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With their first major-label release, The Waking Hours hope to be at the right place at the right time.

Rise and Shine

The Waking Hours
CD release party
Plan 9 Records
3012 W. Cary St.
7 p.m.
Tuesday, July 27

Tom Richards of the Waking Hours is enjoying unemployment these days. He's using his time in the limbo between recording and releasing the band's first nationally distributed CD to just sit back and wonder what will come down the road.

"Maybe our timing isn't good," the singer/guitarist says cautiously, a serious look falling briefly over his face. But after considering the band's chiming, upbeat, guitar-pop sound, he quickly reconsiders. "But maybe it is."

The 12-tune recording should be right on time if there's room for biting guitars, layered harmonies and punchy songs in today's musical world. But Richards and bandmates Rob Clark, Scott Richards and Ricky Tubb know success in the rock 'n' roll world is an uncertain dream at best.

"It's a different world," Richards says. "You catch yourself saying, 'Wow, I feel totally blessed."

"The Waking Hours" is the first of a seven-CD deal with Arista imprint TimeBomb Records. The band recorded the project in about three months at FantasyStudios in Berkeley, Calif., where Creedence Clearwater Revival once waxed hits. Some of the songs were re-recorded from the band's 1997 demo CD while others are new. Richards says label owner Jim Guerinot and producer Neill King gave the band a surprising amount of studio control but that putting the songs down was tough nonetheless.

"We worked immensely hard," Richards says, adding that the process was "very assembly line … there was nothing laid back about it." The music they heard in their heads didn't always transfer to tape. But Richards says the band is satisfied with the outcome.

"You're working through an interpreter," Richards says. "[But] our producer was a workhorse."

The 12-hour days got long, the 29-year-old bandleader acknowledges, but he also says there were little asides that broke up the regimen. Carlos Santana was recording next door and he came over to borrow a guitar effects box one afternoon. Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews also were hanging around.

But through the long days, Richards says the guys "learned a lot of cool stuff" that should benefit the next effort.

The CD now awaits distribution by BMG but already the single "Work It Out," penned by Tubb, is getting airplay in New York, Texas, South Carolina and New Jersey. The band is also looking at a long although as yet unscheduled tour.

Step by step, the guys are edging toward a new niche in the music scene. What that niche may eventually be isn't certain, but Richards acknowledges that at this stage it's better to have the problems of uncertain success than not to have those problems at all. He's down-to-earth about expectations but he's also clearly up for whatever comes down the music biz pike.

"It's funny how it all works out," Richards says with a grin. "It's OK to

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