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Hits and misses in local music

Cesar Comanche
Paper Gods
Defenders of the Free World Music CD

Cesar Comanche has a new album Paper Gods. It's an album the way albums should be: a play with acts and a climax. It's entirety flows like a day in N.C.--not NYC, not Cali but N.C. If ya didn't know, Comanche, along with producer 9th Wonder of Little Brother have spearheaded North Carolina's ever evolving Justus League ("Just Us," not "Justice," for those who may be confused), a crew that is repping N.C. in their own way. The way of separating good tunes from bad--the way of spending hours upon hours just listening to music and making it--the righteous way to go, that is. Comanche the deep thinker is always taking things in from his environment and his music speaks for him. Somewhere between a dream and reality Paper Gods has modern riffs with an early retro spice. Staying true to its crew, Papers Gods begins with WJLR (Justus League Radio) snippets that breathe more life than real radio. The second track, "Lamb To Lion," has a nasty orchestra sample that sways in and out like Comanche's wavy hair, while "Pest" is about Comanche getting bored at hip-hop shows watching bustas flop. "Second verse--worst than the first, Durst Fred and pot heads, Your shit is slower than Wake Med, break bread--Stay civilized always breaking the rules, Broke niggers rhyme about tools."

Next is "Knowing Is Half The Battle," a backward "10 Rap Commandments," with 12 sarcastic rules that could give Ja Rule a "How To Robb" hissy fit. (Cesar watch ya back brother!)

Jus' bugging; remember, Comanche is a mello cat not fronting on new jack, but repping Jacksonville, N.C. (you'd have to be chill to enjoy the 'ville).

Comanche goes on an underground head rant about the good ol' days, sampling classics on the tribute tip in "Underground Heaven." The album continues an even keel of Comanche comfort jabs over 9th's loungin' cuts, with "Drought of 2002," a love song Comanche's a bit partial to. And right when 9th and producer cjb have the vibe nice and smooth, producer Khrysis kicks in the speaker and pulls us back to reality during "Daily Operation." But the true climax is "What You Need," where the infamous chant goes: "Justus League is what you need."

And of course, Paper Gods ends with WJLR on a blue note, with Comanche's 7th rule: "Fuck PE, Kweli and KRS-ONE, rock Ja Rule it's more fun!"

Check out www.cesarcomanche.com, and www.papergods.com. –K8 Erwin

Jim Mills
My Dixie Home
Sugar Hill CD

While Durham's musical heritage rests on blues, jazz and gospel, the Bull City's Jim Mills holds one of the prize gigs in bluegrass as banjo player for Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. My Dixie Home, his latest solo release on Sugar Hill, delivers a glorious celebration of traditional bluegrass and the joy of making music. The band consists of Mills, Dan Tyminski from Alison Krauss' Union Station on guitar, Barry Bales from AKUS playing bass, the remarkable Stuart Duncan from the Nashville Bluegrass Band on fiddle, and Mountain Heart's Adam Steffey picking mandolin--save for the four songs when Skaggs or O'Brien do so.My Dixie Home is dependent on excellent performances and arrangements, not novelty; for these songs date back 50 years and more. These aren't at all the best-known songs, but the jam-session favorites when high caliber professionals are picking for themselves. Jim and crew treat all twelve songs as classic bluegrass, except for the jazzy closer, "I'll See You in My Dreams," on which he fingerpicks guitar Travis-style. "Take the D Train" refers to the chord, and the song combines three five-string banjo standards. Here, in particular, Mills makes effective use of his ability to use the picking approaches of both Ralph Stanley and the masters of the Scruggs style--especially J.D. Crowe, Sonny Osborne, and Earl Scruggs--to create his own sound.

This is real music made by real people who happen to be really good at what they do. Despite an abundance of talent, My Dixie Home avoids flash, focusing on the core bluegrass value of making music as a team. And the stars deliver genuine, down to earth bluegrass--like the world's greatest chefs cooperating to make pot roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy. They produce a feast that demands repeated listening because of its simple substance, its unpretentious artistry.
Art Menius

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