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'UNDERGROUND' RELEASE

He may have traded in his shot at the big time for a relatively quiet family life, but that hasn't stopped Chris Holiman from churning out another batch of songs. This week marks the release of Welcome to the Underground (Monsoon Recordings), credited--as his recent albums have been--to Chris Holiman and the Downtown Saints. This time around, the Saints include guitarist Gene Ruley, drummer Todd Pearson, bassist Randy McReynolds and multi-instrumentalist Nick Luca, who also produced the album. Thus, Underground is a bit more fleshed out than recent Downtown Saints releases, even if it's a bit light at eight songs.

Still, Welcome to the Underground sits firmly in the Holiman tradition, which is to say it comprises tasteful, tuneful guitar pop and singer-songwriter ballads. The latter is exemplified in "Kansas," whose gorgeously mournful tone is aided and abetted by Ruley's mandolin playing and Luca's chimes. The title track is a relic from another era, both musically and lyrically: Its melody and arrangement recall the jangly '80s power-pop of The dB's, and the song's lyrics recalls a time when bands were "afraid of success and afraid of change," and the worst thing they could do was be labeled sellouts. It comes off as more quaint than dated, and winds up with a fast-paced, twangy instrumental shift. Elsewhere, "Take Me Home" is another ballad that sounds instantly familiar; "Not for Nothing" is a dirge-like torch-song of sorts; and even a slightly lesser song like "In the Rain" is improved by its arrangement, which includes some nice vocal harmonies and a restrained but scorching guitar solo from Ruley.

The CD release party for Welcome to the Underground begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $5. Call 622-8848 for further details.


AURAL INTERCOURSE

Are you lonely? Looking for that special someone to spend the holidays with? Well, I can't really help you with that one (you might want to check out some of the ads at the back of this paper), but I can inform you of a good way to bring some joy into your holiday season this week.

For the fourth consecutive year, on Monday, Dec. 19, KXCI (91.3 FM) will be broadcasting Sonic Solstice, its aural holiday party, which continues to grow ever larger. (Last year's show ran five hours; this year, it's six.) From 6 p.m. to midnight, nearly 20 local bands and performers will offer up live renditions of both their holiday favorites and original holiday songs, with recorded highlights from past years--and trust me, there have been many--being used to fill up the space in between acts. Your hosts this year are Laurie Starr, Al Perry and Matt Moon (and, just for the sake of full disclosure, possibly myself), and at press time, acts scheduled to appear, in order, include: Tony and the Torpedoes, Marianne Dissard with Emilie Marchand, Namoli Brennet, Ice-9, Kate Becker, Lee's Cash and Carry (featuring members of Fourkiller Flats and The Hillwilliams), Jose Saavedra, The Solace Brothers, Amy Rude, the Determined Luddites, Chris Holiman, Mark Holdaway, John De Roo with Al Perry, Victoria Galinsky, Mark Matos (of Campo Bravo), Electroshockbox and Topless Opry.

The show's mood is always pretty giddy, and will make you long for the days when real, live radio was the norm--it feels like just about anything can happen. Tune in and make it one of your holiday traditions; you'll be glad you did.


COVER-UP CELEBRATION

At the risk of flogging a dead horse, we'd like to invite anyone who participated or helped out in any way in this year's Great Cover-Up, to attend an appreciation party being held by our partner in crime, Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. On Tuesday, Dec. 20, following the Congress staff party, the public is invited to join in the festivities, with the added bonus of Cover-Up participants being given preferential treatment--which in club parlance translates as free beer, or something to that effect. Things kick off at 9 p.m., and you can call 622-8848 for more info.


SAVE SKRAPPY'S!

Beyond the general feeling of sadness at the events that went down at Skrappy's last Wednesday (a fatal shooting, in case you haven't heard by now), Soundbites doesn't have much to add, except this: Please, powers that be, keep Skrappy's open.

For more than nine years, the all-ages club and youth center has done an awful lot of good things for this community, musical and otherwise, and we'd hate to see the efforts of Kathy Woolridge and other staffers be ruined overnight by a bunch of misdirected thugs. Already, the venue has taken steps to curb potential problems in the future (e.g., no more hard-core bands), and we'd like you to consider this our vote for continuing Our Town funding for Skrappy's.


INFO, PLEASE

Calling all nightclubs and venues! If you would like your musical New Year's Eve event to be included in the Weekly's special New Year's Guide, which will be included in our Dec. 29 issue, please send all pertinent information to us. The earlier you get us details, the more likely it is it will be included. The absolute cutoff for submissions is noon on Monday, Dec. 19.

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