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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores' single

Posted by on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM

On a 7-song debut EP released in 2010, Chapel Hill newcomers Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores served notice they were to be taken seriously. Frontman and songwriter Hunter, a Greensboro native, wrote from the somewhat green perspective of a kid in his early 20s, because, well, he was in his early 20s. But you believed him when he sang, such was the sheer passion and dedication in his voice.

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"Someone You Used To Know," released Feb. 3 as a single to advance the band's upcoming album of the same name, picks up where that EP left off and shows a step forward. Some bitterness has seeped through the cracks in Hunter's valiant facade; the girl got away and left him wrecked, but he vows to bounce back. "I'm not broken," Hunter assures, "I'm still chasing down my dreams." His bandmates—guitarist William Taylor, bassist Seth Barden and drummer Paul Fisher—lock in behind their leader with equal parts power and precision, driving home a near-perfect four-minute salvo of old-school rock 'n' roll.

The flip side, "Tattoo'd Girls," is more playful musically, from its sly piano intro to its swinging chorus hook to its title characters' "ink-stained skin and their mischievous grins." If it testifies to the band's versatility, it also reveals Hunter still has a ways to go as a lyricist; the end result feels more like novelty fare that's not built to last like the A-side. Still, taken together, these two tracks suggest the Cazadores' new disc may push them further toward the destiny Hunter seems fiercely determined to reach.

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    These two tracks suggest the Cazadores' new disc may push them further toward the destiny Hunter seems fiercely determined to reach.

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First Impressions: Airstrip, live at Tir na nOg

Posted by on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Since November, Airstrip has released three infectious standalone tracks on its Bandcamp page. The new project, formed around Matt Park's devastated, potentially nihilistic pop songs, played Friday night at Tir na nOg with Lonnie Walker and The Charming Youngsters. And while the opening and closing bands (both Greenville imports, though the Youngsters moved to the Triangle more recently) shared bright, occasionally dweeby jangle, Airstrip was uncompromisingly dark.

In fact, the live show transforms Park's home-recorded Bandcamp tracks into surprisingly psychedelic stoner-pop. Live, the driving riff to "Middle of Night" lumbers with precise, heavy menace. Drummer John Crouch and bassist Nick Petersen, who fill the same roles in the patient, hypnotic Horseback, rein in Park's natural upbeat tempos in favor of something hardened and mean. It's both the opposite of, and logical followup to, his last band: Veelee.

Yet Park and guitarist Tre Acklen (also of Gross Ghost) bring more treble than sludge, resulting in a surprising combination of stoner and psych-rock tropes with an indie-rock tonal palette. And though Park didn't have his usual vocal effects processor, there was something about the embedded, heavily-delayed vocals (thanks to a new effects box he's using) that lent a Liars-in-lo-fi flavor to Airstrip's punchy, patient, and distinctively-textured live set.

Things I wrote in my notebook:
• "This is what The Black Angels think they sound like."
• "WTF is song 2???"
• "INVERTED BEACH BOYS"
• "Blog post starts with 'Get excited, because Airstrip is really good.'"

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    Uncompromisingly dark, surprisingly psychedelic stoner-pop

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Video: The Old Ceremony plays new tunes at The Pour House

Posted by on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 2:35 PM

"It's been a long long time since we've been here," explained The Old Ceremony frontman Django Haskins at The Pour House last week. Accordingly, Haskins and his band came prepared with a handful of new songs from an upcoming untitled album. Of them, a menacing new number, “Beebe, Arkansas," explored the strange New Year's occurrence in 2010 and 2011 of black birds falling from the sky by the thousands. One of the strongest fresh selections of the evening, “Elsinore,” is an absolutely wonderful song about losing one’s love to the sea. In between the new numbers, they also worked through several numbers of what is becoming an extensive back catalog to an enthusiastic crowd. Check the new gems below.

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Really, Kaze? New project, JETSETMAFIA, stumbles

Posted by on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 2:30 PM

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The localized hype surrounding last year’s N.C. Hip-Hop Day might have made you believe that veteran Chapel Hill rapper Kaze would return, re-energized, to the scene’s forefront with ass-kicking zeal.

