Steve Earle & the Dukes
In a recent session for satellite radio syndicate SiriusXM, Steve Earle talked about taking a walk to the gym with actor Tim Robbins. They went past a church where Robbins had served as an altar boy, the same place Earle had noticed long soup kitchen lines forming. As it turns out, the place had been a soup kitchen all along, but Earle was noticing now because of changes in mental health and homeless funding. “We see,” Earle said, “what we choose to see.”
Earle is the sort of songwriter who forces us to see things we’ve perhaps chosen not to seethe implausibility of our economic situation, the terror of our digital dependence, the desperation of our modern loneliness. On his latest, The Low Highway, he threatens to burn down a Wal-Mart, the obvious treacle of that idea mitigated by the grim fury in the voice of the narrator. A survivor of Nashville and drug addiction, Earle has become a national statesman by moving through darkness and into a world that’s not quite light but is bright enough that he can see and share the troubles he’s found. With The Mastersons. Sunday, Aug. 25, at Lincoln Theatre. $25–$40/8 p.m.
Ostensibly not convinced of the off-putting power of its chosen band name, four-guitar Nashville sextet Diarrhea Planet elected to title its second album I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. Fuck these ass-obsessed assholes, right? Not quite so fast: Though the 13 songs on Dreams are no doubt cocksure and sloppy, Diarrhea Planet marries its unabashed rock bombast (again, four guitars) to songs that catch no matter if they’re aching or exalting. Delivering a manic and delirious distillation of The Who, Cheap Trick and fellow Tennessee troublemaker the late Jay Reatard, these bros aim for instant rock god status on a budget best suited for garages or a communal living space. It’s too fun to be fancy and much too jubilant to let that name stand as a barrier to entry for very long. With The So So Glos and Jezebel County Hospital. Thursday, Aug. 22, at Local 506. $8–$9/9 p.m.
The bulk of the early press for the new trio Bored Spies has keyed on biographical talking points. The members are rooted in Arizona, Singapore and South Korea; the band features former North Carolina resident and Bitch Magnet/Seam member Sooyoung Park; indie rock standby Brad Wood produced their debut single. But it’s the two songs on that 7″ that deserve the most notice. Lacing slowcore drift with guitars swiped from power pop and slowed way down, these twin tunes are yearning and enveloping, their dramatic guitars drawing straight arrows into the mouths of the melodies. Baltimore opener Golden Gurls toughens up the memory of Versus with thicker guitars and heavier rhythms subsidizing charm with brawn. With Horizontal Hold. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Local 506. $7/9 p.m.
Full of invective and excitement, come-ons and comedowns, parties and pouting, Jonny Alright Sings and Plays His Songs is one of the year’s most exciting surprises. Recorded with a strange cast of locals that includes Filthybird singer Renee Haran and Greensboro funk siren Robin Doby, Alright sings and plays his songs as a mercurial and charismatic frontman. A rock ‘n’ roll chameleon, Jonny Alright suggests Paul McCartney’s melodic maneuverability on “Wrecking Ball” and Lou Reed’s stilted soul on “Glory.” Mostly, though, he crackles with the primitive blues spirit of Jack White and Dex Romweber, reinvigorating old ideas with his own new worries. “I’m moving like a cheetah, man,” he howls at one point, his restlessness presented like a talisman. Keep up if you can. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Slim’s. $5/9 p.m.
Goner, Wichita Falls
Chris Tamplin has booked Tir na nOg’s Local Band, Local Beer series for six years, with a short break spent helping to start Motorco. His run ends next week. For Tamplin’s penultimate gig, the guitar-less trio Goner delivers the sophisticated pop it’s culled for more than a decade from influences as far-flung as Springsteen, Fugazi and Celtic Frost. Faking the Wisdom, their latest, is inaptly titled, as its treatment of hooks, dynamics and delivery plays out as mature in the best possible sense. Wichita Falls, on the other hand, is the outpost of Will Clinton, an upstart bandleader whose approach to rock is uncomplicated and emphatic. His five-song EP, …and the Bad Blood, suggests a teenager howling his list of worldly worries into a four-track recorder, his seemingly innate sense of hooks shaped and scatted by his grievances. Thursday, Aug. 22, at Tir Na Nog. Free/10 p.m.
