Big sounds in this intelligent, intentionally bumpy ride

By Chris Cooper

A rather popular band was recently branded with the criticism of being “a small band trying to sound big.” It’s an interesting idea, because in a different context (and in regards to a different band), it could easily be taken as praise.

An eclectic night at Guadalupe Café

By Chris Cooper

There’s an age-old argument that rears up whenever there are multiple acts on the roster for a show: who goes first? Nobody wants to go first. It’s like being “volunteered” for the chore everybody else skillfully avoided. So what to do when you find your group in this somewhat unenviable position?

Soul Infusion’s fifth

By Chris Cooper

Late Friday night, after the festivities died down and the crickets had begun a serenade for the wee hours, I asked Jason and Karin Kimenker to imagine what they might say 40 years from now about their experience as proprietors of Soul Infusion Tea House. Jason waxed poetic about the whole thing; describing the reciprocal nature of giving and receiving he’s learned from a community he’s grown to love. Karin said she’d just laugh.

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.

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