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Michael Stanley and Friends, Charlie Hor$e get graded

Michael Stanley and Friends

Tis the Season:

A Heartland Holiday Sampler

(Line Level)

linelevelmusic.com

Just in time for his annual holiday concerts, Michael Stanley has assembled his various band members, past members and friends like Andy Pratt, Colin Dussault and folk rockers Hey Mavis (whose jaunty "Santa Knows" recalls the Waitresses' classic "Christmas Wrapping") to contribute tunes to this 19-track seasonal sampler. They're mostly remakes of old carols (guitarist Danny Powers' shredding "O Come All Ye Faithful," Stanley's own "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," Rodney Psyka's powerful "Silent Night"), with a couple of originals (Jonah Koslen's sentimental "Light a Light Up," Gary Jones' soft-rock "Tis the Season.") But the keeper is singer-keyboardist Jennifer Lee's intimate, understated but passionate commingling of "White Christmas" and Blue Christmas." — Anastasia Pantsios

Charlie Hor$e

Radikal Thought Is Evolving

(Board of Edutainment)

myspace.com/charliehorsespit

Local rapper Charlie Hor$e starts his debut with "Wake Up," a mish-mash of samples and shout-outs that suggest the album's serious, righteous tone. While Charlie has plenty of tracks "for the ladies," he's really more invested in following the footsteps of KRS-ONE and 2Pac. On the tender ballad "I Believe in U," he raps about voting for Barack Obama and his hope that the president can make the world better. Charlie Hor$e isn't afraid to use the n-word or drop the f-bomb to get his point across, something he does effectively on "U Ain't ... Nigga," a simmering tune fueled more by rage than righteousness. Teaming up with locals D. Roof and Jus Mic gives Charlie Hor$e a certain credibility, but the guy's such a sharp, focused rapper, his sincerity is never in doubt. It's a credit to his skills that when he raps "This is revolution music" over the sound of a rattling drum machine, you believe him. — Jeff Niesel

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