Well, he’s returned, but something has just gone terribly wrong: JETSETMAFIA, Kaze’s new duo with Miami-based model and recording artist Liz Harlow, has just released the video for its debut single, a muddy and badly mixed remix of UK dubstep artist Flux Pavillion’s “Bass Cannon." You might know Flux Pavilion from the international rave hit “I Can’t Stop," sampled on “Who Gon Stop Me” from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne.

Unfortunately, JETSETMAFIA doesn’t wind up with similar results. Kaze’s phoned-in rhymes and Harlow’s stray vocals turn their “Bass Cannon” into a botched attempt to climb on the dubstep wagon. For this project, Kaze has adopted the alter ego, Black Kennedy; while we admire him for experimenting and challenging himself, we didn’t expect him to plop his talents into such a hazardous arena. This jet likely won't take off anytime soon.

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    While we admire him for experimenting and challenging himself, we didn't expect Kaze to plop his talents into such a hazardous arena.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smile! The Beach Boys to play in Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 11:26 AM

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Fifty years ago a group of young, angel-voiced California boys showed up late for the surf rock craze that had stormed the nation. Against the odds, those Beach Boys became one of the most successful groups of the '60s and one of the most influential pop bands of all time. As unlikely as their accomplishments were, the notion that they would be back together, playing in Raleigh in 2012 may have seemed even more impossible.

Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love, the surviving members of the original Beach Boys, are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a world tour, and on April 29 they will stop at the Raleigh Amphitheater. The sure-to-be-coveted-tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Feb. 25. It's the first time the original members of the band have reunited in more than two decades.

The obvious question: Are these surf anthem veterans ready to ride, or are they all washed up? This Sunday's Grammy Awards offered clues as the Boys and their large backing band took to the stage to offer up a rendition of "Good Vibrations," perhaps their most recognizable hit. In sound, it's hard to fault them. Their harmonies were immaculate as ever, and that high-pitched Electro-Theremin wail is still just as cool as it was in 1966. Still, the trio, especially Wilson, looked a bit tired, like playing just the one song took tremendous effort. They might just need time to get into touring shape, but doubts as to their energy are still hard to repress.

Adding to the excitement for Beach Boys devotees is news that the reunited line-up will also be releasing a new LP with Wilson, the famed producer of classics such as Pet Sounds and Today!, back behind the boards. Wilson's recent studio work doesn't exactly assure this will be a success. While his 2004 revision of lost Beach Boys album SMiLE and 2008's That Lucky Old Sun show he's capable of approaching his old glory, questionable calls like last year's In the Key of Disney breed trepidation. But will anyone in Raleigh be there to hear new songs?

The Raleigh date is the third on the tour following stops at New Orleans' Jazz & Heritage Festival and Atlanta's Chastain Park Amphitheatre. The tour will then take the band across the U.S., including stops at Tennessee's Bonnaroo Music Festival and Milwaukee's Summerfest before the Boys head off to Europe in August. More info at thebeachboys.com.

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    Pop legends The Beach Boys announce stop at the Raleigh Amphitheater on April 29.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's 2012: A locals-only heartbreak mixtape

Posted by on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 2:28 PM

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1. The Rosebuds, "Cover Ears" — OK, so this is pretty much a no-brainer. A married duo divorces, then comes back together for a post-divorce LP, Loud Planes Fly Low. Ivan and Kelly Rosebud give us an intimate glimpse of post-marital desolation, notably when Ivan sings "who's gonna love you/ when I go?" The rest of Loud Planes is pretty bleak too.

2. The Small Ponds, "Loneliness" — This remarkable Americana-folk duo formed at Raleigh's annual Love Hangover—an evening dedicated to sad cover songs. So it stands to reason they'd write along those same lines. "Loneliness will be your one true love," they sing in this one.

