COPPER SUN "The Little Valley Variety Show" After months of promise, this disc finally arrived. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that the band name was printed on the cover three times, reflecting the band's sensitivities to our attention-deficit culture. ) With the opening track, "Unbearable Predicament", this album wastes no time in grabbing your ear and filling it with some smooth, down-home, groovy butt-wigglers. No bone-crushing distortion, screaming or anarchy here...this is a band of musicians....yes, and that even includes the drummer. For this reviewer, Copper Sun would be placed in the same catagory aisle as Phish, Blues Traveller, and other jam bands of the post-Dead era, except that they know when to end a song. I am also hearing nods to early Train, the Allman Brothers Band and The Tragically Hip. Drummer Ron Payne shows an exceptional mastery of the skins, with plenty of very tasteful chops peppering the rhythm without being too flashy, busy or overbearing....here's a guy who knows how to play from his wrists instead of his biceps. Bassist Jason Abbott knows his scales, and uses that knowledge very effectively in delivering smooth, meandering countermelodies to the groove. Guitarists Mac Bartine and Brad Coulter alternate between acoustic and tastefully processed clean electric guitar tones, often delivered with a distinct southern/midwestern feel. I felt a hint of 70's nostalgia in the phased guitars of "Devil In My Pocket". The album credits both Bartine and Coulter with vocals, so it's undetermined who is the lead singer. Whoever it is, he feels every note and delivers them with enthusiastic sincerity. His tone reminds me in a big way of Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip, who I am a big fan of, so I'm a little biased. The lyrics are thoughtful, prosy and clever ("Carnival of sins for sale/ and man I want to buy/diggin in my pockets/ for some thrill I want to try"; "My day is slow like caterpillar and I hope to butterfly away soon cause chasing flowers would make this all worthwhile"); with occasional dips into the esoteric: "How could you not like a vegetable dish with a name like succotash? Yeah, I'm asking how could you not like that?" If there's a down point on the album, it is arguably the ninth track, "Yankee Type Women", where the band decides to make a humorous turn with a grits-and-backbacon country tour-de-farce which levels verbal assaults against a girl who doesn't appreciate Southern living. With such a drastic change in vibe, this cute, tongue-in-cheek number would have been better placed as a hidden track for the surprise effect. Overall, this is a fine collection of grooves; I didn't hear anything I didn't like.... excellent music for playing the steering wheel in the car of life while travelling down two-lane roads and sidestreets. It's also great music for beer-and-burger cookouts, or for times such as right now, when I'm watching the traffic roll by and the college girls saunter down the sidewalk in short skirts and halter tops on a fine spring day.