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Honkytonkin' under the stars: As part of Fowler's ongoing Americana music series, Tift Merritt and the Carbines, who've signed to Mercury imprint Lost Highway Records--where they're label mates with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams--will swing through a set of their original country classics. While her Lost Highway debut won't be out until next year (they're working with Ethan Johns, who, incidentally, was behind the board for Ryan Adams' acclaimed solo release, Heartbreaker), Merritt wowed the crowd at Austin's South by Southwest Music Conference earlier this spring, and she and her band continue to be one of the brightest lights on North Carolina's mega-watt alt-country scene. While the buzz on Merritt continues to grow, locals get a chance to watch the band evolve and polish their sound. This Friday, fans will get an opportunity to hear 10 or more new songs the band's been working on. Merritt told the Indy, laughing: "It's not the first time we've previewed them, but it'll probably be the first time we've gotten 'em right." The band spent June woodshedding on their new tunes, which Merritt describes as "rootsier--they lean toward straight-up country and straight-up blues," with a nod to a classic country musical tradition (Merritt admits she listens to her country album faves over and over again). Come September, Merritt and the band head out to Los Angeles to start work on their debut. Catch them before they go nationwide this Friday, July 13, outdoors at Fowlers (the loading deck, to be exact), in Durham's historic tobacco district. The music starts at 8 p.m., with Rob McNurlin opening. Call 683-2555 for details. --Angie Carlson

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