3. Mount Moriah, "Only Way Out" — Like the Rosebuds' record, this one's loaded with sad songs (see also the Neil Young-reminiscent "Plane"). This opening track hinges on Heather McEntire's poetic, honest recollection of a long-past romance. When she sings "how I bet you made a beautiful bride," it sounds like it still hurts. Also: "I can't seem to throw away/ the letters or the pictures/ for some kind of proof or truth that all of this/ really happened." Who hasn't felt like that at some point?

4. Airstrip, "So-So" — "Some people will love each other/ some people will kill each other/ hard to tell what you'll get into/ hard to tell what you are after." Holy shit, someone give Matt Park a hug.

5. Mandolin Orange, "Haste Make" — With this band, it was a tough call which song to include. "Hard Hearted Stranger" nearly made the cut (it's hard to suppress the shiver when Andrew Marlin sings "I'll be the hard-hearted stranger in your bed"), but "Haste Make" is a love song turned on its head by depression and anxiety. Oh my.

6. The Dirty Little Heaters, "Mexico Way" — Every heartbreak mixtape needs a shout-along moment. This track's a few years old, but Reese McHenry's powerful, painful chorus never seems to age. Take a listen and try it with her: The words are "I still love you, you fucker!" That is one hell of a hook.

7. John Howie and the Rosewood Bluff, "Last Great Guitar Slinger" — Obviously, there needs to be some honky-tonk on here, and ex-Two Dollar Pistol John Howie is a local master. This may not be the most obvious track for a Valentine's Day mixtape, but Howie's central down-and-outness makes it an essential inclusion. "I've been working all night long/ just to get you by my side/ Johnny Six-String comes along/ and he barely even tries."

8. Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, "Kissin' and Cussin'" — And now it's time for something irreconcilably dark. "I see you smile, the knife behind your back," Robinson sings in the especially menacing latest version of this track. "Because we kiss and we cuss and we carry on/ until the break of dawn."

9. Double Negative, "Endless Disappointment" — Heartbreak sucks. Double Negative's a great hardcore band. This is a damn fine song to hear if you're pissed off.

10. Hammer No More the Fingers, "Shutterbug" — "Don't know how hard it's been/ living without a friend/ in the center of the world." This song certainly has a sad, lonely core. With this kind of mixtape—especially if you're one of those people who takes Valentine's Day personally—you want to close on something upbeat and catchy. And even if most of these jams don't seem to, Hammer's track aims to heal old wounds rather than reopen them.

So which tracks did I leave out? What's on your sad little mixtape? There's a comments section below, you know. Just try and keep it local.

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    "I still love you, you fucker!" — The Dirty Little Heaters

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A VD playlist for the down-on-love

Posted by on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Image courtesy ilovememphis on Flickr

There's not a lot of hope right now for an indie kid in love. Blame it on the divorces of several prominent indie couples: Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore shattered our faith in true love when they announced that their 17-year marriage wouldn't make it to 18; Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard forced us to wonder if even the unreasonably good-looking dorks are doomed in love too; and Jack White and Karen Elson made their divorce into a star-studded fête before White, dishearteningly, broke up with his former ex-wife Meg for a second time (but this time professionally). So, there are many more reasons to mourn this Valentine's Day than to celebrate it, whether you're single or attached.

Heartbreak has always been a fruitful topic for musicians; sadness and rage often make for more interesting songs. Breakups, after all, brought us the heroic ballads "I Will Survive," "No Regrets" and "Piece of My Heart," not to mention the best case for misery loves company, "Love Will Tear Us Apart." We compiled a list of recent indie songs about lost love to nurse you through this Valentine's Day. As you read along, remember: If you're single and not loving it, you're not doing it right.

"Let It Die," Feist

Who hasn't Feist eased through a breakup? Let It Die reads like a separation manual with chapters entitled "Lonely, Lonely," "Secret Heart" and the standout title track. Feist recounts her breakups with poise, though, and her agency beats throughout each song. Backed by a withering snare and trombone, her unrelenting croon carries "Let It Die," and when she sings "We don't see eye to eye," it's clear that she's mourning her failed relationship—not hanging onto it. Her acceptance is convincing as well as uplifting when she reminds us that optimism, too, underlies a breakup.

