There's an old saying about friendship: "The better you know someone, the less there is to say. Or maybe, there's less that needs to be said." Certainly, this is true between friends. But when it comes to getting ahead in the music business it can certainly help your cause if a mutual crony or colleague puts in a good word or three on your behalf.

Last week, among the packages in Border Radio's mailbox, one jumped out: "Friend of Robert Blake," the sender—one Rachel Ries of Chicago, Illinois—had scrawled next to the return address. Already a fan of Robert's easy onstage demeanor and assured take on classic folk traditions, we put our trust in the Bellingham balladeer's tastes, and made sure to listen to Miss Ries's enclosed debut CD, For You Only, ASAP.

The verdict? Wow. Rachel calls her music "prairie swing and city folk," and to our ears it nestles comfortably alongside Jolie Holland and Eleni Mandell: savvy lyrics and tender melodies, sung with a flexible voice imbued with echoes of the jazz age, and, best of all, graced by the audible stamp of analog recording and vintage microphones. Seattle can thank Robert for the tip, and shower his Windy City visitor with applause, when the two share a bill at the Conor Byrne this Thursday, September 8.

Local singer-songwriter Sameer Shukla was introduced to Border Radio last year by his buddy Shane Tutmarc, the power-pop visionary behind Dolour. We've been keeping casual tabs on Sameer ever since, and are proud to announce that his debut album, There's Only One Side Tonight—produced by Tutmarc, and mixed by Jason Holstrom (United State of Electronica)—is in stores on Tuesday, September 27. If you think "Baby Britain" is the most underappreciated Elliott Smith song, go to www.sameershukla.com right now and check out "Emily," with its plunking piano and handclaps aplenty (all that's missing is a kazoo). The way Sameer pushes his pipes into his upper register on "Carry the Pennies," stopping just short of cracking, gives his delivery an adolescent edge that suggests his enthusiasm cannot, will not, be contained by a mere pop song. Check him out live at High Dive on Wednesday, September 14.

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We're not sure of the exact nature of the relationship between Alabama troubadour Adam Hood—who also plays High Dive, on Friday, September 9—and superstar producer Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked), but we do know that it takes some extra work to reach the rest of the U.S. of A. when you're operating out of deepest Dixie. 6th Street, the recent four-song EP from Hood, is solid stuff—the twang in his voice reminds us of prime John Mellencamp (yes, that's a compliment), and his gutsy originals make it easy to understand why he's a favorite with college kids around Auburn, Alabama. The fact Anderson is producing and putting out his next full-length means we'll probably be hearing a lot more from Hood come 2006.

kurt@thestranger.com