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A trio of releases from the Synergy Music imprint testifies to the high standards of label owner Michael Fitts. World Without Cars brings together pianist Art Lande and saxophonist/ flutist Mark Miller for a wide-ranging sonic exploration. Some of the pieces are evocative fragments ("Nella," "Penance III"), while others, like the wonderfully scattershot "Osmogulosis Pleontis" and "Sous L'Ombre," which recalls the work of Keith Jarrett, are broad and bold. A virtuosic pair who aren't above sharing their gifts. On Trios Time, the Dave Corbus Trio, made up of guitarist Corbus, bassist Mark Simon and drummer Mike Whited, follows a more familiar path. The thirteen songs on hand were penned by members of the jazz elite, and many of them, including John Coltrane's "Naima" and Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," have been covered to death. Fortunately, the players run through the selections like the pros they are, making Trios Time a pleasant visit to a predictable locale. Finally, the Pleasure Dance, a 1994 offering by Aubrey Carton that Synergy has reissued, is the sort of album that evokes disparate reactions. But with only a few exceptions (like the opener, "Amorous Love"), I find the mating of Carton's cleverly meandering poeticisms with the jazzy support of guitarist Khabu Doug Young, bassist Dwight Kilian and the aforementioned Lande and Miller to be lively and charming. Shows what I know (available in area CD stores).

On "From the Same Fire," the opening track of the CD Welcome Home, singer-songwriter Rebecca Folsom sounds as straight-backed and earnest as Joan Baez. However, that's followed immediately by "Pretty Song," a bluesy effort in which Folsom's voice sounds so different (rougher, more persuasive) that it's hard to believe she sang both tunes. The rest of the long-player seesaws between these extremes, with "Welcome Home," "Rose in the Water" and "Every Junkie" utilizing the former style, and "Will of a Woman," "Don't You Worry" and "Woman's Truth" embracing the latter. To these ears, the aggressive Folsom is the better one, but the instrumental backing throughout is first-rate. You'll probably like half of this--but only you can decide which half (Sunshine Productions, 5657 Sunshine Canyon, Boulder, CO 80302). The Donny Scott Group's latest four-song demo finds the band in familiar territory. Despite its moniker, "Zydeco Zebra" is energetic blues rock, as is a cover of Tab Benoit's "Downtown," and although "Holding Out" and "Want Too Much" turn down the heat a notch or two, they don't venture too far into other genres. The offerings are competently played but not exactly brimming with surprises. For fans of the same old thing only (contact Arlene Hattori, 12143 Melody Dr., #303, Westminster, CO 80234).

The Swallow Hill Music Association presents its seventh annual Folkathon this week. On Friday, July 24, a Folkathon '98 kick-off concert at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl, features the Heavenly Echoes, Mollie O'Brien, Rich Moore, Colcannon and other special guests. The following day, the event begins in earnest, with a wide variety of artists filling two stages and three tents on and around the Music Hall grounds (at 1905 S. Pearl) starting at 10 a.m. and continuing into the early evening. The bill includes John Magnie, Celeste Krenz, Chris Daniels and the Kings, Roz Brown and a full slate of children's entertainers. Call 777-1003 for ticket information and a complete rundown of activities.

And now, as a special bonus, two more items about recordings with local ties. Eric Richter, late of Christie Front Drive, is now based in New York, but he's making a return visit to Colorado on Friday, July 25, at Double Entendre Records, 120 Broadway, in the company of his latest group, Antarctica. No doubt the combo will be selling its new, self-titled EP, recently issued by Phila-delphia's File 13 imprint. The three songs on the disc--"Drown the Days," "Full Crescent Crusade" and "Closetful of Churches"--are moody dreams/drones that build to dramatic climaxes with the assistance of echoey vocals and crashing guitars. You'd be well-advised to pick up one for your very own. Call 744-9314 for more details. Also of note is Full Tank, Vol. 1, a wild compilation of independent alt-country acts from across the nation that features two of Denver's finest, the Foggy Mountain Fuckers and Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The Fuckers check in with "Always Country," a jaunty, tongue-in-cheek ditty that finds the players asking for "a Bible and a good-hearted woman," while Slim and company offer up "That's Why I'm Unhappy," perhaps the most joyful tribute to misery ever recorded. To get a copy of the CD, contact Jackass Records, P.O. Box 30488, Santa Barbara, CA 93130.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts