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Former Whiskeytown violinist/vocalist Caitlin Cary returns to the Triangle for her first Chapel Hill show since the release of her full-length debut, While You Weren't Looking. After a national tour and spots on NPR's World Café and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborne, the local singer-songwriter has emerged from being Ryan Adams' sidewoman to take her rightful position front and center. Cary's expressive, cello-like alto voice, coupled with lyrics that echo the Southern literary tradition, have made her a critics' fave. Filling out the bill is British band The Mojave 3's Neil Halstad, touring for his debut solo disc, Sleeping on Roads. The delicate, introspective album could be Nick Drake's take on '70s American folk rock, colored by the laid-back Tex-Mex sounds of the Giant Sand/Calexico/Friends of Dean Martinez collective. Hear Cary and Halstad Wednesday, July 17, at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. Call 967-9053 for details.DiamondDiamondDiamondWhen The Shins emerged from the arid Albuquerque music scene last year with their disc Oh, Inverted World, the indie-pop world sighed. The album is a dazzler--an orchid somehow sprung from the dusty, hardly fertile desert town that the group calls home. Lush harmonies bloom over rich beds of guitar and organ as the songs defy the old verse/chorus formula to veer into unexpectedly beautiful places. The album seems a breakthrough considering the, well, ordinariness of singer-songwriter-frontman James Mercer, who's so unaffected, so not the rock star, that seeing him perform live is all the more inspiring. The Shins play Kings in Raleigh with Sub Pop labelmates Beachwood Sparks, whose last album, When We Were Trees, was an engaging collection of Left Coast folk-rock in the Byrds tradition. Unfortunately, their new CD, Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, is initially a letdown--vague, slow-tempo songs with melodies that seem to drift rather than make a statement. They're said to be amazing live, however. Decide for yourself this Thursday, July 18, at Kings in Raleigh. Call 831-0540 for details. --Angie Carlson

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