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Around Hear

Linda Thomas, God's New Perfection, and the Hurricane.

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It was almost a far-from-happy Thanksgiving for Linda Thomas, who injured her wrist just days before a string of performance/signing dates in support of her latest CD/book An Old English Christmas. Fortunately for Thomas, and for fans of enchanting seasonal songs, this hammered dulcimer maestro was able to walk away with a temporary cast, enabling her to keep her scheduled appearances.

For holiday shoppers frustrated by days of piped-in broadcasts of overblown carols, Thomas' disc might provide ideal background music for Christmas-themed gatherings. Her selections are refreshingly obscure English standards, and her gentle dulcimer work, though often dazzling in its understated beauty, remains unobtrusive enough to float undetected under conversations. And while some of her tunes are tinged with a delicate sense of melancholy, the dulcimer's inherently upbeat sound should help to subtly promote good cheer.

It was the dulcimer's "happy tone" that initially drew Thomas (who earned her degree in music education at Southwest Missouri State University as a pianist) to her new musical calling. "It had such a magical sound quality," she says, recalling the Walnut Valley Festival where she first heard the dulcimer played live. "It conveys such emotion." Finding that this stringed instrument was closely related to the piano, Thomas taught herself, playing by ear and translating fiddle tunes into dulcimer compositions. A year after picking up the hammers for the first time, Thomas paired with guitarist Dan DeLancey, with whom she had previously collaborated on bluegrass projects, and started hitting the dulcimer festival touring circuit.

Since 1990, Thomas has released six albums with DeLancey and written three instructional books with arrangements for the hammered dulcimer. She also has participated in numerous contests, taking second place in the Southern Regional Hammered Dulcimer Finals in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and taking first place in Lone Star State Dulcimer Competition in 1999. And she's been able to cross over to bluegrass/acoustic festivals as a result of her unique pairing with DeLancey.

While she travels with just one musical partner, Thomas still records with an ensemble that includes mandolin player Scott Tichenor, cellist Brenda Allen, and flute player Suzanne Stricklin. All of these musicians appeared on the 20-song Old English Christmas, which was inspired by Thomas and DeLancey's trips to East Central England for dulcimer festivals over the past three years. Through meeting dulcimer players and builders overseas, Thomas became acquainted with a new set of songs, which she then decided to publish. After recording a CD as an insert for this book, she decided to market the CD independently as well.

Thomas has instructional sessions booked into 2002, including her annual workshop at Johnson County Community College on the last weekend in March. In the meantime, she'll be rehabilitating her mending wrist with a steady regiment of signing and performance, appearing at Border's Books on 91st and Metcalf on Sunday, December 3, from 2-3 p.m., and at Border's at 120th and Metcalf on Sunday, December 9, from 1:30-3 p.m.

Deep Cover
In the early '90s, Snoop Dogg and Above The Law introduced "187," the police code for murder, to the hip-hop fan's vocabulary. Keith "Lil' Bub" Wesley, Jr. was once a member of a hardcore rap group called Mass 1-8-7, but he now seeks to associate a different image with these numbers. Taking note from a pastor named Skip Horton, who theorized that "1" represents the one God, "8" signifies new life, and "7" symbolizes perfection, Wesley formed the five-man crew God's New Perfection and created Life-A-New Records, on which GNP's disc Thy Will Be Done will be released.

At first listen, Thy Will Be Done could pass for a lost offering from No Limit's prime, with its Southern-tinged anthemic choruses, references to street soldiers, potent bounce beats, and calls to "pimps, players, thugs, killers, drug-dealers, and hustlers." However, instead of glorifying such lifestyles, GNP attempts to redirect such "lost souls" with a persistent message of spiritual salvation. In spite of all the dirt you do, the Lord God still got much love for you, Lil' Bub states before starting a first-person account of how he went from preaching murder to receiving a brand new life.

Inspiring as its content might be, GNP faced an uphill struggle in its efforts to avoid preaching only to the converted. Captive congregations introduced to the group's songs at its in-church performances might be immediately impressed by its clever lyricism and positivity, but trunk-rattling beats were a necessity if GNP had any hopes of reaching its wayward target audience. Enter Paul "Big Law" Law, whose growling bass-heavy beats provide ample street credibility for this musical ministry. GNP also enlisted Don Juan, the super-producer behind the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains' crumped-up sound, to craft the intricate piano-laced beat for "Heavensent."

God's New Perfection will unveil Thy Will Be Done at a CD release party at New Life In Christ, 12415 Bryars Rd. in Grandview, on Friday, December 1, at 7 p.m.

Hurricane Warning
Just days after Season to Risk's appearance with Captured! By Robots at the Hurricane, Kansas City scenesters were again buzzing about a stellar show at the rejuvenated Westport venue -- this time, the Monday, November 20 bill featuring Melt-Banana, Be/Non, and The Association of Spacecraft Mechanics. The Mechanics, a sprawling nine-piece improvisational instrumental noise-metal ensemble with members of local groups like Haloshifter and Burning Mirror, performed to a puzzled-looking yet polite and eventually enthusiastic crowd. Adding to the surreal feel was Be/Non, whose frontman Brodie Rush opened with a half-preached, half-mumbled monologue about evil being afoot before changing into a form-fitting outfit and a blonde wig. Finally, the Tokyo-based headliners blended breakneck speed, slide-guitar experimentation, and an overarching layer of noise into a potent Banana split. While the performances dominated post-show discussion, attendance was another hot topic: Musicians and fans were amazed by the strong Monday-night turnout. It looks as if cutting-edge rock might again be a viable draw at the Hurricane -- credit this welcome trend to United Entertainment's Shane Dolbier, who now books the club's shows. Dolbier's latest coup is Alabama Thunderpussy, the raucous "moonshine metal" outfit that brings its pummeling Southern-fried riffs to the 'Cane on Sunday, December 3.

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