems to be the mistrust that festers in any man/woman relationship, with side dishes of anger, guilt and hope for redemption. On some of the songs singer Eddie Kelly has his delivery buried under the music so you wouldn't necessarily know what he's singing about unless you're paying close attention, but on songs like the mostly acoustic "The Stillborn Whisper" his voice comes through clear and strong. The song drips with tragedy and proves Kelly to be a very strong lyricist. I would call this stuff progressive metal as despite the occasional screams and use of machine gun drums this five-piece likes to toy with the melody and throw in unexpected changes, a good deal of which come from the keyboard playing of Scott Swai. You'll hear influences ranging from Rob Zombie ("Festival") to Alice Cooper ("Harlots") to Nine Inch Nails ("Enslaved") but really Blessedbethyname beat their own path and this lengthy work gets better as it goes along. Whatever the story of Phallus in Viscera is in the band's mind, there is enough here for the listener to craft their own story, and that sort of mental participation makes this record a repeat-listen winner. These guys add to the fun with a bit of scary dress-up for their live show.

Hacienda Brothers - What's Wrong with Right
(Proper American)

Although the principals of Hacienda Brothers live in California, singer Chris Gaffney and guitarist Dave Gonzalez both have roots in Tucson and that is where this record was crafted. You can call this music soul with a taste of country or you can reverse that description---either way, Gaffney and his cohorts blend the two genres nicely. The band works in a Memphis soul vein for the opening song, "Midnight Dream" before moving on with "What's Wrong with Right," a weepy country tune that would not be out of place in George Jones' set list. Other songs that are done in the style of country greats include the Waylon Jennings-like "The Warning" and a steel guitar and walking-bass number that would fit Ray Price to a tee, "The Last Time." Gonzalez takes the mic for a cover of Charlie Rich's early hit, "Rebound," and the Brothers also handle two Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham covers; "Cry Like a Baby" and "It Tears Me Up." Penn is also on board here as a producer so it's no wonder that Gaffney's soulful croon sparkles throughout. Fans of the Derailers and early Mavericks should give Hacienda Brothers a try.

Lori Bravo - I'd Marry the Devil
(self released)

Bravo has a long history that includes a lengthy stint as the bass player with grind-core band Nuclear Death. Here she rips through ten cuts as singer and guitarist with her only accompaniment being a contribution of drums and percussion from Jessie Nelson. With that kind of line-up you may expect something along the lines of Jucifer, but really what you have is Bravo trying to find her own identity. The first few songs are fast and furious and done in a garage-rock style with the production intentionally left rough. Bravo has a strong voice that recalls the great Grace Slick and at times this music sounds like Jefferson Airplane careening down the runway with no landing gear. Discordant sounds echo the lyrical subject matter but amongst the cacophony you can hear hints of surf ("Snow White") and delicate eastern flavoring ("Welcome to the Family"). This is a pretty good effort for a D.I.Y. project but clearly Bravo and her fans would benefit if she makes her next record in a studio.

The American Black Lung - …And They Rode Their Weapons into War
(Burning House)

This Tucson-based quintet has toiled away on the Warped Tour and at first listen they could be pegged as a typical emo-screamo band. That description, however, is way off base. True, the lads cover a lot of familiar territory lyrically---but musically they are a fireball, thanks in part to the non-stop guitar assault of Johny Detroit and Easy E. The pair keeps the energy level in the red throughout and they exercise great restraint in the arrangements---you can tell they'd love to take off on some long solos but things are kept crisp and concise---a flurry of pesky jabs hit the mark better than one haymaker. With the twin axes setting the stage, singer Patrick T. puts on a vocal clinic that shows a range from the scream to, believe it or not, Springsteen! Most of the vocals lie somewhere in between and every word is delivered with urgency. These guys have something special and if they continue to land spots on big tours they should be well on their way to stardom.

Well that's it for this edition of Hot in the City. Well, that's almost it. Like snarling, guitar-oriented rock'n'roll? I thought so! Check out one of our current favorites, a hot young Phoenix four-piece called the White Demons. You can listen to and download several of their tunes from their MySpace page at Careful you don't scorch your speakers! Till next time, keep sweatin'!
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