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WEDNESDAY 12.4

Sassagrass -- It's a family tradition. This quaint, old-timey outfit out of Boone plays warm bluegrass born and raised right here in sunny North Carolina. There's a front porch family sing-a-long feel about it and the sound seems to blow down the foothills like a cool breeze on a sizzling summer day. When traditional music such as bluegrass is handed down generations, as with the members of Sassagrass, it sounds the sweetest. Mojo Restaurant & Spirits (Shukla)

FRIDAY 12.6

Guitar Shorty -- Shorty, aka David Kearny, is reputed to have influenced the mighty six string trailblazer Jimi Hendrix. He's a one time daredevil guitarist who's had on and off bouts with success since the 60s. History says this dude used to balance himself on his head or did flips while playing; the important thing now is he can still play some mean blues with bluster disavowing his weathered fingers. Double Door Inn (Shukla)

Houston Brothers / Avett Brothers -- No word if the brothers Karamazov will be in attendance, but no one needs their dysfunctional, long-winded asses anyway. Here is a show worth writing about, anyways: the morphine country of the Houston Brothers, working on a new record as we speak, and the harmonic convergence of the brothers Avett, whose barroom jangle is best described by a Neil Young record: ragged glory. The Steeple Lounge (Davis)

Larry Keel / Vassar Clements / Tony Rice -- Larry Keel's not Old and In The Way, but look for him to stay out of the way tonight, as bluegrass demigods Tony Rice and Vassar Clements accompany him for a rare show. Clements has fiddled with most everyone over the years, including Jerry Garcia. Rice is a guitar virtuoso of the first rank, and you know someone as ornery as him wouldn't sign on to playing with Keel if he didn't respect the young'un. Keel brings sort of a new school vibe to the music, which should make for an interesting contrast with his old school (hell, one-room schoolhouse) elders. Neighborhood Theatre (Davis)

SATURDAY 12.7

Angie Aparo -- Aparo has played the Queen City enough times by now that the many who like him have more than likely already made plans to go to the show. But here's an interesting fact that might get some new fans on the bandwagon: Aparo penned the title track on Faith Hill's latest release, Cry. And it's been said that the pop/country star basically left the song unchanged from its original version. Currently the tune is on both the country and adult contemporary charts. Amos' Southend (Lynn Farris)

Kristen Hall / Clare Fader & The Vaudevillains -- Atlanta based singer/songwriter Hall has that distinct smoke caressed voice that sounds heavy but is actually seasoned and confident in delivery. She's always been within reach of the top rungs of musical fame but the typical industry biz hassles have pushed her back. Nevertheless, she's got an armload of memorable recordings on several labels as well as a nice self-released live set. With Eva Gael. (Shukla) / Clare Fader and The Vaudevillains purvey cabaret unlike anyone else around (indeed, who else tries it?). Chock full of ukulele, gypsy guitar, upright bass, and accordion, Fader tops it all with a leering lyrical cherry that makes the whole concoction a treat. Look for a mixture of Fader's originals as well as a few obscure covers, including the odd Kinks number. Clare's recently gotten a few songs onto MTV's The Real World, perhaps providing a singular reason to watch that network, er, show. The Evening Muse (Davis)

The Nighthawks -- For 25 years, DC's legendary Nighthawks have performed... and performed... and performed. They often play 300-plus club dates per year, and their shows feature the band's own rocka-blues-soul-billy concoction which regulars still flock to like a 50-cent draft. Harpist Mark Wenner is still in charge, and while the lineup has changed around a bit (currently a four-piece, I'm told), the sound is as confident and uncategorizably catchy as it always was. Good stuff. Double Door Inn (Davis)

Todd Snider -- Disciple of John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker, Todd Snider's wry folk has developed quite a following recently. He got off to a bad start with me with his little ditty about grunge music some years back, but has since pulled his tongue out from his cheek a bit, and evidences some makings of a young Prine, at least in his keen powers of observation. Whether he attains his elders' gift for character sketching remains to be seen, but he's got plenty of years to get there. Bet on him to nab it before too long. Neighborhood Theatre (Davis)

MONDAY 12.9

The Casualties / The Forgotten -- Here's a definitive spiky haired show. Both of these bands literally eat, drink and live the punk rock ethos. The Casualties have been creating a ruckus since the early 90s and have littered the streets with numerous records, compilations and singles affecting a classic 80s punk sound. The Forgotten have been kicking around since '97 and tip their collective hats to the influence of Rancid, The Business and such. Tremont Music Hall (Shukla)

WEDNESDAY 12.11

Guns 'N' Roses -- Guns 'N' Roses! Guns 'N' (frickin) Roses. Man. Long time, huh? So Axl still hasn't put out the long-promised CD Chinese Democracy. He probably never will. We might even see actual Chinese democracy before the record comes out. And no Slash, either -- they replaced their top-hatted guitarist with one who wears a bucket on his head. Interesting, if nothing else. Oh, and Rose has the Replacements' Tommy Stinson playing with him, and Axl evidently thinks enough of him that he won't relent to Stinson reuniting with Paul Westerberg ('ol Axey might be the only guy who, by doing nothing for a decade, can cause controversy). Verdict: It might be a freakin' train wreck, but the carnage ought to be fascinating to watch. Bi-Lo Center, Greenville SC (Davis)

Mandorico -- The new disc, flamatam!, has hot reggae tunes that rear-end Latin tropical beats that sideswipe funky, itchy rock tunes and come around to do it all over again on the next tune. Where else would you find such blends of tropical sounds but from Mandorico? The new lineup still gets it right with horns, guitars, keys and an attitude of a fiesta. The new record is out on the forward thinking regional indie label A-Tone music. With Gruv Union, a hip-hop punk funk band that ought to start off the evening right. Amos' Southend (Shukla)

The Radiators -- New Orleans' Rads have been rocking the roots for almost 2 and 1/2 decades with the original lineup! Isn't that something like 75 years in dog years of rock and roll? Anyhow, they're swamp-rock, groovy hippie band and Crescent City R&B all rolled into one. Don't squint your eyes looking for trendy duds and flashy stage shows, just open your ears to hear how good rock is played, properly on the stage. Visulite Theatre (Shukla)

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