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While many folks will be checking out Kings this Tuesday for the stripped-down rock of the duo 20 Miles (Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer and his brother), it'll pay to show up early for the two femme fatales that make up Mr. Airplane Man (pictured right). This Beantown pair digs deep into the Delta muck, drawing heavily from Howlin' Wolf (they lifted their name from his tale of an errant lover); they also burn a hole in his "Commit A Crime." Margaret Garret, whose deep moan vocals rule the day, has a huge guitar sound that can be ghostly and dark on slide numbers, and retains the crackle of raw early rock. Tara McManus moves from the urgent stomp of hill country blues to a shuffle beat on their occasionally brighter-hued melodic songs. There are plenty of bands trying to cover this territory, but very few doing it well. This should be urgent, unrefined house-rockin' music at its best. --Chris ToenesDiamondDiamondDiamond

I've written about Tift Merritt's musical gifts so often that I'm surely starting to repeat myself by now. It's too bad that I couldn't have bottled Merritt's confident, engaging performance at last fall's Landmine Free World show (during which she shared the stage with Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn and Patty Griffin) and then just poured folks a cup when it came time to try to describe her talent. If you haven't yet seen her perform, this Saturday, March 8, presents a great opportunity when Merritt and her band, the Carbines, headline a benefit for northern Chatham County's Community Independent School.

Also on hand will be the veteran-laden Brown Mountain Lights (pictured left), featuring under-sung vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Janet Place. Before moving to Chapel Hill, the mighty-voiced Place was in a pure honky-tonk band named the Slim Jims, an outfit at the head of Washington, D.C.'s roots movement. Soon after hitting North Carolina, she formed the too-short-lived Kickbacks and then bounced back with area mainstays Jeff Hart and Greg Bowers in the Brown Mountain Lights. Rounding out the bill is contemporary blues guitarist Cyril Lance. Showtime at the Cat's Cradle is 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, with all proceeds going to the Community Independent School. --Rick Cornell

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