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Talent rises to the top 

If Oaklawn Park-style handicappers were giving odds on the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, Chris Henry’s band Cooper’s Orbit would likely have opened as the favorite in the Morning Line. A solo act edged out by a single point last year by winner, Hannah Blaylock and Eden’s Edge, Henry would only be a more formidable act with a full band.

Cooper’s Orbit did prevail as many would have expected last week at Sticky Fingerz in Round 2 of the Showcase. But it wasn’t a runaway: all four acts in last week’s lineup were seasoned performers.

Beau Nixon, who’s piloted two bands into the Showcase over the past six years, went the rocking solo acoustic route last Thursday, and got the night off on a strong start. Then, Stephen Hansen and his 4x4 Crew gave the audience, who braved a snowy night to come, an education in hip-hop and rap with an electrifying performance, capped by the rousing “Tell Your Mama I’m From Arkansas.” We decided right then that boxing champ Jermain Taylor had a new theme song. (Look for this song this week on our Musician Showcase page at www.arktimes.com and catch some of the video from Round 2 on the Little Rocking blog).

Cooper’s Orbit took a few of Henry’s original acoustic-rock songs (think Dave Matthews) and gave them the layered delivery they deserve.

The night wasn’t done, though, and Tim Moritz’s surf music creation, the Reverburritos, gave us a 30-minute set that would be a great soundtrack to another Quentin Tarantino flick like “Pulp Fiction.” Moritz is an amazing guitarist in the way he bends the mellow without going flat. This is a fun group, even if it’s all instrumental music. The Ventures would be proud.

Another talented quartet of bands is up this Thursday beginning at 9 p.m.: Jeff Coleman and the Feeders, Latture, Rigby Fawkes and Sideshow, all acts who have gotten a lot of local club attention. To see them all on the same stage the same night is what the Showcase is all about, and well worth the $5 admission.

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