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THURSDAY 3.21
Beth Wood -- Wood honed her craft in Austin, TX, but finally came to some sort of prominence in Asheville, where she was quickly embraced by local folkies like Jimmy Landry, Chris Rosser and David LaMotte. She's got a pretty good newish one out, Ghostwriter, which ought to please fans of soulful folk with the accent on singing. Think a more operatic Emily Saliers, maybe. With Jodie Manross. The Evening Muse (Davis)

FRIDAY 3.22
Black Lagoon / The Talk -- The band's been recording their debut e.p., The Devil's Beatin' His Wife, which early pre-production demos suggest should be one to look for: interesting textural elements and a kind of desert exoticism like one gets from acts such as Queens of the Stone Age (plus, a bluesy, PJ Harvey-like singer, no less). Nice stuff that seems to come from the same swampy backwater that gave us bands like it could be nothing and Muscadine a few years back. Also playing is The Talk, Justin Williams' (ex-Ginger Briscoe) new group. I've yet to see them, but Williams is usually a songwriter worth catching. Look for The Talk to be a little less raucous than past Williams projects, but no less interesting. With VouDou. Tremont Music Hall (Davis)

The Clarks -- Stripped down and dirty, The Clarks are like those bands that play everything like you'd expect, sing just like you've heard before, and spout lyrics that, while excellent, don't scream Bob Dylan -- even the songs are mostly about the usual suspects (beer, girls, lack of beer, lack of girls). What they do exhibit is sweat in droves, because it works. More bands of this genre could take a cue from The Clarks here: Don't reinvent the wheel, drive it somewhere it's never been before. With David Childers. Neighborhood Theatre (Davis)Shannon McNally Opening for Robert Randolph, McNally is an up-and-comer who sings mostly mid-tempo songs with a blues base and a pop sheen overlay. Not blues, not roots-rock, not pop, but a self-assured blend of all three in different combinations. There's a buzz about McNally in the music biz, and here's where you'll see why. Visulite Theatre. (John Grooms)Jennifer Nettles Band -- The peak of her strength lies in the wailing, bluesy and fired up gospel-styled vocals. Her band adds on keyboards, stand-up bass, acoustic guitars and the occasional accordion for some well-rounded folk-rock. This gig is one of a round of shows pumping her new CD, Gravity: Drag Me Down. Nettles can rock like Melissa Etheridge and has a harder acoustic sound and deserves more accolades, as well as radio play, than the overexposed Alanis. She fronted Atlanta's defunct Soul Miner's Daughter for a few years before taking the solo plunge and now has a couple of solid records cementing her sound. Amos' Southend (Shukla)

Robert Randolph & The Family Band -- Randolph's last gig here in Charlotte was as opening act for the N. Mississippi All Stars, and by all accounts, he stole the show. Randolph comes from a heavy church background, and learned his instrument, the pedal steel, laying down soulful licks in an attempt to better lead the congregation to Jesus. Randolph became so proficient, in fact, that pressure was intense for him to play a few club shows. Which leads us to now, wherein Randolph has traded a suit for a football jersey, but not forsaken his heavenly prowess on the steel. Recommended. Visulite Theatre (Davis)

Spookie Daly Pride -- Their new album, Marshmallow Pie, a sort of Northern homage to the Moon Pie, is a pretty typical Spookie platter -- a dash of Tom Waits vocals, some Southern jangle and drive, and a little good ol' fashioned N'awlins funk. A little different from most bands of this ilk, and to their credit, they manage to be humorous without overwhelming the music. They're interesting enough, and while they don't seem to be straddling genres because they can't perfect one, you would like to see a bit more stylistic cohesion -- musically, they're not so much schizophrenic as they are silly. Extra points for the lyrical grit, however. With Bellyfull. Mojo Restaurant & Spirits (Davis)

SATURDAY 3.23
Dan Bern -- Although his latest CD is titled New American Language (Messenger), it's no new language Bern speaks; rather, he puts twists and spins tales on classic electric folk. He has a knack for turning funky guitar licks and an ear for twisting lyrics of mid-America with a Dylanesque lyrical cynicism. His heartland musings, and strumming on the lonesome guitar, has crack musicians filling in the blanks for an expansive sound. Neighborhood Theatre (Shukla)

Emofest -- OK, so what the hey is Emo? That elusive genre can be loosely defined as post hardcore punk rock with emotive and sung vocals, rather than "I wanna run you over with my car" angst. It's where the subtle opening of a song rips into neck shakin' rock & roll somewhere along the way. Here's an adventurous lineup of some of the players of the scene based in our neck of the woods, of which, headliner One Six Conspiracy is probably the most established. Other interesting bands gurgling under are My Personal Hero and Near the Never. Also included on this all-day gig: Walsham, The Darkstar Observatory, Statefish and more. The show starts at 2:30pm. Hart-Witzen Gallery (Shukla)Sage Francis Part of the whole Anticon/Non-Prophets crew, Sage Francis has been getting some serious props recently (including a blurb in Spin magazine), and for good reason. His style has been described as emo hip-hop, and for once, the descriptives sort of seem to fit. No less interesting a wordsmith than Eminem, but with a lot more to say. Yes, he's white, but that hasn't a thing to do with it. It's the color of his conviction, and the Fu-Manchued, Goose Gossage lookalike has it. With Edan the Magnificent, Grand Buffet, and quite-good local upstarts Dominant 7. Fat City (Davis)Victory Records Tour -- This record label, pumping out years of hardcore records, has been expanding its horizons lately by taking on swingin' ska-punk bands such as Catch 22 and the recently signed Voodoo Glow Skulls. The brutal pounding doesn't take a back seat, though, and you'll submit this evening to the likes of Grade (unrepentant hardcore), Reach the Sky (chorus-laden hard punk), Student Rick (a melodic emo band) and Taking Back Sunday (new mofos on the block with a debut LP coming this month). Tremont Music Hall (Shukla)

Ware River Club / The Stelle Group -- A double bill of beefy American music is on hand this evening. New England's Ware River Club plays a sort of Jayhawks meet Smithereens approach of hard acoustic pop laced with a harmony-filled attack. The Stelle Group hails from Columbia, SC, and plays full-bodied, roots-infused rock soaked, rather nicely, in whiskey-lathered vocals. Double Door Inn (Shukla)

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