Artists bring music to ropin', ridin' days

In case today's rodeo parade with cowboys and -girls decked out in their fine-pressed finery atop gleaming horses equally dressed up didn't clue you in, this is rodeo week in Tucson. In addition to the competitions at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave., that have been ongoing since last weekend, catch Phoenix indie country artist Harry Luge on Friday as he provides the dance music for the fourth annual Cowgirls with Hearts Rodeo Dance at El Casino Ballroom.

• On Saturday, some of Tucson's finest Native American artists, including Grammy-nominated Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai and Apache and Zuni dance groups, will perform traditional and contemporary music and show their works at Arizona State Museum's annual Southwest Indian Art Fair. It's from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday on the museum's lawn on the University of Arizona campus, off North Park Avenue and East University Boulevard. Admission is $10, $7 for museum members. Kids 18 and younger and students are free.

• Also on Saturday, Tucson's own Redhouse Family Jazz Band performs at 7 p.m. at Abounding Grace Sanctuary, 2450 S. Kolb Road, north of East Golf Links Road. Tickets are $15 in advance at or $20 at the door.

• The Last Call Girls are leading a country dance at the Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. $5 at the door.

Cathalena E. Burch

Brooks heads Rodeo concert, first solo show in Tucson

Kix Brooks will perform his first solo show in Tucson on Saturday as he headlines the official Tucson Rodeo concert.

It's a chance to finally see Brooks in all his frenetic glory, bouncing about the stage with unbridled energy that was always the ying to longtime partner Ronnie Dunn's more laid-back yang.

"We did come from different places. It kind of added a little nervous energy and a lot of different influences," Brooks said during a phone call last week. "We had common ground, or it never would have worked. At the same time, I do have Louisiana roots and a lot of more kind of blues influence. And Ronnie is more of that Oklahoma-Texas, upright Texas kind of thing. It's a good blend."

Brooks & Dunn parted ways in 2009 and while Dunn quickly released his post-B&D debut album, Brooks laid back and surveyed the landscape.

He landed a radio gig hosting "American Country Countdown"and has been nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award for best national radio personality to add to the awards the show already has earned him.

Last fall, he launched a second radio show, " 'Kickin' It All Night With Kix," which airs overnights on more than 200 stations around the country.

There were a pair of movies - a small role on "Thriftstore Cowboy" and a bigger role in the Western "To Kill A Memory," both released last year.

Brooks also contributed to the soundtrack for "Memory," teaming up with honky-tonk country artist Randy Houser to write the outlaw ode "High in the Saddle" that opens the movie.

"I really dug in after that, sort of writing songs that went with the movie about revenge and redemption and just some cool outlaw songs," said Brooks, 57. "Things that were totally different from Brooks & Dunn or what you would hear on the radio in general."

The experience freed up his songwriting brain to pen his first post-B&D album, "New To This Town," released last fall.

"The album is a little swampy and it's a little party album, too."

It's a high-energy romp that begs to be played live.

"At this point I just didn't want to get too serious or self-absorbed or anything," Brooks explained. "I just wanted to go out with a great band, play the music and have a great time."

During his show Saturday, Brooks will pull heavily from the album. But he will also dip back into his B&D past. There are a few songs from those days that his fans expect to hear at his shows, including "You're Going To Miss Me."

"I've always had a lot fun on stage," Brooks said.

Florence music magnate to play cowgirls' dance

Harry Luge doesn't get to Tucson often.

Between running his family's Moonshine Willy's restaurant/night club/rodeo arena in Florence and doing gigs around the Phoenix area, the Queen Creek resident's plate is full - and that's not including the occasional side gig like the one last week for Nascar star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

On Friday, Luge will make a rare Tucson appearance headlining the fourth annual Cowgirls With Hearts Rodeo Dance at El Casino Ballroom. Proceeds from the event benefit Western Wishes, an organization that grants wishes to sick children.

"We're real excited," Luge said. "We love coming to Tucson and it's for a good cause."

Luge's music walks the fine line of honky-tonk and Southern rock with enough radio-friendly nods to make him a prime candidate for a Nashville career. But so far, that's eluded him beyond the tip-toes he's made into Music City over his 20-plus-year career, including cutting a couple indie CDs in Nashville.

"I would love to have a Nashville career," says Luge, who Tucson fans know primarily from his near yearly shows at Country Thunder in Florence since the festival started 20 years ago. "But it's a real tough business. We're just blessed to have a real strong base that supports us here in Arizona and to have that opportunity. I feel real blessed right now with everything that's going on."

The 36-year-old father of three added that he's inspired by such mentors as the late Chris LeDoux and Texas singer Neal McCoy, who both were latecomers to big-time careers.

"Neal McCoy was in his late 30s before he had his first record deal and he seemed to do pretty good," says Luge, who came to know both artists from his years at Country Thunder. "It's just keeping hungry and positive and enjoying it."

Luge is known for energetic live shows, getting the crowd on its feet for his neotraditional rocker "Ride Ride Ride" or the rocking, sassy "First Rodeo" among his growing catalogue of original songs.

"We try to perform a fair share of original material that I write. It's a fun, high-energy show. You might not know what you're going to expect," he said. "It's country music. It's Arizona music. It's a good time."

If you go

• What: Official Tucson Rodeo concert with Kix Brooks.

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Desert Diamond Casino's Diamond Entertainment Center, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road.

• Tickets: $35 to $55 through Bring your rodeo ticket stub to the box office and get two-for-one through Friday.

If you go

• What: Fourth annual Cowgirls with Hearts Rodeo Dance featuring Harry Luge.

• When: 8 p.m. Friday.

• Where: El Casino Ballroom, 437 E. 26th St.

• Cost: $8 in advance at Boot Barn, 6701 E. Broadway; 3719 N. Oracle Road; and 3776 S. 16th Ave. - $10 at the door. Proceeds benefit Western Wishes, which grants wishes to sick children.

• Details:

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter at Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter at