Sheik’s musical soup takes swings with brutal honesty

By Chris Cooper

Duncan Sheik demonstrates a sort of understated brilliance that’s almost alarming when you hear it. Ballads slip from majestic to broken at the turn of a phrase. Grit and political outrage collide with hypnotic guitar and carefully arranged strings. The list of enthusiastic descriptions could just go on and on.

A well-crafted, if not adventurous, electronic trip

By Chris Cooper

The brainchild of programmers Robert Smith (no, not the guy from the Cure) and Bill Walters, Blue Stone produces evocative, dreamy textures that skate between subtlety and head-spinning surprise. Taking cues from Enigma, Tangerine Dream and maybe some Enya and Sarah Brightman, Breathe goes for the dreamy soundtrack feel and manages to bring some world influences to the mix.

Boggs represents country music’s greatest hope

Though it’s become a standard target for critical blasting, not all of modern country music is bad.

Keith Urban turned in a rousing performance at the Grammy awards, Emmylou Harris really can do no wrong, and the same can be said about Lucinda Williams and Eric Brace of Last Train Home. Maybe I’m stretching the boundaries of “country” to include Americana and the more rocking side of twang, but you get my drift. And, not so surprisingly, most of the really good stuff is traveling safely below the CMT/international superstardom radar.

New talent and old influences enter jam genre

By Chris Cooper

Approaching the “jam band” thing from some very different angles, Umphrey’s McGee manage to bring shades of vintage Yes, Peter Gabriel and Rush to the mix in lieu of the usual suspects (Grateful Dead, Phish, Allman Bros.) They also write some great tunes, possess formidable chops and still sound like they’re having fun.

Hayseed’s latest falls flat on its grass

Some jokes are really, really funny. Some even get better with age, as if their repeated telling somehow increases the comic potency. Then again, some jokes just get beaten into the ground, weren’t that funny to begin with, or suffer in the hands of incompetent would-be comedians.

A little frisky — much better than fair

By Chris Cooper

It’s harder than you would think to write a song. As a musician, it is tempting to reject anything that sounds traditional or just throws together a bunch of fancy chords. And melody — that which makes a song what it is, moves a tune the way it needs to, and feel like it should — often falls subject to sacrifice.

A mysterious masterpiece

By Chris Cooper

Beautiful and alarmingly odd, Andrew Bird makes music that ambles pretty far outside description or categorization. “Chamber pop” perhaps? And what the heck is he talking about half the time? How did he find so many things that rhyme with formaldehyde in the song “Fake Palindromes”?

The sounds of Jackson County: Landmark collection of local performers bands together for Jackson County library fundraising event

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Backstage at Western Carolina University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center, the rehearsal room buzzed with activity as musicians tuned guitars, rosined their bows and warmed up their voices in preparation for last Tuesday’s (Jan. 10) Sounds of Jackson County concert.

The Sounds and the stories

By Michael Beadle

In gathering the performers who would help make the Sounds of Jackson County a reality, organizers invited 40 different local musical groups to donate their time and talents to record an album and play a concert that would serve as a fund-raising event for the construction of a new Jackson County library.

Ordinary World: twisted, welcome catharsis

By Chris Cooper

When the bio sheet for a band arrives with the greeting “Dear Pop Revivalists,” I feel a mixture of curiosity and dread. Good pop or bad pop? Classic pop, schlock pop, punk pop (ugh) or what? For Pete’s sake, Beethoven was the “pop” music of his era; so exactly what kind of pop am I reviving here?

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