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Sound Advice

The Flyer's music writers tell you where you can go.

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Now I'm nervous. On Saturday, December 4th, that merry band of blankly affected cyborgs collectively known as Automusik are hosting "A Very Automusik X-mas." Automusik's programming requires that the "band" collect global pop culture, digest it, and regurgitate it in the form of clever digital ditties that are as synthetic and silly as they are satisfying. Whenever an '80s sitcom advertised a "very special" episode, that meant somebody in the cast was going to end up trying drugs or getting pregnant or both. And I just can't imagine an entity as predictably unpredictable as Automusik using such clichés lightly. Will Female Rock Unit Number One admit to taking the pot? Will Female Rock Unit Number Two admit that she stole an oversized lollipop from the candy store? Will Mr. Automusik provide sage fatherly council to his bionic babes? Or will the terrific trio merely decorate the Hi-Tone with Bauhaus-inspired images of Santa and offer up an hour of giddy, Germanic art-pop about celebrity, sex, gross consumption, and the state of megalomania in America? Only the all-seeing Automusik knows for certain.

Alison Krauss didn't need the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Her fame as a vibrant country/bluegrass revivalist and innovator was secure long before she raised her voice with Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch, but there can be little doubt that the subsequent "Down From the Mountain" tour brought her a much larger audience than she had known before. Having signed to Rounder records at the tender age of 14, fiddle-slinger and hill-betty vocalist Krauss was a true prodigy. Now in her mid-30s, she's still the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Most importantly, Krauss is a true bandleader in a musical field where only stars get the spotlight while the pickers (typically hired guns) fade into the background. Her band, Union Station, includes Barry Bales on upright bass, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Dan Tyminski on guitar, and sacred songwriter Ron Block on banjo. When this progressive bluegrass band takes stage they are all stars, and they all shine like a big full moon over Kentucky. Krauss and company will play The Orpheum on Thursday, December 2nd, and fans of blazing fiddle and lilting dobro won't want to be anywhere else. -- Chris Davis

A longtime local music fixture as a member of bands such as Crawpatch, Lost Dog, Ripple, and the Rhythm Hounds, Don McGregor will celebrate the release of his first solo album this week with a performance Saturday, December 4th, at Otherlands Coffee Bar. McGregor's album -- titled simply Live -- was recorded during warm-up sessions for friend Jim Dickinson at Memphis Acoustic Music Association concerts at Otherlands and features a mixture of originals and covers, including a couple of songs by Memphis-connected songwriter Bob Frank. Quoted on the disc's sleeve, Dickinson says that McGregor "sings from the heart with the voice of an old soul." This would be a pretty good description of Dickinson himself, and McGregor's unaccompanied acoustic songs have the same kind of rootsy and witty appeal as the best of Dickinson. McGregor will be joined this week by Steve Lockwood and will perform at 7:30 p.m.

Mixing indie-rock instrumentation and attitude with the groove-based spirit of disco and techno, Louisville's VHS or Beta aren't your typical middle-America rock band. The band released its latest album, Night on Fire, on Astralwerks, the British label best know for such electronica heavyweights as Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers. They'll perform at Young Avenue Deli Friday, December 3rd, with The Noise Choir. n

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