"I dedicate this song to you/For all the desperate things you made me do/I'd like to beat you black and blue/For all the agony you have put me through." -The Magnetic Fields, "The Desperate Things You Made Me Do"

Desperation, not necessity, is the mother of invention. Witness John Waters's 1977 cinema trash classic, Desperate Living, and the jaw-dropping popularity of Desperate Housewives. The late Kirsty MacColl-whose career is anthologized on a new, triple-disc box set, From Croydon to Cuba-dubbed her 1984 debut Desperate Character. And Seattle's own Christy McWilson? She's got plenty to get off her chest with Desperate Girl, her as-yet-unreleased new album.

McWilson's third solo release, produced by Kurt Bloch (the Fastbacks, Sgt. Major), was recorded last year during her separation from longtime husband Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5). "We already had the studio time booked, but coincidentally, the first day of recording was the day Scott left home," she reveals. "It was the most intense situation. I was miserable, the band was pissed. But Kurt took advantage of that. He utilized the pain and rage in the room while recording us, and it shows up [in the music]."

Fans of this Emerald City vet-she started out in the mid-'80s with girl group send-up Dynette Set, then led honky-tonk rockabilly act the Picketts throughout the '90s-can sample these new songs when McWilson plays a two-night stand at the Tractor this weekend, Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4. Both shows will feature an opening performance by her current band, Cross-Tie Walkers, as well as a full Picketts set.

Have the Picketts, who bravely soldiered through the grunge era-when most folks thought Country Music = Garth Brooks-only to dissolve at the turn of the 21st century, officially reformed? Yes, say McWilson. "The Picketts have consistently done a one-night-only reunion show once a year, but now we're learning new songs, too." And they have more gigs lined up later this summer. Writing and playing in two bands while raising an adolescent daughter sounds like a handful, but the affable McWilson says pulling double-duty helped her get back on track during an extremely stressful period. "The only thing that saves me is writing and playing music," she says, "so I'm just doing as much as I can right now."

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On a lighter note: Border Radio is thrilled to have uncovered the identity of the mysterious street busking ensemble we gushed about two weeks ago [May 19]. "Our band is called Below the Salt," writes saw player Molly McIntosh via e-mail. The quintet-which also features guitar, accordion, harmonica, banjo, fiddle, and upright bass-have just completed a CD (available at their shows), and are touring the West Coast in July. And if you're in the market for some custom taxidermy, please drop by the Shop on East Pine Street and Summit Avenue, and take a gander at Molly's wares. "It's hard to get people into such an unpleasant art," she admits, "but I like it." ■

kurt@thestranger.com

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