Random acts

Of note

And the award goes to: On Saturday, May 11, regional bluegrass-gospel group The Cockman Family won the Lion Bill Edwards award, presented by the Mocksville Lions Club. The group was presented with the award for their “outstanding contribution to old time and bluegrass music.” For more information, visit www.cockmanfamily.com. (Look for a feature story on The Cockman Family in our June 5 issue as part of Xpress’ coverage of Chimney Rock Park’s centennial events.)

News from the upstate: South Carolina-based hard rock heavyweights Bleak have announced plans to begin working on a new album. Though details are sketchy at present, the as-yet-unnamed album would be the first major recording effort from the band since their debut release, Trama. For more information, visit www.bleakband.com.

Front-row reviews

Who: Christine Kane w/Sloan Wainwright

Where: The Grey Eagle

When: Saturday, May 18

Christine Kane is blessed with some of the most devoted fans you will ever see, who even brave unseasonably cold weather to hear her play. They listen to her stories, though they’ve heard them before. And, every time, they still get genuinely moved to laughter, and to tears.

The show started with the unusual trio arrangement of Sloan Wainwright. Wainwright’s heavy, powerful voice was the centerpiece, with the backing piano and guitar adding a rich folk texture.

Kane’s performance was polished without feeling routine. She’s a natural storyteller, and there’s something in her telling that keeps you listening: She can go from seeming wickedly innocent — in a song like “Mary Catherine’s Ash Wednesday Journal Entry” — to sounding hopeful-yet-world-weary, as in the introspective “Or Just Heading Home.”

Even if you can’t pin down the exact elements of Kane’s charisma, it’s easy to see why her fans keep coming back for more.

Going underground with Backyard Tire Fire

Ed Anderson’s basement is a dark, cramped sort of place. As soon as you descend the stairs, the impossibility of walking more than a few steps without stepping on a musical instrument becomes startlingly obvious.

Keyboards, guitars, amps and various parts of a drum kit litter the floor, hindering movement and promising you will unavoidably step on something and break it. In one corner of the room is a little den composed of a small couch and two well-worn lounge chairs.

This is the place Backyard Tire Fire calls home.

“We’ve all realized that it’s all about songs, really,” Anderson explains. He and bandmates John Walker, Tim Kramp and Warren Hawk are sitting on the careworn furniture, beers in hand, ready to discuss their music. This is their rehearsal space, and they couldn’t be more relaxed. “If you don’t have tunes,” Anderson adds, “you’ve got nothing.”

He speaks from experience. Anderson’s previous band, Brother Jed, was a fairly successful midwest jam band that opened for such high-profile jam bands as Leftover Salmon. After three albums and a solid five-year run with Brother Jed, Anderson came to Asheville to explore life as a singer/songwriter.

While he found moderate success as a solo performer, he wanted more — namely a band.

“There’s something about four very talented guys getting together and playing a simple song,” explains Anderson. True to that philosophy, he and the rest of Backyard Tire Fire focus on putting together songs that are simple, yet capable of keeping a crowd’s attention.

The group compares the resulting sound to the rock of the late-1970s (“when music was still good,” Anderson notes).

Though they’ve gained a small following locally, the band isn’t yet the crowd magnet they aspire to become.

“This town, it’s not a rock ‘n’ roll town, really. It’s an acoustic town, a songwriter place,” says Anderson. “When I first came down here, that’s what I was doing. I was drumming up a bunch of gigs by myself. But, now that I’m trying to get this rock band off the ground, I’ve realized that it’s not the easiest place to build up a following fast.”

Fans or no fans, the members of Backyard Tire Fire are certain that they have a big future playing music in the region. Some might say they’re almost too sure of themselves — cocky, even. Understandably, Anderson sees the band’s bravado in a different light.

“It’s good to be confident, and dig what you’re doing. And everybody here is. We’ve made a lot of music in this basement, and we’re dying to get out and play more.”

Top threes

The top-three suggested local-music-resource Web sites:

FreakinAsheville.com (general local resource)

Pudkiller.com (regional metal/hard rock)

• NC-MAMA (www.ncmama.org, bluegrass/old time)

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