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Bela Fleck & The Fleckstones - Live Art

JMP is said to be doing for the mandolin what Bela Fleck did for the banjo. While thoughts of Deliverance might spring to your head, this music will free you of whatever banjo prejudice that movie gave you.

The band is always touring, playing to sold-out crowds but is unfortunately done for this year. Luckily, they have given us this collection of live material amassed between 1992 and 1995 to tide us over, with guest artists like Chick Corea and Bruce Hornsby. The audience feels like another band member, prominently cheering along, indicating how much fun their shows must be.

Bela is on banjo, Vic Wooten is on bass, and Future Man is on synth-axe drumitar. Indeed, percussionist Future Man has created a guitar-shaped drum machine with pressure sensitive finger pads that give him full control over a traditional drum kit sound, which he can mix on the fly. It takes a lot of effort to get the sound of a drum machine, and it is another thing that adds to their live appeal.

Their synergy is incredible. Songs like "Stomping Grounds" show how well these guys listen to each other, build on each other, and work to produce a unique, fun-loving - if sometimes too-country and too-hokey - sound that is definitely dance-inspiring. For a pick-me-up, this album is one to put on and just feel good.

As for Phish, you can decide for yourself where they fit into pop culture. They will be at the Fleet Center for their annual holiday shows Dec. 30 and 31. If you are going to be around New Year's and have some bucks to invest, tickets go on sale at the box office and via Ticketmaster this Sunday at noon. Call 931-2000. The limit is two tickets per person per show through either vendor. Phone orders are Fed-Exed to you, so add a few dollars.