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Mike Strauss 

This dude is unbelievable. Not only is he an amazing songwriter -- a warm, gritty, lyrical storyteller -- but he's also amazingly modest. We'd add "Nicest Musician" to next year's Best of Charlotte, but Mr. Mike would win it every year as long as he lives here, therefore rendering it kinda meaningless. Last year, Strauss' debut CD, Gone Electric, seemed to have dropped right down from heaven, its smoky, melancholy, low-key, garage-folk vibe recalling early Dire Straits -- had those limeys grown up in Romney, WV, like Mike did. His latest disc, How in the World?, is quieter and more acoustic-based than the first one, but its 10 tracks are equally strong. Wanna know just how nice this guy is? Check out this impressive list of local roots musicians who've sat in on his recording sessions: songwriters David Childers, Michael Reno Harrell and Gigi Dover; sweet, pensive vocalists the Near Misses; instrumentalists Eric Lovell and Evening Muse honcho Joe Kuhlmann. You can catch of a handful of those folks at the Muse on Saturday when Mr. Mike celebrates How in the World?'s release. In the meantime, we bet you're itchin' to know what five things are rockin' his world these days:

1. "That's My Thing," by Elvin Bishop. "I went to see him perform at Charlotte Shout and picked up his new CD, Getting My Groove Back. I love this song and can't stop listening to it over and over again at high volume."

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm. "I don't have HBO, but I rented the DVDs of this show and couldn't believe what I'd been missing. Funny stuff."

3. WSGE 91.7 FM. "I like this radio station. I like that I can hear so many members of the region's strong musical community being played on a regular basis."

4. Browsing record stores. "I'm pretty sure if you showed my picture to the folks at any place that sells CDs, they'd say, 'Oh, that guy. He comes in here all the time, stays for hours and rarely buys anything.'"

5. Wickles. "A wickedly delicious pickle. Just like it says on the jar."

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