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Hard Times Family - The solo project of Lou Ford's Chad Edwards, Hard Times Family (the name comes from the annual Fourth of July celebration put on by Edwards and his Ford band mates) paints from a larger sonic palette than the Lous ever did, often adding fiddle and pedal steel to their country-honk jangle. Edwards didn't do as much of the songwriting in Lou Ford (brother Alan often took the lead), but his new Family is proof that one band (and one family) can produce two songwriters worthy of large-scale recognition. With Drag the River & The Canyoneros. Milestone (Davis)

Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell - It's about time that two of North Carolina's top-notch roots singer/songwriters have joined forces. The result of Cary and Cockrell's collaboration is the new album Begonias, a collection of original songs that hark back to classic country duets. See lead story in music section for more details. Visulite (Shukla)

michael reno harrell - I'd heard a lot of hype about this Harrell fellow when I moved back to Nawth Carolina a few years ago, but to me he looked too much like some Arlo Guthrie clone to actually be good. Then my girlfriend heard "Blue Eyed Jane" on the radio and liked it so much she bought me a copy of his Closer Home album for my birthday. Don't let the long gray hair fool you - Harrell's no Arlo Guthrie wannabe, he's a talented storyteller in his own right, whose gritty drawl brings his tales of Southern behavior to life. Rodi (Kemp)


Chris Scruggs - Being the grandson of Earl Scruggs and a former guitarist and bassist for BR549, Chris Scruggs certainly has the bloodlines, even if he's only been out of high school a few years. Good news is, he's got the chops to match: see Honky Tonkin' Lifestyle, released in 2003 and tabbed by No Depression magazine as the pickin'est country-roots debut since Wayne Hancock. That's pushing it a bit, but the kid would deserve lauds even if his last name wasn't the same as one of country's all-time greats. Evening Muse (Davis)


Stuck Mojo - Their fusion of rap and metal was something of an anomaly a dozen years ago, though Fishbone was an obvious inspiration. When similarly minded (and less talented) acts such as Korn and Limp Bizkit took off, Stuck Mojo remained small, though the band had developed a sizeable regional following. After calling it quits a few years ago, the Mojos are back together and working on a new album. Amos' Southend (Parker)

Kenny Chesney/Pat Green/Gretchen Wilson - Chesney epitomizes Nashville's marketing of country as pop and rock. In fact, he discovered the music while studying marketing at East Tennessee State. It took a few years, but his polished sound and warm baritone scored him a pair of multi-platinum albums. Green, too, got bit by the country bug during his college years, though the Texan had more of an Austin/alt-country flavor. It's been softened considerably in the past decade into typically tapioca Nashville pop. Gretchen Wilson brings a little estrogen to this bill. Charlotte Coliseum (Parker)

Dubconscious - There's plenty of hypnotic dub in this six-piece combo's tropical groove. The band, based in Athens, GA, adds a touch of jazz guitar and plenty of roots vibrations to its reggae/dub rhythms that can transport listeners straight to Kingston. And in the spirit of brotherhood, there's no lead singer; several members step up to the mic to sing on individual songs. Visulite (Shukla)


CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED - This Oklahoma quartet recently jumped to the major label Universal South after several independent releases. The Ragweed hasn't left its hard-rocking, pot-smoking country-rock roots behind, though. Truckstop Preachers open. Neighborhood Theatre (Shukla)


Rosebuds/The Talk - If writing about music is, as Frank Zappa (or someone) famously suggested, like dancing about architecture, then consider The Rosebud's Ivan Howard and The Talk's Justin Williams disciples of Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius. Like the modernist architect, Howard and Williams prefer precise, clean lines. Though different, both acts rely on tight arrangements with more hooks in them than a lottery jackpot winner. The Rosebuds have the warmth and vaguely old-fashioned style of a post-millennial Buddy Holly, while The Talk channel the pulse of old-school punk-poppers the Buzzcocks. The Room (Parker)

King Elementary - Forged from a bond between middle-school metalheads and Blink-182 fans, the members of King Elementary are now fresh out of high school and in possession of a major label deal. No mere neophyte, the band has already recorded two albums and played LA's Viper Room. The band, from Jackson, MS, may use age as a gimmick, but the music is anything but: they play hard, melodic rock somewhere between grunge and punk-pop. Milestone (Parker)


Sponge - Sponge got a firsthand look at the "world of human wreckage" during the late 90s, in the wake of the band's grunge hit "Plowed." Dropped after the next album, the band forged on and became more eclectic than its early Stone Temple Pilots-like sound suggested. Sponge's other hit was "Molly (Sixteen Candles)," which showed the band's knack for jangly, hook-driven rock. Amos' Southend (Parker)

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