Trischka doubles the pleasure with modern banjo greats

By Chris Cooper

It hardly needs to be said that the banjo has taken major leaps in the hands of certain talented players over the years. It’s job as the “rhythmic glue” in traditional bluegrass continues, but has also evolved and found a unique voice in the more complex harmonies of jazz, “newgrass,” and all points in between. And the award winning playing of Tony Trischka has been a major force in taking the instrument to these new places for some 40 years or so.

Krauss and Plant deliver no less than expected

By Chris Cooper

It’s not such an odd pairing when you think about it; two voices as recognizable as these, weaving and twisting around each other, using their considerable interpretive skills on a set of songs written by the likes of Tom Waits, the Everly Brothers, Sam Phillips and Townes Van Zandt. Plant’s music, either with the band that made him part of rock’s pantheon or on his solo efforts, has often been sprinkled with early blues, 50’s rockabilly, world music and the pastoral shades that bluegrass’s traditional instrumentation (acoustic guitars, mandolin and banjo played by band mates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones) can provide.

Ever-evolving, always surprising

By Chris Cooper

Mountain Heart released a fantastic album last year with Wide Open, demonstrating a remarkable ability to make modern, crossover friendly bluegrass without sacrificing one bit of musicality and soul.

Island music in the mountains: Western Carolina University’s gamelan orchestra helps share the music of Malaysian culture

By Michael Beadle

A few days before Halloween, strange sounds were coming from room 451 in the Coulter Building on the campus of Western Carolina University.

Halloween Ramblings, 2007

There’s a connection between being a musician and Halloween that goes beyond the obvious skulls/pumpkins/fake blood/heavy metal stereotype, at least for me. It’s a holiday where you can be as nutty as you want; roll yourself in tinfoil and carry a samurai sword around all day? Great! I had some friends in Charlotte that decided to make themselves into “human fruit baskets” one year. Let’s just say that the costume involved a huge amount of Saran wrap, some strategically placed apples and bananas, and nothing more. Eeek.

Sharon Jones conjures up the heart of soul

By Chris Cooper

Sharon Jones and her amazing band of funk/soul revivalists were responsible for one of the happiest musical misunderstandings I’ve ever experienced. Having seen her previous CD filed in the blues section of the local record shop, with its wholly authentic late 60’s packaging style, grainy, off center cover photo and altogether goofy back cover notes (including a visual diagram to help you learn the latest dance move that’s ‘taking the nation by storm,’ the Dap Dip) I could do nothing but feel safe in the assumption that it was a reissue of some obscure soul gem from back in the day.

Ex Tempore: Impromptu excellence

By Chris Cooper

I first heard Johnny Irion years ago at a little venue in Charlotte. He was performing with his then quite pregnant wife Sarah Lee Guthrie, and the two of them exemplified everything that’s good about smart, latter day country/rock songwriting. With a collective family tree that includes names like Steinbeck and, well, Guthrie for Pete’s sake, that’s not really a surprise.

Happy to be here: David Holt headlines Oct. 14 Bridge Park Project fundraiser

By Chris Cooper

David Holt is a happy guy. In a recent phone (cell phone, no less) conversation as he strolled down the streets of San Francisco, he let me know one of the reasons why. “I just played the biggest show I’ve ever played,” he said. Accompanying that living, breathing piece of bluegrass history that’s known as Doc Watson, the previous afternoon found Holt playing the Golden Gate Park festival for, oh, about 100,000 music lovers. Which kind of beat me to the whole “favorite moments in your career” question I’d planned to ask later.

Hoss: clawing their way to the top

Bands just have to stick with it. Whether on the grand scale of being a signed, touring group or one whose “tour” constitutes a weekend long stand at the two or three bars populating the local main drag, giving in to the many pitfalls lying in wait just can’t be an option.

Blessed, demented genius

By Chris Cooper

The picture you see when you flip open the new Moolah Temple Stringband CD shows singer/guitarist/found-sound alchemist Jonathan Wertheim whacking some hapless little synthesizer to bits with a mallet. That’s almost all that needs to be said if you’re familiar with the kind of sonic de-(re?)construction he and Ian Moore have pursued since the days of Smoky Mountain Drum’n Bass, the project from which Moolah Temple was born.

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