“You can feel the music on your skin,” a salsa fan in Cary told the Independent‘s Sylvia Pfeiffenberger about Triangle salsa supergroup Orquestra GarDel last June. GarDel grew out of Carolina Charanga, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill program that connected the school’s jazz and Latin music students with professional musicians playing both in the Triangle. Now 11 members strong, GarDel features some of the area’s premier musicians, from jazz pianist Eric Hirsh (fresh off of a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program) to dynamic, vivacious frontman Nelson Delgado. A tight band willing to take unexpected instrumental chances (those horns have a mind of their own sometimes, no?), GarDel passes its fun around. Grayson Currin


Durham’s Mamadou Diabaté, like his kora, comes to us from West Africa. The Mali-born virtuoso is a Shakori Hills favorite, and why wouldn’t he be? For all the guitars, banjos, fiddles, horns and hand drums, there’s Diabatéalone, fingers flying over the 21 fishing-line strings strung across the Mande harp’s cowskin-covered gourd, resulting in an elegant sound that suggests a cross between the European harp and a classical guitar. But while he may blend Western influences into his music, Diabaté is still firmly rooted in Mandinka traditions. The kora is a family institution, after all. Mamadou initially learned the instrument from his father and studied under Toumani in his teens.

In fact, his album Behmanka received a Grammy nomination in 2006 for Best Traditional World Music Album, losing to In The Heart of the Moon, cousin Toumani Diabaté’s collaboration with Ali Farka Touré. No worries about being overshadowed here, as Mamadou will take the stage on his own to showcase his lightning-fast style. Spencer Griffith


Appropriately titled First Songs, Michael Hurley’s debut albuma slippery, slanted collection of assuredly picked blues and folk tunes like “Animal Song (If I Could Ramble Like a Hound)” and “Fat Mama”was issued in 1965 as Smithsonian Folkways 3581. In the four decades since, Hurley’s songs have trickled out every few years, a dozen or so at the time, on labels as venerated as Rounder and as thrifty as self-made CD-R reissues of late ’80s cassette releases. Those numbers have earned Hurley cult status and a critical reputation as a clear progenitor of the New Weird America/ freak-folk movement that took root in indie rock circles earlier this decade. And while that may be partially true (that movement’s belly dancin’ sweet child, Devendra Banhart, did issue Hurley’s latest on his label), the “outsider” tag for Hurley seems mostly like a defense mechanism by today’s “professional folk” cartel: A lifetime rambler, doodler and humorist, Hurley writes, sings, plays and records with an appreciation for it all, from humor and solemnity to improvisation and composition. To wit, his “O My Stars” is as pretty a love song as you’ll hear all festival, and there’s nothing experimental about it. He’s got quirks like the rest of us. He’s just not afraid to wear ’em on tape. Grayson Currin


The title of odds-and-ends collection Peace, Love and Anarchy sums up Todd Snider as neatly as any walking, singing enigma can be summed up. He loves the peace and he loves to love (among the things high up on that love list: East Nashville and its array of characters), but he also relishes peeing in the status quo’s punch bowl and making double cheeseburgers out of sacred cows. Snider has a variety of ways of putting those ideas across, from sing-along rock and inward-looking folk to skewed country and a trademark bastard child of spoken word and talking blues. Put it this way: When Jack Elliott’s ready to step down, he can bequeath the Ramblin’ tag to Snider. He’s a songwriter both wise and wiseass, and that’s a combination the world can stand right about now. Rick Cornell


Eilen Jewell’s Sea of Tears has the feel of a breakout record. The Boston-by-way-of-Boise singer/ songwriter already has built an avid following with three rootsy recordings teeming with songs that sound born of speakeasies and honky-tonks and train rides, all withoutand this is the truly impressive parta whiff of contrivance. But Sea of Tears seems sparked by a crush, a new old-soulmate called early rock ‘n’ roll, and a glorious take on Johnny Kidd & The Pirates “Shakin All Over” is love-letter exhibit A. (Jewell’s always shown exquisite taste in covers, dipping into the catalogs of Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen and Charlie Rich on ’07’s Letters from Sinners & Strangers. Them’s “I’m Gonna Dress in Black” and Loretta Lynn’s “The Darkest Day” are recent additions.) This modified approachwhich takes what’s long been great about Jewell and adds a Brit Invasion jolt and more room for ace guitarist Jerry Millerwill please those already in her camp and should usher in a whole new flock. We feel the same way about the break-out possibilities of Samantha Crain’s latest, Songs in the Night (see page 27). Rick Cornell


At the helm of the The Old Ceremony, Django Haskins puts his love-and-life musings atop a sweeping, orchestral horizon: String swells, organ swirls and vibraphone strikes color the space between his plaintive narratives and the band’s rhythmic base. Whether pitting tense verses against a chorus of pop-perfect sunshine or shading closing-time sentiments with slinky brood, the Chapel Hill quintet has a penchant for the dramatic. All together, the band holds its audience captive, Haskins relating his specific heartbreaks and new passions over the lush music. This midnight set under the stars (hopefully) should only heighten the intimacy and immediacy. In a sense, The Old Ceremony creates an environment where there’s nothing else happening. Beneath the stars in the middle of the pastures of Silk Hope, let them make you feel that way, too. Spencer Griffith


When bluegrass music’s acknowledged father Bill Monroe passed on, Ralph Stanley was given the patriarch mantle. It’s a role into which Stanley had to grow to some degree: He’d always played second fiddle (or, more accurately, banjo) in the Stanley Brothers to brother Carter, the group’s spokesman and primary songwriter. But, after more than a decade of increased exposure thanks to that piercing tenor and dignified-prophet visage, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else but Ralph Stanley as the voice and face of bluegrass. And any roots-music fans who’d somehow managed to miss Stanley’s 50-plus years of work with Carter and with the Clinch Mountain Boys were ensnared in 2000 by his rendering of the traditional “O Death” for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a song that felt so ancient and a performance that felt so sacred Stanley might have well been using the Old Testament as his songbook. Rick Cornell