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Fractured Discs still pressing

Nestled in the countryside of Chatham County near Chapel Hill, a small label quietly releases music by independent artists from this region and others marking another indelible Triangle imprint on the country's musical landscape. Michael Willis' Fractured Discs is going strong with three releases in the bag and a fourth on the way in September.

Willis, who is also helping other small imprints distribute their works, says of his choice to work with artists not exclusive to the area, "Instead of bringing Chapel Hill to them [the audience outside the Triangle], I thought I would also bring them to Chapel Hill."

Like a lot of smaller labels, Willis relies on word-of-mouth and web promotion.

On the compilation record Preserve, Volume One, which benefits the Carnivore Preservation Trust in Chatham County, you can find tracks by local heroes like Work Clothes and Ben Davis alongside national artists like M. Ward, The Decemberists and Poem Rocket. Seattle-based songwriter Robert Deeble, described as an urban folk musician, was the label's second release.

Also look for a re-interpretation of the somber-and-beautiful Midwestern group Low on We Could Live In Hope, in which Fractured Discs celebrated the 10th anniversary of Low's I Could Live in Hope by recruiting artists to cover each track on the original. Contributors include Durham's The Strugglers along with other artists like Warn Defever, Jessica Bailiff and The Winter Blanket, a band whose full-length Willis is releasing this fall. Keep up with all things Fractured by visiting the Web site, www.fractured-discs.com.

You can catch a live taste of Fractured Records at De La Luz in Chapel Hill on Aug. 20. The lineup is Robert Deeble and Lisa Cerbone with openers The Strugglers and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. Nyree Watts will present a slide show. Little Brother finally goes big
It's finally happened. Durham's own Little Brother, after making bigger waves than even they could've predicted with last year's The Listening, have just signed with Atlantic Records. Oakland, Calif. label ABB Records, who released The Listening, entered into the agreement with Atlantic after much-rumored bidding wars and label appeals. ABB will retain rights to release the group's vinyl records.

Echoing the soulful hip hop of groups like De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, MCs Phonte and Big Poo have a telepathic way of meshing their rhymes (akin to De La Soul, to whom the group consider themselves a "little brother"). They all grew up together in the hip-hop collective known as the Justus League, a set of MCs and DJs working and collaborating in the Triangle. The group also gained notoriety through the beats of their producer, 9th Wonder, whose work graced the cut "Threat" on Jay Z's Black Album and many unofficial remixes, including a full album remix of Nas as God's Stepson. Word has it he's been in the studio with Destiny's Child recently in Los Angeles. Like Atlanta's Outkast, these three guys from the Bull City are redefining Southern hip hop. Little Brother's next album, The Minstrel Show, is due out in 2005.

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