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baleen Multiple Loafing award winners baleen have a new CD coming out in December titled soundtrack to a normal life, early copies of which will be available at this show. Now augmented by Tony McCullough, Derrick Hines and Steve McMillan of the X-periment, the band has the chops to back up the tremendous promise of soundtrack, one of the best local releases in recent memory. Moody, organic electronic music with a rock & roll heart. CD Release Party, Saturday, The Evening Muse. -- TD

Blue Dogs Lead singer Bobby Houck easily slides over country rock tunes and boppin' jams while David Lowery's unassuming production of their last record, Letters from Round O, has helped tighten their sound even more. The vibe of Charleston's Blue Dogs is earnest and the musicianship is solid -- which means a lot in today's world of throwaway hits -- although it's been more than a couple years since they've released anything new. With Leisure McCorkle. Saturday, Visulite Theatre. -- SS

The b-Sides The namesake seems proper as the spunky, indie rock created by the b-Sides take cues from those cool B-sides of old vinyl singles -- that "almost" hit, the oddball pop ditty, the quirky band fave, the "collectible" flipside -- which are almost forgotten in the digital age. The corky pop is assembled with nuances of film noir soundtracks for a nifty sound, and this Chapel Hill outfit also has a new CD, to boot. Friday, Fat City. -- SS

Tinsley Ellis Tinsley, a Southern staple who consistently comes up a winner in the crowded contemporary blues scene, keeps things on the hip tip with soulful wailing and bending strings to where no man has gone before. The head-bobbing party atmosphere is always there while the achy guitar, with steely breaks played by road-weary fingers, helps in keeping the torch lit. Friday-Saturday, Double Door Inn. -- SS

Mama Ham A cool husband-wife blues duo weaves a full sound with acoustic guitar and harp. Robin Rogers takes the subtle humming and belts out ear-pleasing wails with her voice and harp. Tony Rogers' past flings with rock and alternative sounds showcase his acoustic blues with a flavorful twist. Mama Ham are one of the more unsung, yet deserving, blues chroniclers of the region. Saturday, Rodi's Grill, Gastonia. -- SS

Medeski Martin & Wood One might assume from the title of their last record that Medeski Martin & Wood's The Dropper is yet another installment in the band's free/house (indeed, acid) jazz catalog, right down to the funhouse mirror cover and first song ("We Are Rolling," naturally). Well, dig this. The 13-song release is more of a morphine drip, a long, slow, feedback-ridden journey to the center of the head -- though, in this case, it's three heads, the three-headed conglomerate known as Medeski Martin & Wood, the merry pranksters of white instrumental soul. Playing sans a guitar and featuring a keyboard as a lead instrument, they most frequently get name-checked as jazz, and they are in fact signed to Blue Note, the longtime jazz nameplate. But Chick Corea this ain't. Or is it? MMW doesn't play in a strict jazz style, preferring instead the jazz process, namely improvisation. Like Picasso, who had his Blue period before launching headlong into cubism, MMW had their Kind of Blue period, learning the ropes that Miles & Co. created years before them. Because they can play it simple, they can play it up, especially live. John Medeski has said that if someone says, "I can't listen to that because it's not jazz," then you're not listening to music for the right reasons. Word. Sunday, Tremont Music Hall. -- TD

Preaching To The Perverted Tour Pigface, a collective assembled and headed by producer, label owner and drummer Martin Atkins, leads a posse of straggly industrial, punk and alterna headbangers for an evening of debauchery and musical mayhem. Along for the Pigface ride are Chris Connelly, Chris Haskett, Meg Lee Chin and opening bands gODHEAD (a run of the mill M. Manson wannabe) and Gravity Kills (cool Industrial rock). The "anything goes" carnival vibe should be on as who knows what will crawl out of the woodwork. Friday, Tremont Music Hall. -- SS

Snagglepuss / Alternative Champs / Les Dirt Clods Some longtime heavyweights from the Charlotte set in new guises here, all doing what they can to form a scene -- forming new bands, trading members with friends, and generally (gasp!) getting along with each other and doing what they want instead of following whatever last month's trend was. A caustic mix of some of our city's best, the show oughta be great fun, featuring the Blondie-esque shuffle of Hope Nicholls' Snagglepuss, the ever-irreverent Alternative Champs, perhaps one of the better live shows in town (provided you leave your inhibitions at the door), and the rustic cosmic rawk of Randolph Lewis and his Dirt Clods. Wednesday, November 21, Visulite Theatre. -- TD

The Strokes By now, if you've read Time or Spin or Rolling Stone or Penthouse (we all know you read that mag), you've heard the hype about The Strokes, the next Velvet Underground/Television/Fill-In-The-Hipster-Band-Name-Of-Your-Choice. Funny thing is, they're actually quite good, effectively blending their influences (including some of the above) into their music without it sounding like a mix tape. One reckons the fact they're all reckless and good-looking doesn't hurt, but the proof is in the pudding, and Is This It? is some of the finest you'll taste this year. Our policy of late has been to not write about out-of-town gigs, but this one's certainly worth the drive on this, their first major American tour after conquering England in a fashion that probably had Tony Blair taking notes. Tuesday, Cat's Cradle. -- TD

The Stelle Group Boasting a solid new CD titled At Home In Exile, the popular SC alt.whatever act is hitting the road again, hoping to reach converts to their deserving, brushfire-dry, Western-style sturm und drang. If one must group them in the Americana camp, figure on hearing a looser version of that tag, with multiple harmonies and a little good-natured Westerberg swagger. Solid. Tuesday, Double Door Inn. -- TD *

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