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.

Howle’s character, craftsmanship shines through no matter the genre

By Chris Cooper

I’ve seen Danielle Howle completely abandon the stage and microphone in the middle of a song and wander through the audience while singing, beating on the tables and bar counter as her only accompaniment.

Stillwell earns fans the hard way

By Chris Cooper

What do the words “music career” mean to you? For many it’s big fancy studios, nice cars and whopping cash advances from a record label. Maybe a house in Malibu with a gold plated toilet. Worldwide superstardom and scads of shiny awards? Yeah, right.

Solid country from outside the Nashville machine

By Chris Cooper

The name Radney Foster takes me back to the earlier days of home satellite dishes and music television. It was still a novelty to have access to so many things to watch, and in an effort not to be totally biased musically, I perused the music channels regardless of “stylistic format.”

Tea Leaf Green’s mixed bag contains a few nuggets for jam band disciples

By Chris Cooper

It’s tricky when you find the word “hype” used repeatedly in the glowing fan reviews of a band, as in: “living up to the hype” or “easily surpassing the hype” and so forth.

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.

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