Kansas City, Mo., rapper Tech N9ne's major label debut entered the pop charts at No. 59 two weeks ago, an amazing showing for a local artist and an affirmation of just how far Aaron Yates has come. Although Tech's dense, rapid-fire verses have appeared alongside Tupac ("Thugs Get Lonely Too") and traded verses with Eminem and Xzibit (Sway and King Tech's "The Anthem."), mainstream success has eluded him to date. Well-known in the area for uptown anthems like "Planet Rock" and "Let's Get Crunked Up" (with KC rap group 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains), Tech is easily the most prominent figure in local hip-hop. With a major label deal (released on JCor, a division of Interscope) and industry heavyweights like Quincy Jones and Violet Brown batting for him, Tech certainly seems poised to hit a home run. The epic 76-minute "Anghellic" is divided into three sections: hell, purgatory and
The Midday Ramblers
"Free Country Music"
"Free Country Music" is a perfect title for the recently released CD from Lawrence's Midday Ramblers. Perfect because it aptly describes the band's wide-open bluegrass stylings and also acts as a manifesto of sorts -- to untether country music from the shackles of Shania. The group got its start more than four years ago on KAW FM, Lawrence's short-lived-but-sweet pirate radio station, where the band members hosted a show called "The Midday Ramble." The program's popularity led to local gigs, and the act stayed together after the station was forced to shut down. On "Free," the quartet tears through 15 songs in less than 40 minutes, clearly having a blast and barely surfacing for air. The Ramblers play their instruments the same
way Tech N9ne raps: 90 mph switchin' lanes like Whoa! The disc is both traditional and traditional-sounding, but there's little in the way of lonesome laments here. Instead the Ramblers keep the tempos at full-throttle, sounding like the clear-eyed cousins of The Asylum Street Spankers. Like that all-acoustic Texas band, the Ramblers are purists who like their music stripped to the bone and sweetly harmonious. The Ramblers' lack of fiddle and percussion gives the pickers plenty of elbow room and they make the most of it. Mandolinist Kory, guitarist Mike Horan and banjo player Leo Posch trade smart, spidery licks on the instrumentals "Going Down To Willow Creek," "Lone Oak" and "Hay Fever," soloing with vigor on the remainder. Utilizing a mixture of original tunes and well-chosen traditional numbers, The Ramblers offer a refreshing contrast to the artsy emo, garage rock and hip-hop that often hog the Lawrence music spotlight. Though the sleeper success of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack has reawakened an interest in traditional American music, The Ramblers probably won't be capturing hearts across the nation anytime soon. That's probably a good thing, as sometimes the best musical secrets are those that are well-kept.