River Cities' Reader: I'm surprised you're at home. You have a reputation for going on the road and staying there.

Dave Holland: I was in England this weekend performing a bass concerto composed by a very fine British composer.

• This Tuesday brings the release of a new single worth crowing about. "Danger! High Voltage" is the love cry of Electric Six, a Detroit five-piece that has simply blown me away with its homage-heavy sound, buzzing with dramatic energy like a Talking Heads' open-tent rejuvenation of the church of rock and roll.

The story of Mary Cutrufello is not exactly a rarity in the music business. It's the tale of an artist who draws a lot of attention from major labels, comes this close to achieving her dream of superstardom, and then watches in disbelief as the bottom falls out.

• This Tuesday brings the solo debut CD from Jesse Malin, and it's one of those magical albums that really digs its teeth in deep with repeated listenings, a neon-cool collection of melodic Americana moments that resonate from the suburbs to the subway.

• Cover craziness abounds with a pair of terrific new releases. This past month Chicago's punk and cornpone label, Bloodshot Records, celebrated its 100th release of authentic independent country. As a treat to the fans, the label culled its vaults for an appropriate thank-you, and the result is one of the most captivating collections I've heard in a while.

Local hard-rock quartet Circle 7 has been testing itself over the past year. The band has been playing to small-town crowds unfamiliar with its sound and its work, played an acoustic set for the first time (at the Blackthorn Pub on New Year's Eve), and has spent time in the well-regarded Catamount studio in Cedar Falls, Iowa, recording a new record.

• Do you feel like starting your own record label, boasting an artist lineup that includes Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, and Maria Callas? A recent New York Times article by Anthony Tommasini has brought to light another weakness in the American record industry's armor - the upcoming tide of European import CDs that take advantage of Europe's copyright-protection laws that put recordings into the public domain after only 50 years.

You know the big stories of 2002: Eminem is the King of Most Media. The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Vines, and The Hives are cool (or at least music magazines think so). Springsteen can still matter (or at least newsmagazines think so).

With the rolling wheels of the record industry grinding down for a holiday break, here are more of my picks for the best of 2002. Best Spoken Word CD of the Year: Paul Krassner - Irony Lives! (Artemis Records) Recorded earlier this year in the post-September 11 dialogue, this thinking-man's comedy release comes from the fertile and skewed mind of the co-founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies) and all-around muckraker, a nail among the balloons of government and the media elite.

The big attraction at Saturday's show at RIBCO will be the Grammy-winning acid-jazz outfit Liquid Soul, but the opening act is a fresh breeze that should appeal to fans of both jazz and hip hop.

The J.

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