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VISITING ACT ‌ Down that Music Road

Edwin McCain busies himself across the media

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Edwin McCain Band
w/ Meghan Coffee, Michael Tolcher
Thurs. Dec. 29 / Fri. Dec. 30
9 p.m.
$15 / $20
House Of Blues, Myrtle Beach / Music Farm
4640 Highway 17 / 32 Ann St.
843-913-3740 / 853-3276
www.hob.com / www.musicfarm.com

That moon-faced grin ... that overly-long hick-surfer hair ... that molasses Piedmont drawl ... yes, to his Carolina fanbase, veteran folk-pop singer/guitarist Edwin McCain certainly has a recognizable persona. Love him or hate him, he's played a major part in cementing a twangy, collegiate-friendly "Carolina sound" with a simple, blue-eyed soul style alongside those of Hootie and The Blue Dogs.

McCain and the band -- sax 'n' keys player Craig Shields, guitarists Larry Chaney and Pete "Liverpool" Riley, drummer Dave Harrison, and bassist Lee Hendricks -- were last in town in August for a show at the Windjammer with Kevn Kinney behind McCain's latest album, Scream and Whisper (DRT Entertainment). The group recently signed to Vanguard Records (one of the more prestigious folk and blues labels of the '60s and '70s). Wrapping a session this month in McCain's newly-assembled, state-of-the-art facility OMG Studios in Greenville with producer Noel Golden, the band is eager to tackle a full schedule in 2006 behind the album, due out this spring.

"Obviously, it's still us playing the songs, but this new album is decidedly more of a 'rock' record than the last few," says McCain, 35, speaking from his home in Greenville during last week's upstate ice storm. "It's more guitar-driven. There's only one down-tempo song. I wouldn't even call it a ballad. The rest of it's rockin'. There'll probably be some people who'll be disappointed with the lack of gushy love songs. There're none on it. It's a little darker. I found myself making the same record over and over again with the same elements. I wanted to change it up a bit. Part of the journey is exploring other avenues."

The forthcoming album follows last summer's Scream and Whisper, a twangy collection of ballads and melodic songs that represented a rebound after surviving his share of ups and downs with major label Lava/Atlantic, who released his major debut, 1995's Honor Among Thieves. In October, the band celebrated a newly-released live concert DVD titled Tinsel & Tapshoes.

In addition to a rigorous touring and recording schedule, the songwriter also finds time to help run a real estate company called Working Nomad and a tour bus rental company called Gene's Busses. In November, McCain signed on for even more work --this time as a host for the new Turner South music series Music Road.

"Our [music] business is so unpredictable, you have to start finding other ways to make a living ... just in case. It's different when you're 19 or 20, but when you have a family and other things you're responsible for, you look at it differently."

Music Road premiered on the Turner South channel in early December as a one-hour "holiday special" introducing viewers to "some of the South's best songwriters," including Clay Cook, Meghan Coffee, Matthew Kahler, Heather Luttrell, and Sundiver, as they played homegrown holiday favorites. McCain himself performed a special rendition of "Silent Night" during the first episode. It's almost like a Southern version of the mid-'80s, pre-120 Minutes underground music series I.R.S. Records' Cutting Edge, similarly hosted by Fleshtones singer Peter Zaremba.

"It all came from my appearance on Live at the Bluebird Cafe," he says. "They liked the performance, my stories, and my demeanor, I guess. They wanted to do a traveling music show, but they didn't want a host in the typical sense. They wanted a musician, so they hired me. And I have no prior hosting experience [laughs]. I'm just kind of being me. It's fun."

Shot on location at the small venues Eddie's Attic and Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, Music Road airs again on Thurs. Dec. 22 at 10 p.m. More episodes taped across the Carolinas and the South are scheduled for the winter season.

"When you ride around doing your own thing all year long, you don't have as much of an opportunity to see other music," says McCain. "I'd forgotten how much of a fan I am. With this show, I remembered how thrilling it was to hear a new performer for the first time and be moved. It brought me back to when I was 13. I've been having the best time with this thing. The way it's shot and formatted, it's so real, so intimate, and so gritty ... it's like the anti-American Idol, you know?"

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