Regardless of your political leanings, Border Radio encourages readers to celebrate this 4th of July by doing something to support the USA—Heartbreak USA, that is. As we reported last week, local guitarist "Lonesome" Layne Freedle, who plays in both the Souvenirs and HBUSA, had to undergo some unforeseen, complicated surgery recently, and is now facing formidable medical bills. A fund has been established for donations to defray his expenses. Go to www.paypal.com, click the Send Money tab, and send your contribution to the e-mail address ms_libertty@cookiefactory.com (that is not a misprint—spell it with a double T).

Alas, Layne's protracted convalescence means that HBUSA may have to drop off the bill for the 4 O'Clock Rock Independence Day Hootenanny at the Sunset on Saturday, July 2, unless they can wrangle up a sub. (That's no excuse to miss it, though, since the stellar bill still includes Eddie Spaghetti and the Sauce, I Can Lick Any SOB in the House, and Merle Haggard tribute outfit Mama Tried.) Since Freedle will probably be laid up for "quite a little while," according to singer Sabrina RockArena (who folks may know from her punk ensemble, Cookie), the band plans to take a hiatus until he feels better. In the meantime, fans can sample tracks from their recent eight-song demo at www.heartbreakusa.com. "Black & Blue" is especially catchy, half come-on and half kiss-off—perfect for the passive-aggressive denizens of our fair town.

Speaking of rockers getting in touch with their country roots, former Bell frontwoman Vanessa Veselka—who now calls Portland home—drops by Hattie's Hat later on that same Saturday. Although this appearance is a solo show, fans should note that Veselka, along with Annika Forrest and Kaisa Bourgidu, has formed a new trio called the Red Rose Girls. Their eponymous debut CD (Empty Records) is a startlingly down-to-earth collection of Carter Family gems and other traditional ditties, showcasing lovely vocal harmonies and low-key arrangements. Hopefully the whole group will play a Seattle gig soon.

A couple years ago, if you said the words "sacred steel," people thought you were describing something used to slay dragons and demons. But thanks to the rise of Robert Randolph, even MTV viewers now recognize this distinctive form of gospel music, which emphasizes the haunting sound of steel guitars. Tuesday, July 5, the Tractor welcomes Rochester, NY, sacred steel ensemble Campbell Brothers. The septet (which also features soulful vocalist Denise Brown) is touring in support of Can You Feel It?, their stellar new album, produced by John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood. If you've never experienced this unusual genre live, this show offers a fantastic introduction.

Support The Stranger

Lastly, music lovers who consider the blues a uniquely American art form should swing by Highway 99 on Friday, July 1, or Saturday, July 2, and check out Jimi Hocking. This skinny white boy from Australia puts an infectious contemporary spin on the genre, earning him accolades aplenty... and not just Down Under: Earlier this year he won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. ■

kurt@thestranger.com