Tucson is a place of dust and red squatty rocks and ancient cacti and retirees playing golf and a desert heat in the summer so intense that buying a tank of gas becomes a spiritual experience. Tucson is also home to a small artsy rock scene. Marianne Dissard documented some of that in a 1994 film that she produced, wrote, and shot called Drunken Bees. The documentary has the queasy feel of a Jim Jarmusch film and features, among others, the Tucson-based masterminds of the band Calexico, John Convertino and Joey Burns. After careers as a filmmaker and a lyricist, Dissard too became a member of the high-desert music community earlier this year when she released her first CD.
“It didn’t start from a business point of view, that’s for sure,” she says from her Tucson home. “It started from a friendship with Joey [Burns]. All of a sudden at 36 [Dissard is 39 now], Joey says, ‘Do you wanna record an album’?”
Born in France, Dissard’s family moved to the U.S. when she was 16. Until her friendly involvement with Calexico, she had not considered a career in music. Burns nurtured a winsome vocal performance from her. She’s got a sexy, husky whisper of a voice, and it is rock-steady the entire CD through. Although she sings entirely in French, the music she has created with Burns reminds me of a time that has been all but erased from my memory, something like ’70s import movie music. It is delightfully noncommercial and full of risks. Some of the songs are cloaked in irony, while others get the full-blood pump of a Hammond B3 organ. On European tours, Dissard says she travels light, but here in the U.S. she rolls as a five-piece with a drummer, twin guitars, and a violinist. Dissard says she plays the musical saw, “but not on this tour.”
MARIANNE DISSARD: Bar Pink, Friday, May 8, 10 p.m. 619-564-7194.