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Wednesday, July 12, 2006 01:00 am

Among the Midwest’s best

Big Smith plays the Hilton on Friday

Big Smith
My first experience with the Ozarks-based group Big Smith came during our Wednesday-night songwriter circle. I was praising singer/songwriter Mark Bilyeu’s CD, First One Free, when one of the circle members became almost uncontrollably excited. He started stuttering about Big Smith’s being the best band ever and claiming that Bilyeu was a member. I knew that the affected party possessed considerable taste in music, so I did my research. I concluded that Big Smith is one fabulous band, probably one of the best in the Midwest. The group, consisting of five first cousins born and reared in the Missouri Ozarks, descends from a rich musical heritage. They honor those regional traditions and add to them with good songwriting, impassioned playing, and practiced musicianship. Of course all this happy talk does no good without the actual goods, be it a great live show or excellent recorded output. Preview the group at www.bigsmithband.com or just show up Friday, July 14, at the Underground City Tavern (Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530). The lovely and talented Cindy Woolf opens the show in support of her Bilyeu-produced CD Simple and Few. She is now part of the MayApple Records family, based in Springfield, Mo., which also includes the discography of Big Smith, Bilyeu, and other area artists. The Music in Communities & Education “In Bed by Ten” music series continues with a performance by the Good Brothers at the St. Nicholas Ballroom (400 E. Jefferson St.), 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19. The jazz-improv group from Pleasant Plains comprises three siblings, ages 20, 11, and 12, who truly live up to their name. Cats on Holiday reunite once again, this time 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, July 14, at Thirsty’s Playground (1975 Wabash Ave., 217-787-7273). Will they play “Burning Down the House,” you ask? You bet your sweet bippy they will. Josh Holmes returns to Marly’s Pub (9 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-522-2280) for a show at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 15. The electric-guitar-playing singer/songwriter is making his mark on the big scene with hearty guitar-rock fare — kind of poppy and kind of rocky, and, well, you can dance to it and it sounds good on the radio.
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