Roman Candle’s ‘Wee Hours’ aims for a place in the heart

By Chris Cooper

The best rock album of the year is about to be released. No kidding.

My first encounter with Roman Candle was sometime in 2002. I was slinging beer in a little venue in Charlotte, and the band I was playing with was offered a slot opening for these guys. Of course there was a scheduling conflict, the opening gig fell through, and I wound up bartending the show.

Sweet vinegar sounds

By Chris Cooper

Claiming influences as far apart stylistically as Iron Maiden and Ravi Shankar, Mother Vinegar lean further toward the rocking side of the jam ethic than the majority of their tie-dyed brethren. Off kilter lyrics (understatement?) and a blatant disregard for genre boundaries are the name of the game for these guys, and thankfully their overall instrumental prowess allows them to play musical hopscotch with a minimum of skinned knees.

A gem from Charlotte’s crown

By Chris Cooper

Some songwriters have the gift of saying volumes with very little. They don’t need to spell it out, plaster it with tinsel and candy, and do a little dance to get your attention — it’s as if they really don’t even have to try. It’s a few bars into “Here Tomorrow, Gone Today” that you get the idea that Mike Strauss just may be one of these artists, painting with just a few colors, but always the right ones.

An encore for mama

By Joanne Meyer • Guest Columnist

A soft, spring breeze wafted through the open window, sending a sheer, cafe curtain dancing across the strings of a mandolin leaning upright against the back of a chair. The sound the instrument produced had a startling but enchanting allure. It spoke to me in a voice I had not heard in a long time.

Crafty, curious Codetalkers

By Chris Cooper

To say that Col. Bruce Hampton has carved a colorful swath through the music industry is likely an understatement of considerable proportions. Tossing equal parts Zappa-inspired lunacy, gritty Southern rock, spoken word rants from Mars, gospel, funk, jazz and blues into nearly every recording, Hampton has achieved an instantly recognizable sound in spite of all his stylistic schizophrenia.

IN Review

By Chris Cooper

The Wilders: Throw Down

Reading about bandleader Ike Sheldon’s love/hate relationship with old-time music is almost as entertaining as listening to The Wilders’ latest, Throw Down. That somebody could be such a natural talent in this style and spend so many years avoiding it is pretty darn funny when you think about it.

Child’s Play: Swain youth is champion picker

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

At age 12, Seth Taylor is a quiet, tanned, tow-headed boy. He seems well mannered, intelligent, and at ease, his lanky frame leaned back in a folding chair. However, he’s unprepared to answer questions about what drove him to begin a career in music — one that’s already led to numerous awards, two album releases, and a chance to open for Charlie Daniels.

Five CDs that deserve a spin

I’m going to take a brief detour from the regular album/show review format and present five CDs that I feel are worth seeking out. The idea started out as a “top 5” of the last year, but apparently I got a little sidetracked. Thus, it evolved into what you’re reading now: a roundup of underappreciated aural gems from the past, well, decade or so.


Synthesized production undermines Chapman’s talent

By Chris Cooper

There’s this thing that can happen when you research an artist for a review. I’m not sure what the technical term for it is, but it goes something like this: you find that many people (usually well respected peers, in this case Rodney Crowell or Todd Snider) have incredibly good things to say about the artist and their latest album.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Powerhouse blues prodigy leaves WCU’s Ramsey Center in his wake

First, an admission: I didn’t get to talk to Kenny Wayne Shepherd at all. No interview or anything.

Kind of a bummer, because it means I couldn’t ask him how it feels to look back on a performing and recording career that began while he was still in his mid-teens. His debut, 1997’s Ledbetter Heights, went certified platinum, and both Trouble Is ... and Live On earned Grammy nominations in 1999.

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