"The Last Goodbye," The Kills

Few contemporary bands have penned more down-on-love tracks than The Kills. Due in part to their bluesy sound and in part to their personal travails in love (the duo have sparked and extinguished their romance nearly as many times as they've released a record), Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have a volatile chemistry that uniquely charges their songs. "Love Is a Deserter" owes its success to their dysfunction, which erupts across the savage, bar rock jam—but their finest lovelorn track comes when they cool down. "The Last Goodbye" is a graceful farewell, with dreamy organs and a tender video accompaniment, for the couple that's perpetually breaking up. Emotional instability is at a peak, but Mosshart's voice never falters when she asks "How can I rely on my heart if I break it with my own two hands?"

"Marvin's Room," Drake

We can all thank Drake for elevating a drunk dial to an ex to official song status. "Marvin's Room" is selfish, insecure and self-justifying, but its unapologetic entitlement at least earns him empathy. (Especially for those who are chronically on his side of the line.) After admitting that his ex is "happy with a good guy," Drake badgers, guilt-trips and whines to her that he's a better catch than her current beau. His rosé-sopped reasoning and attempt to absolve himself reeks of bias when he slurs "I don't think I'm conscious of makin' monsters of the women that I sponsor until it all goes bad." Drake's case is also crippled by the lawsuit that pursued the release of "Marvin's Room," wherein his ex seeks rights to the song, but we're all guilty of victimizing ourselves at some point—and some nights you just need to cry for yourself because no one else will.

"Call Your Girlfriend," Robyn

"Love is hard, it ain't a fucking holiday," Robyn said to her crowd last Valentine's Day at a Chicago show. If you didn't already know, Robyn is the second coming for the forsaken and perpetually single. Her breakup songs out-pulse her narratives of devotion; she's sang from every point of a love triangle; and her romantic tenacity is both humbling and inspiring. So when she plays the other woman in the synth-motored workout "Call Your Girlfriend," you're going to root for her team. With sportsmanship and a warm embrace, Robyn guides her man to end things with his ex. "You tell her that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again and it won't make sense right now, but you're still her friend," she chants, and her composure is why we clap along.

"Willow," Field Mice

If you trace the telephone wire from "Call Your Girlfriend," you'll arrive at the Field Mice's wispy, twee ballad "Willow." The originators of Robyn's lovelorn beat capture the moment when a lover breaks up with their partner for another. Singer Annemari Davies soars with Robyn's suggested grace when she says to her ex "Don't you go thinking I never did love you ... There are so many moments from when we were together that I do treasure." Her gentle words are packaged alongside tightly plucked acoustic guitar chords, yet the song soothes with its candor and reassurance.

"Knife," Grizzly Bear

Contrary to its title, "Knife" is not an aggressively bitter breakup song—which is one reason that it breeds catharsis. (Learning how someone copes is a much better use of five minutes than watching a tantrum unfold.) Tempered by harmonies, a breezy core melody and a veil of distortion, "Knife" is a level-headed song that only beams betrayal when its lyrics can be unearthed. "I want you to know, when I look in your eyes. With every blow, comes another lie," Ed Droste sings between guitar jabs. "Can't you feel the knife?" Like most Ed Droste-led songs, it's wrought with loneliness but will rule your heart.

"You Always Hurt the Ones You Love," Ryan Gosling

Grizzly Bear's lost-love balladry comprised the bulk of the Blue Valentine soundtrack, but lead actor Ryan Gosling's vocal contribution is the fastest way to an emotional enema. Covering the Ink Spots' "You Always Hurt the Ones You Love" with a ukulele and a baritone that begs to be cuddled, Gosling's performance summons the great question: "Are all relationships supposed to be this hard or is it just mine?" Listening to his voice trail off as he sings "It's because I love you" is an early clue that his relationship with Michelle Williams will never work, but if we're all bound to the same grim place, why not try to savor love's pleasantries while they last?

