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Two Plus Two, a quartet of sixth graders from Marie H. Reed Elementary in Adams Morgan, was awarded first place in a citywide songwriting competition intended to boost youngsters’ respect for life. The contest was part of a multifaceted “I Love Life and I Want to Live” campaign sponsored by the United Black Fund (UBF). Along with putting its message of positivity to a good beat, Two Plus Two was shrewd enough to include a glowing mention of the late Calvin Rolark in “Life Is Too Precious,” the prize-winning song. (Wilhelmina Rolark, his widow, is president and CEO of UBF.) For taking top prize, group members James Lee, Marc McGruder, Michael Simmons, and Salem Steele received $200 and a limo ride to a UBF dinner. Two Plus Two bills itself as a “reggae rap” group, which makes sense: Steele, a 12-year-old keyboard impresario, frequently sits in with See-I, his father’s reggae band. “When we play, everybody always picks up on what Salem can do,” beams proud dad Archie Steele. “They think it’s no big deal that a big guy like me can play.”
The Wanderer Now that he’s back from another extended stint of troubadouring far and near—Amsterdam, Kerrville, Herndon, etc.—self-described “emerging songwriter” Bill Parsons promises to devote more energy to promoting his suitably rangy debut. His eponymous EP, which features cameos by some of the D.C. scene’s most sought-after musical mercenaries (including guitarist Bill Kirchen and saxophonist Chris Watling of the Grandsons), finds Parsons all over the musical map, with forays into Western swing (“At the Peace House With Jo Jo”), traditional bluegrass (“Autumn’s Coming Back Again”), and even some David Gates-ish love balladry. For a copy of Bill Parsons, mail $6 (postage included) to Kind Grind Music, P.O. Box 21344, Washington, D.C. 20009. The EP can also be picked up at Parsons’ upcoming gigs, including a June 16 show at Potter’s House in Adams Morgan and a June 30 date at the Birchmere. Parsons is approaching his first appearance on the latter venue’s stage as a Nashvillian would a slot on the Grand Ole Opry. “It’s a nice break for me,” he says.