It seems that in the realm of jam-oriented “newgrass” music, there are very clear lines between the things that work and those things that don’t.

Extended improvisations are fine, but they have to be grounded in actual songs, not mere canvases on which to scribble aimlessly. It’s great to have a variety of instruments at your disposal, but not as a novelty — that banjo player had better be able to flat-out pick. The same goes for anybody holding a mandolin, Dobro or violin.

By Chris Cooper

For all practical purposes, the County bluegrass label is also the Rebel Records label. CD’s bearing the County brand are typically (though not always) early bluegrass and old-time gems that have been saved from the clutches of obscurity, such as last year’s Curly Seckler collection That Old Book Of Mine.

By Chris Cooper

OK, the title of this one is a bit misleading, seeing as how Eric Johnson’s appearance at Asheville’s Orange Peel technically hasn’t happened yet.

And since I was never able to get my hands on one of those time-traveling silver DeLoreans from the Michael J. Fox movies, I can’t say that I’ve already seen what I’m sure will be a tremendous and inspiring show ... but it sure would be cool if I could.

By Chris Cooper

Here are a few things about “modern” rock and pop that I’ve found interesting (in a morbid curiosity kind of way) or just plain depressing recently. Maybe I’ve too much time on my hands. Maybe some of this will actually make sense. Who knows? Read, then discuss amongst yourselves.

By Chris Cooper

Man, I don’t want to start off with the whole “He’s done it again!” thing. You know, the kind of review where the author is obviously a fan of the artist already, and can do nothing but toss out glowing praise for every note, every beat, every letter of the liner notes. I so don’t want to come off as “that guy.”

By Chris Cooper

It’s pretty rough going for the characters in Chris Knight’s songwriting.

There’s booze, violence and regret lurking around every corner. There are sad folks using other sad people to make themselves feel better, families losing their farms, and the loneliness and stillness that come with loss. But they still manage to party at the local juke joint, look back on better days, and keep an eye out for a glimmer of hope here and there.

By Chris Cooper

Kate Campbell’s roots in southern storytelling and musical tradition run deep. Her earlier albums, specifically Songs From The Levee and Moonpie Dreams bridged the gaps between folk, country and pop in a manner not unlike Mary Chapin Carpenter’s mid-90’s work.

Canvas stretchers

Yes, this is another of those pesky “music you may want to check out” articles. The “canvas stretcher” opening refers to a few artists that, in my opinion, took a relatively comfortable, recognizable form of music (the canvas, if you will) and pushed it (stretched) somewhere a bit further outside the standard boundaries.

By Chris Cooper

Hold one of your hands up, left or right, whichever you prefer. With your palm facing outward, curl your middle and ring fingers, as well as your thumb, into the palm of your hand, leaving the index and pinky fully extended. You are now making the universal “metal’ sign, similar to the Vulcan “live long and prosper” sign. You may use this particular gesture either in lieu of (or as a precursor to) clapping after a song. If you wish, it can be used to indicate the “metallitude” of someone or something, as well.

Instant Sociology

Ever had one of those days where nobody, I mean nobody, made much sense? Baffling behaviors everywhere? Here’s my solution: research!

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