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sheville Britpop band The Cheeksters play CD show at Lexington Avenue Brewery

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5/6/2011 - Asheville Britpop band The Cheeksters play CD show at Lexington Avenue Brewery
by Michael Flynn

The Cheeksters - one of Asheville's hometown bands, is heading up a weekend full of music events for this Mother's Day weekend in Asheville!

IF YOU GO

Who: The Cheeksters, with Albatross Party.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lexington Avenue Brewery, 39 N. Lexington Ave.
Tickets: $5, or $10 with CD. 252-0212. www.lexave
brew.com.

ASHEVILLE -- If last weekend's royal wedding still has you thinking about all things British, check out The Cheeksters. Asheville's finest purveyors of classic British Invasion and glam-era sounds have just released their sixth full-length album, "The Golden Birds," and celebrate Saturday with a gig at Lexington Avenue Brewery.

Asheville residents since 2000, Mark Casson and Shannon Hines Casson met by chance on a London train in 1989. A U.K. native who grew up in the north of England and Wales, Mark was working at a Notting Hill record store at the time while Shannon, a Tennessee native, was on a post-college trip to Europe.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and the couple's music continues to combine toe-tapping Britpop and the funky grooves of Shannon's Memphis roots.

"It's got the catchy pop and great soul," Mark says about the new CD, which is available at Harvest Records as well as online from iTunes. "We're very pleased sonically with the way it came out."

All the songs were written by Mark, who remains inspired by the Kinks, Bowie and T. Rex radio singles of his youth. "I loved the idea of a single -- a short, sharp burst of something memorable to lift you up," he says from home in North Asheville. "It was compelling."

Casson writes on either on guitar or piano, coming up with the melody first. "I kick that around for a while," he says, before seizing on a topic. "It's whatever's around. It could be the newspaper, or my own autobiographical stuff. It's tidbits of life crafted into catchy three minutes of song."

As with their last few records, including prior release "Movers and Shakers," Mark and Shannon recorded "Golden Birds" on analog tape at Cream Puff studios in Nashville, Tenn., with musician and producer Brent Little.

The LAB show will include the full band, which features Mark on vocals, guitar and keys, Shannon on bass and vocals, Jay Moye on keys and guitar, and Mike Baker on drums. Guest Je Widenhouse of the Firecracker Jazz Band will bring the energizing trumpet solos that snake through several "Golden Birds" tracks.

The title is not from an album cut, but a children's book titled "The Dark Wood of the Golden Birds" by Margaret Wise Brown (of "Goodnight Moon" fame) that Shannon brought home one day.

"It's very mysterious," says Mark, who was inspired by the tale.

The band plans to play several shows in the Southeast in support of the CD, and Mark is already at work on a new batch of Cheeksters tunes.

"It's our 20th year of playing music together," he says of Shannon.

"It's pretty amazing, and I'm proud of fact that we're still doing it. It feels as good and natural as it ever did."

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