"Fuck the Pain Away," Peaches

Enter Peaches' "Fuck the Pain Away," an anthem for raw desire with emotionless vocals and a swelling bass. Her robotic vocals chant the song title with a mechanical repetition, stray voices moan in the background, and the sweaty track gyrates for four-and-a-half minutes. Are you enjoying being single yet?

"Walk in the Park," Beach House

Beach House's tambourine bells might seem inviting when they open "Walk in the Park" but they're delivered tongue-in-cheek to set the tone for Victoria Legrand's rocky ballad. Urging her lover to let her move on, she sings "In a matter of time ... you would slip from my life." Legrand sounds on the verge of collapse when she says "cannot hold you anymore," but the gush of guitar chords and jingly synths pushes her back onto her feet. Sometimes a massive chorus yields the strength we need to push through.

"Coming Down," Dum Dum Girls

"'Coming Down' is not a breakup song unless you're breaking up with life," Dee Dee tweeted over the summer. Yet, the clean lyrics—which aren't nearly as impressive on the page as they are when she belts them—are vague enough to support an array of emotional distresses. "You abuse the ones who love you," she sings in the song that she penned as a tribute to her late mother. Her voice soars in the widescreen song, punctuated by crashing percussion and her grieving guitar, especially when she hits "There I go." Dee Dee never surrenders or edits her experience into a song that'd resonate with anyone else, and that is the beating heart of any breakup song.

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    If you're single and not loving it, you're not doing it right.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bon Iver's local ties

Posted by on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Revisit our 2011 cover story about Bunny Bear—err, Bon Iver—who took home two Grammys last night, for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.

Before Bon Iver broke into fame, Justin Vernon produced and toured with The Rosebuds; here, third from left, with Ivan Howard, Kelly Crisp and one of Bon Iver's two drummers, Matt McCaughan. - PHOTO BY JOE KIRSCHLING
  • Photo by Joe Kirschling
  • Before Bon Iver broke into fame, Justin Vernon produced and toured with The Rosebuds; here, third from left, with Ivan Howard, Kelly Crisp and one of Bon Iver's two drummers, Matt McCaughan.

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    Revisit our 2011 cover story about Bunny Bear—err, Bon Iver—who took home two Grammys last night.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Avett Brothers, The Love Language to headline 21-band benefit for Oliver Gant

Posted by on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 9:54 AM

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UPDATE (March 1, 2012): A fourth venue has been added to this show. Tift Merritt, Bombadil, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Small Ponds and Brice Randall Bickford will play The Lincoln Theatre on Friday, March 23. As with all venues, doors open at 7:30 p.m., and wristband pickup will be available at all four venues. Tickets go on sale today at noon via etix.com. These tickets permit access to Kings, Tir Na Nog, The Pour House and The Lincoln Theatre—space, as always, permitting.

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Little more than a year ago, Jed Gant, downtown editor for local news blog New Raleigh, gave a ride to a friend. It was a pretty typical weekday afternoon in downtown Raleigh, and his buddy needed a lift home. During the drive, Gant's then 1-year-old son Oliver sat in the back seat screaming, apparently in tremendous pain. His father attempted to adjust the harness on his car seat, but the child continued to cry. A few days later, Oliver was diagnosed with cancer.

The friend, as it happens, was Grayson Currin, music editor for the Independent and co-director of the paper's annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Currin was tapped by Chris Tamplin, who booked a benefit for Oliver at Raleigh's Tir na nOg last month, to help out with his event. With this as a spark, Currin started to envision something bigger. Racing the Cure—a one-night, three-venue mini-fest in downtown Raleigh benefiting an ailing 2-year-old and his deserving family— is the result.

“I barely think about the fact that my friends have kids,” Currin explains. “I don't really think about the fact that my friends have kids with cancer.”

As you can see in the schedule above, Racing the Cure, set for March 23, is among the biggest local music benefits in Triangle history. Nationally recognized folk superstars (and old friends of Gant) The Avett Brothers will take a break from playing amphitheaters and arenas to throw down in the 250-capacity rock club Kings. The fest will also inhabit The Pour House and Tir na nOg and includes 15 other bands, some of the biggest names in Triangle music. Rag-tag pop-rockers The Love Language, energetic pop outfit Annuals and stately rock band The Old Ceremony highlight a line-up rich with local heavyweights. The $25 tickets, good for admission to all three venues, go on sale at noon today, Feb. 8.

