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The year that was 

For a year that already had been pretty newsy when it comes to music, the nomination last week of Tift Merritt's Tambourine for a Grammy for best album shouldn't have come as a surprise. What did come as a surprise was that the country music scene finally woke up to what Tift's been up to for years.

There were plenty of other milestones in 2004. For many of us the first was a sad one: the passing of musician and genius gadgeteer Randy Ward. Much of the year had a serious note with scores of shows dedicated to presidential politics and anti-war themes. That didn't stop the creative flow, though, with bands across the Triangle pumping out CDs at what is likely a record setting pace. That includes new releases by The Butchies, Spectac, Southern Culture, Chris Stamey, The Comas, Kaze, Tres Chicas, Little Brother, Two Dollar Pistols, K-Hill, The Wigg Report, Dexter Romweber, Snatches of Pink, Shalini, The Talk, Saunter, Plan B, Torch Marauder, The Never, Cub Country, My Dear Ella, North Elementary, Razzle, The Mountain Goats, Straight 8s, Schooner, Transzenders, David Karstan Daniels and Marat to name a few. There were also several compilations to hit the streets including Durham Rocks, which grew out of the Durham Music Festival, Hypno-Vista's Evil Wiener tribute CD, WXYC's musical toast to 10 years on the Web and a really massive set of discs to mark Mergefest '04.

There were plenty of festivals as well, topped by aforementioned summer celebration of Merge's 15th year celebration and the Durham Music festival, which like Sparklefest seemed to really gel this year.

While the ebb and flow of bands seemed a constant, it was a year of big changes for local clubs. The Brewery and Go! Studios both closed. The Brewery came back and returned to its more metal roots. The space that was Go! has morphed into a drinking establishment. And while Martin Street Music Hall's transition to full-fledged venue was big in Raleigh, it wasn't half as big as the opening in Durham of Ooh La Latte. That and shows at the old Mr. Shoe store and Joe and Jo's gave Durhamites hope that the town could keep a venue going. After some unsteadiness about OOL's future, word is there'll be shows there for sure in '05.

(If I missed listing your band as having released something this year, send me an e-mail and I'll include it next week.)

Next week: a look ahead.

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