Clawhammer or Scruggs? Bluegrass banjo players pledge allegiance to one of the genre's two major styles (which boil down to frailing in the former and arpeggiated picking in the latter), but they're not at odds. Folks from either camp would jump at an opportunity to see a pillar of modern bluegrass in action, regardless of style—especially when you're talking about Earl Scruggs himself. Sixty-plus years of refined innovation and the guy still chooses playing live over resting on his laurels, though he doesn't make it to our neck of the woods much.
Mac McCaughan gave Baltimore’s folksy shoegaze duo Wye Oak the best Christmas present of its young career.
Albuquerque hip-hop tandem The 2Bers doesn’t pout or scream about its dissatisfaction with day-to-day annoyances. Instead, the chill-hop effused from The 2Bers’ cauldron is an intoxicating brew of keyboards, organic samples and programmed backbeat that’s never in a rush and always understated. The flows are decidedly downtrodden and self-reflective, electing to move slowly and carefully without a lot of flash or flourish. The rhymes are good, but the beats are better. In fact, a couple of the best tracks are the instrumentals. This is especially true of “The City is Still Blue,” in which the keyboard line of Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” takes on a menacing, forceful and very engaging persona. (SM)