“For us, I think it means a lot that we've been able to … not stand on the shoulders of other people, but have other people help us out,” Jed Gant says of the assistance the community has offered his family, which has already included two benefits in Raleigh.

The past year has been rough for Oliver, his mother, Stacy, and Jed. Oliver was diagnosed last February with a sacrococcygeal teratoma, a type of germ-cell tumor. It was malignant, but luckily hadn't yet metastasized. His doctors gave him the standard treatment for his condition, which started with chemotherapy before a June surgery to remove the tumor. Two months after his surgery, doctors discovered the cancer was beginning to grow anew. Oliver was given a new formula of chemotherapy and had another major surgery in December.

If all goes according to plan, the festival may well serve as a celebration of Oliver's health. He recently completed what his doctors hope will be his last round of chemotherapy and is recouping now at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Cautiously optimistic, Jed says that the support of their friends, family and community has been invaluable in helping them through this crisis.

“We feel there are a lot of things that we would have struggled to do without help from other people,” Gant says. “We see other families at the hospital who don't have this support, and it's very sad. We feel very supported in a way that we're able to focus on Oliver. I think that's very crucial for pediatric cancer care, that the parents are able to focus their energies on their child and on the treatment and are able to be there as much as possible to monitor the needs of their child.”

Any proceeds from the festival that don't go to Oliver's family will go to CaringBridge, a free online service that allows families dealing with pediatric cancer to tell their story and communicate with other families in similar situations.

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    UPDATE: A fourth venue has been added, and more tickets are on sale now.

Friday, February 3, 2012

With a little help from her friends: Kathleen Edwards in Carrboro

Posted by on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 4:02 PM

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Midway through Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards' show Tuesday night at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, she welcomed a familiar face onstage to the delight of the hundreds in attendance.

It wasn't necessarily a surprise: A few folks had already spotted Bon Iver's Justin Vernon in his hooded yellow sweatshirt, commingling in the audience with old friends from his Raleigh days, and it's no secret that Vernon produced Edwards' outstanding new album Voyageur. Devoted fans might also have noticed that videos of the two performing a few songs together at her Sunday night performance in Atlanta had turned up on YouTube in the past couple of days.

What had already been a terrific performance by Edwards was kicked up a notch when Vernon joined in on guitar for the exquisite ballad "Wapusk," released last Fall as a single. Edwards explained it was the first song she and Vernon recorded together, an auspicious collaboration that eventually led to much greater connections both professionally and personally.

Vernon stuck around for another number before leaving Edwards in the hands of her very capable bandmates. Lead guitarist Gord Tough's contributions were muscular but tasteful, and opening act Hannah Georgas added gorgeous harmonies to many songs.

Although Voyageur debuted at No. 39 on the Billboard album charts last week, Edwards' fans responded most enthusiastically to older favorites such as "Six O'Clock News" (from 2002's Failer) and "In State" (from 2005's Back To Me). Near the end of the set, she thanked the crowd for their willingness to also hear the new material, most of which was delivered with bounds of confidence and emotion, particularly the fast-galloping opener "Empty Threat" and the brooding mid-set heartbreaker "Pink Champagne."

Vernon reappeared during the encore to join Edwards on "Mercury," another song from Failer that seems to have played a minor role in bringing the two together. (In a phone interview two weeks ago, Edwards noted that she'd heard Bon Iver had covered "Mercury" onstage before the two singers had met; indeed, YouTube turns up a rendition of the song by Vernon and his band at the Sasquatch Festival near Seattle in May 2009.) They closed with "For The Record," a seven-minute coda to a past relationship which concludes the new album and was stretched out even longer onstage. "I only wanted to sing songs," Edwards attested in the chorus; on this night, that was more than enough, with a little help from her friends.

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    Bon Iver's Justin Vernon joins Kathleen Edwards during a great Cat's Cradle show.

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