Some folks' motto come January 1 is "out with the old, in with the new." But not Korby Lenker; he prefers a mix. "I'm basically kind of old-fashioned," he confesses. "I'd rather read a Russian classic than the latest bestseller." Even as he rolls into 2007 with fresh projects—and possibly a change of address—Seattle's fastest-rising country artist is also returning to his roots: On Saturday, January 6, he is reuniting with Bellingham bluegrass quintet the Barbed Wire Cutters for a long overdue Seattle gig at the Tractor Tavern.

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Although the group—which also includes Bruce Shaw (mandolin), Chris Glass (fiddle and vocals), Andrew Simmons (bass and vocals), and Kevin Fazio (banjo)—played together in Bellingham about six months ago, the singer-guitarist estimates it's been over a year since their last Emerald City appearance. Why the holdup?

"People moved out of town. People got married. It became a little more difficult to make rehearsals," says Lenker. Of course, there were also the myriad obligations that came with promoting his 2006 solo release, King of Hearts. "Probably more than anything, it was me being busy," he admits. "And people being mad at me. Well, quietly annoyed. But a quick couple of pints cleared all that up."

After the hiatus, Lenker says spirits are running high. "The last time we played together, we hadn't done it in a long while either. But there was just that instant magic that I remembered. It is so nice to play with musicians of this caliber. The rest of the guys, I mean. I just smile pretty and try to sing in tune, but they can really pick."

Could this show mean the band are finally making a follow-up to their 2003 release Full Moon to Rise? Yes and no. "We haven't begun putting together material for another record, but that can change fast," says Lenker. "I know there will be another Barbed Wire Cutters album. I don't know if it will be in the next six months, but it might be in the next year."

Meanwhile, Lenker has been working on the follow-up to King of Hearts in both Seattle and Nashville. Last year, he started dividing his time between the two ("I kind of have dual citizenship"), and is considering spending even more time in Music City in 2007.

"Nashville is really a career town, and I'm going to be writing songs for the rest of my life. That's all I want to do, hang out with songwriters and have the opportunity to be creative. It's also a highly competitive environment, which is good for somebody who has been sitting in a small town for six years."

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He'll be traveling overseas, too, promoting the UK release of King of Hearts. But no matter where his mail is forwarded, Lenker promises he'll spend plenty of time in the Pacific Northwest. Right now, he has a lot of options—just the way he likes it. "Why have one iron in the fire when you can have four?"

kurt@thestranger.com

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