ROCKING OUT: John Satterfield is seeing - and hearing - music in different ways these days. For people familiar with Satterfield's work in the melodic bluegrass band Woodwork Roadshow, the music will sound different, too, tonight at The White Mule.
In Woodwork, Satterfield, a singer who fills songs with grace and patience, was flanked by mandolinist Harris Gardner and bassist Jones Smith. The incandescent bluegrass and folk the trio played, heard on the sensational 2008 album "In Brick, In Bones," was superb in quality and strength. It was music you could dance and think to.
But Satterfield wanted more heft. "Needed" could easily be substituted for "wanted."
"I've got all these songs where I never had the format to get the purpose of the songs across," Satterfield said. "And then you play with somebody and see the possibility for it."
He was talking about his new playing partners. Herbie Jeffcoat, a sly and slick guitarist who played in Sourwood Honey, electrifies Satterfield sleek acoustic songs. Reggie Sullivan, a dexterous upright bassist, provides a comfortable couch for Satterfield's words to sink into.
"He's probably one of the best bass players if not the best bass player I've ever played with," Satterfield said. "He's incredible."
The wildcard is Jeremy Roberson, a propulsive drummer who has been gigging with Satterfield. Roberson won't be at the show tonight, though, because his band, Villanova, has a show at Club 1800 with The Movement.
"He's been adding a lot to the band," Satterfield said. Larry Gornto, the music scene's fill-in drummer, will play for Roberson.
A question will inevitably arise: How much can Roberson really contribute? Villanova is one of the few in-town bands that has a consistent out-of-town schedule.
"Obviously when you find a combination that works as well as it has, you'd like to stick with it," Satterfield continued. "We definitely consider (Villanova) really good friends of ours. We would never do anything to step on anybody's toes.
"It's a tight-knit musical community."
During an interview at Yesterday's last week, Satterfield, who was joined by Jeffcoat, described the music as more rock 'n' roll than Woodwork. The new players also provide elements to Woodwork's recorded songs that the originating band couldn't replicate live.
"Some of it is Woodwork Roadshow stuff that I wrote for the last album," Satterfield said of the new music. "Three or four songs on the record we couldn't actually do live because we didn't have the instrumentation.
"Now we have a lineup that can reproduce it. I'm excited about being able to do some of the songs."
One of the songs is the elegant "Bound to Fly." In many ways, Satterfield's efforts away from Woodwork are paralleling the song's chorus: "And you know that your time will come / To take to the sky / And I ain't much a bird / No, but Lord I'm bound to fly."
And what of Woodwork? Has the band dissolved for good? Satterfield said the trio will still get together for sporadic shows, but it's hard to schedule with Gardner living in Nashville and Smith in Winston-Salem.
"It's been nothing but wonderful to play music with those guys," he said. "But at one point or another, you've got to realize you can't pull people from three-and-a half to six hours away from each other to create music and expect it to be a productive atmosphere.
"I'm here now, and this is where I want to be."
Jeffcoat, who plays infrequent dates with the Herbie Jeffcoat Projekt, hasn't been in a band since Sourwood Honey. For the last seven years he's been touring as a soundman for performers such as Duncan Sheik, Howie Day, Saliva and Crossfade.
"It's an easy unit to work with. We've got a lot of things to work out still because it's such a new band," Jeffcoat said. "With that core of people, it's effortless."
But why play with someone now?
"He's got something to say," Jeffcoat said of Satterfield. "That's the bottom line."
Satterfield is ready for the results to be heard, whether it sounds different or not.
"It's a better product to show people," he said. "I think it's a much more honest involvement of Columbia musicians, specifically."
The show starts at 8 p.m. The White Mule is at 1530 D Main St. $10; (803) 661-8199
NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: When you think of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's music, what comes to mind?
TSO, a colossal band of singers and musicians, produced three Christmas-related albums: "Christmas Eve and Other Stories," "The Christmas Attic" and "The Lost Christmas Eve."
"Night Castle," the show you'll see Sunday at the Colonial Life Arena, won't have anything to do with Christmas. But the story will, at least in regards to what the Christmas season means to so many of us: a time to reflect on our lives.
"Night Castle" combines the mystical with the mythical to create a story of transformation and love.
TSO, which marries classical music with the demeanor and sound of a progressive rock band with 24 lead singers, will enhance the plot, which won't be spoiled here, through music.
"We tend to take on subjects that are larger than life," said Paul O'Neill, TSO's founder, who mentioned the work of Charles Dickens, author of "A Christmas Carol."
"He wrote about them in a way that people could understand."
During our interview about "Night Castle," which is also the title of the band's double album, O'Neill jumped through various topics such as social promotion; how kids learn; the genocide in Darfur; Socrates and Greek civilization; the history of the Peloponnesian Wars; Beethoven; and Churchill.
All of the above is related. It's all history, a subject that fascinates O'Neill, who would make an engaging history lecturer. Watching and following "Night Castle's" tale will leave you thinking about history - the history of yourself and others - and the future.
"It's definitely getting over the top," one of the few things he said directly about the show. "But I love it.
"It's just so interesting. I really feel like mankind's at a turning point. It could go either way."
"Night Castle" has a happy ending.
"It ends with hope," O'Neill said.
And that's all we can hope for when things remain so bleak.
Showtimes are at 3 and 7 p.m. $25 to $55.50; www.TWCtix.com or (877) 489-2849