Amelia White -- White uses simple tricks on the acoustic guitar and her expansive voice to create what could be loosely described as ambient country. She's a bit like a female version of Chris Isaak with a moody twang, and akin to Aimee Mann plucking more emotion from her guitars. But White clearly has an original sound and understands guitar hooks, which she combines with other instruments for a full, dreamy sound. Her stories are littered with characters either forgotten by the world or relegated to the recesses of memory. These shows are her debut in our neck of the woods. Also playing Friday night at The Evening Muse. Rodi, Gastonia (Shukla)

Jack Ingram -- Known throughout Texas in the 90s for the take-no-prisoners live shows he did with his "Beat-up Ford" band, Ingram's landed major label deals with Warner Brothers and now Sony's Lucky Dog subsidiary -- neither of which has sanded down his rough edges. He's one of those typical Texas "tweeners" who can pull off a tearjerker or ball-buster with equal facility. Ingram's got a new one, Young Man, due out Tuesday, so expect a healthy dose of new material. Local guitarist/singer Mike Strauss of Lilley, Strauss & Schigoda and the Beatdukes opens. The Evening Muse (Schacht)

Peter Case / Frankenixon -- Count Case among the ranks of former punk rockers and power popsters who are now taking the roads that blues and country built. His songs bind years of touring experience with somber optimism. Darn shame Case has not broken into bigger markets outside the singer-songwriter haunts he currently resides in. / Frankenixon could be the drunken cousin of Stereolab, if that's possible. It must be the isolation of living in small-town Iowa that brings out this combination of dissonant pop, unnerving piano jazz and rock. Their vacant-stare lyrical eclecticism and sparse instrumentation manage to build tension despite disparate musical styles. There is no denying their compositional prowess, where a moody jazz tune can turn on a dime and morph into something totally different. Highly recommended. The Evening Muse (Shukla)

Y-O-U -- Atlanta's Y-O-U are the class clowns that actually manage to be funny. They defy categorization and rock with quirky keyboard-generated pop. It's the quintet's come-what-may musical attitude and funky pop that draw one's attention in the end. Atlanta's Creative Loafing voted them "Best New Local Band," but you know how those Atlanta people are. The Room (Shukla)

Matador Red / Shalini -- This Charlotte quintet has a quaint 60s rock sound made up-to-date with a little help from producer Mitch Easter. Singer Anje Seufert's pleasing vocals provide simple lyrical observations over rock that's neither too hard nor fluffy. The recent sessions with Easter have resulted in a 5-track EP decked out with plenty of keyboards, shuffling drums and horns. (Shukla) / In their press release, Shalini -- Shalini Chatterjee (bass, vocals), Mitch Easter (guitar, production) and Eric Marshall (drums) -- respectfully ask the press to avoid "stale words" like "vintage, retro, psychedelic, jangly, pop, and Beatlesque" when describing the band's album-to-be, Metal Corner. There are other words that better describe their sound, it goes on to tell us. Words like "seasoned, rock, new wave, original, interesting," and "different." Putting aside for a second the fact that the last list of words is pretty much as cliched as the first set, I will say that this is pretty catchy stuff, and well-done in a hit-me-with-your-best-shot, Reaganomics-soaked kind of way. I'll most likely even go see them. One thing kind of troubles me, however. Why is it we writers can't use cliched words and phrases but bands can endlessly trot out cliched riffs? Double Door Inn (Davis)

Guster -- This Boston trio built up a strong grassroots following before signing with a major, and its adherents can, at times, lack a certain perspective (Guster fan overheard at double-bill with Wilco: "Guster should be headlining this fucker!"). Live, it can all seem a little too spontaneous, but the boys know their way around a hook, and their records (which preclude both annoying fans and stage banter) are loaded with 'em. Particularly last year's Keep It Together, which garnered the band their best press yet -- if that means anything to you. Tremont Music Hall (Schacht)

The Houston Brothers -- The Houston Brothers recently added another "brother" to the gang, rootin-tootin' drummer Shawn Lynch, and are preparing a semi-large-scale Eastern tour for later this spring. Folks who last saw the Houstons as a multi-instrumentalist duo (Matt Faircloth, guitar and bass pedals; Justin Faircloth, keys and a snare/cymbal combo) might be surprised at the newer, 8-cylinder version, featuring livelier tempos, a wider singing range, the aforementioned drums, and reams of new material. I hemmed and hawed a bit when they scrapped the two-man-band thing, but the Houstons Mach II was the right move. The band's calling card was never the novelty, anyway, and addition doesn't always have to mean dilution. With The Virginia Reel. The Evening Muse (Davis)

Barenaked Ladies -- Boy, I slide back and forth like a hockey puck on these guys (little nod to their Canadian homeland there). They can be cheesy as hell, to be sure, but I swear they write some justifiably hummable melodies, as well as some surprisingly touching tunes once they pull away from the kitsch a touch. And I think I like that they're all a little bit tubby and not rock stars, per se. The world needs more of that. As Mike Watt (or was it D. Boon?) of The Minutemen used to say, "Our band could be your life." Never thought I'd fit Watt and the Barenaked Ladies in the same preview. Hmmmm. Cricket Arena (Davis)

Lucinda Williams -- The reigning Queen of female singer-songwriters (at least of the country rock variety), Lucinda is practically "first-name only" music royalty at this point. After taking years between records -- six of 'em for the 1998 Grammy winner Car Wheels on a Gravel Road -- Williams has picked up the pace with the last two, with varying results. Essence, from '01, disappointed some, but last year's World Without Tears was an excellent effort by any standard (except for the odd rap delivery). Williams is rightly credited for her gut-wrenching honesty, and her live shows don't pull any punches either. With Festus, MO, veteran country rockers The Bottle Rockets opening, this may be the roots rock event of the year. Too bad it's sold out. Visulite Theatre (Schacht)

Dolorean -- This Portland, Oregon, group led by Alex James quietly released one of last year's most gorgeous discs, Not Exotic, earning props from The New York Times, The Onion's AV Club, and almost everyone in between. The music is simple but not remotely simplistic: sparsely populated melodies loll gently by on the power of James' melancholic storytelling and Nick Drake-like guitar. Throw in a lovely Wurlitzer and the odd cello or mandolin line and this record takes on a stately, autumnal hue that many seek but few find. With The Houston Brothers and Gold Coast. Neighborhood Theatre (Schacht)

The Standard -- The recently relocated Raleigh crew have a new one out on North Carolina's Yep Roc, Wire Post To Wire, which was recorded by Jeff Saltzman (Dolorean, Stephen Malkmus, also something of an unofficial sixth Standard member). The long-awaited record is a step up from their last, August, which was released on the infamous Touch and Go label. Assured and well-crafted, Wire Post To Wire manages to sound surprisingly original without the unnecessary studio errata that often comes from an indie album having a long gestation period. Either way, a (re)birth worth celebrating. With Bullship. The Room (Davis)

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