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Jimbo Mathus is a busy feller: Besides being a founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Mississippi-raised local musician plays in The Countdown Quartet as well as his own project, James Mathus & His Knockdown Society (he's also been a guest guitarist on discs by Buddy Guy and the North Mississippi Allstars). Mathus and the boys from the Knockdown Society (pictured) will be playing tunes from their second release, the Jim Dickenson-produced National Antiseptic, a washtub full of blues howlers and repentant gospel-tinged numbers. The group shakes the floor of Chapel Hill's Larson Lodge this Friday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at tickets@fortyacres.org. Reservations required.

DiamondDiamondDiamondBats and Mice, featuring ex-Milemarker solo artist Ben Davis along with his former Sleepytime Trio cronies Jonathan Fuller (Engine Down) and Dave Nesmith (Rah Bras), have an EP CD out and a melodic, piano-driven full-length primed for a 2002 release (Lovitt Records). This will be their area premiere, and it promises much. They'll be at Go! Room 4 this Saturday, Dec. 15, with The Ladderback and 12 Hour Turn. Call 969-1400 for details.

DiamondDiamondDiamondThis year, Redeye and Yep Roc Records' Annual Christmas Bash will benefit Planned Parenthood in Orange and Durham counties. The lineup includes singer-songwriter-fiddler Caitlin Cary (ex-Whiskeytown, one-third of Tres Chicas), who'll be previewing songs from her soon-to-be-released full-length debut, While You Weren't Looking. Also featured is former Sub Pop artist Joe Pernice, Mike Ireland and Holler, and local jazz-rock-funk greats The Countdown Quartet, who'll close the evening with a booty-shaking set referencing everything from Meters-style red beans 'n' rice funk to classic N'Awlins flavored jazz. Great music, great cause. The bash is Friday, Dec. 14, at 9 p.m. at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. Call 967-9053 for details. --Angie Carlson

DiamondDiamondDiamondEver since Bill and Charlie Monroe arrived at WPTF radio 65 years ago, the Triangle has been home to many of the country's foremost bluegrass musicians. Perhaps best known today is Steve Dilling, banjo player for the tremendously popular IIIrd Tyme Out, and a former member of the Bass Mountain Boys and the Lonesome River Band. Dilling offers a rare solo gig at downtown Raleigh's Tir na nOg Irish Pub, featuring an all-star cast of friends including Gena Britt, IIIrd Tyme Out's Wayne Benson, Jimmy Van Cleve from Mountain Heart and the Chapmans' John Chapman. See them this Thursday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Call 779-5672 or 833-7795 for details. --Art Menius

DiamondDiamondDiamondIt's impossible to keep up with all of the rootsy singer-songwriter types around, even the immensely talented ones and those who've been around a good while. Case in point: Houston's Eric Taylor, who falls into all of those categories. Even though he released his first album, Shameless Love, in 1981 and hung with Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, it was Lyle Lovett's cover of his "Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning" on Lovett's valentine to Texas songwriters, Step Inside This House, that first brought Taylor to our attention. Taylor's CD, Scuffletown, out this past spring, finds the accomplished storyteller still in prime form ("I saw Charlie Rich singin' at the Continental Ballroom/He let the whiskey do what whiskey does best"). You can find him at the ArtsCenter Friday, Dec. 14. Call 929-2787 for details. --Rick Cornell

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