Alex Bleeker & the Freaks
How Far Away is the second album from Alex Bleeker, perhaps best known as the bassist in Real Estate. Like that band, Bleeker’s music with his Freaks is often muted and wistful, prone to gentle trots and sleepy-eyed murmurs. But the sweet-and-sad songs of How Far Away add some gusto, leaning forward with wallop on the country-rock of “All My Songs” and “Step Right Up.” For the pleading soul tune “Time Cloud,” Bleeker drifts through a haze of electronics, a crooner lifted into a neon sky by his feelings. Matt Northrup opens. Sunday, Aug. 25, at Kings. $8/9 p.m.
Onyx Club Boys
The Onyx Club Boys specialize in pulling together separate strands: For instance, the quartet reaches across several generations of area musicians, pairing wizened guitarist Dave Smith with relatively young bassist Jonathan Henderson. Veteran drummer Dan Hall helps to split the difference. Abetted by versatile fiddler and guitarist Gabriel Pelli, the Boys work from samba to swing, from fiery jazz to stately instrumentals. The cool dexterity of their playing binds together the broad catalog. Saturday, Aug. 24, at Saxapahaw Rivermill. Free/6 p.m.
Miranda Lambert’s the rambunctious blonde who sets stuff on fire and encourages her mom to do the same, candidly disses bad relationships and confronts the person responsible. But she has been smart to balance that firebrand persona, showing her more reverential side on the expert 2010 ballad “The House That Built Me.” After a decade as one of country’s most intriguing stars, she shows few signs of fading. Saturday, Aug. 24, at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. $38.25–$67/7 p.m.
Clang Quartet, Yohimbe
This five-band bill depends on two familiar anchors: Yohimbe dements dance music to the extreme, sideswiping beats with explicit samples, corrosive noise and time-warping effects. Clang Quartet, meanwhile, is the long-roaring, faith-based act of Scotty Irving, a North Carolina noise institution who treats his harsh stage show as equal parts excoriation of sin and invitation to redemption. Also, Raphael, Spare Child and E. Cactus. Friday, Aug. 23, at Nightlight. Donation/Free
Michael Rank, Magnolia Collective
This three-part bill toes and sometimes trips over the line between country and rock. Michael Rank & STAG might have grown tired of comparisons to The Rolling Stones, but their music continues to explore that deep influence by twisting between bellicose and bleary-eyed reflections. Meanwhile, Magnolia Collective looks at society askance, treating class inequality and love troubles almost as insidious conspiracy theories worth a broadside. They cast those troubles out in smoldering rock tunes, informed equally by Neil Young and outlaw country. Also, Hank Sinatra. Friday, Aug. 23, at Local 506. $5/9:30 p.m.
John Hiatt & the Combo
In the last three decades, John Hiatt’s made some terrific and tough folk-rock records and written some great songsanthems, even. But over the years, his Americana has become increasingly stiff, the fluidity of his early work replaced by formulaic arrangements echoed in his unyielding bark. Last year’s Mystic Pinball simply reapplied the starch to his style, with songs that felt written and recorded with equations and not enthusiasms in mind. If you’ve heard or seen Hiatt in the last decade, you know the sound to expect. With Native Run. Thursday, Aug. 22, at Carolina Theatre. $25–$70/8 p.m.
There was Gangsta’s Paradise. Then there was the quasi-comeback album, The Return of the Gangsta. And next, we’ll likely get A Gangsta Returns to His Kitchen Paradise. Indeed, later this month, the rapper Coolio will auction off the rights to his catalogue in order to fund his second cookbook and an online culinary show. At least that should be free, and you won’t even have to take a look at your life, only to “realize there’s not much left.” With Lazarus and Mixed Solution. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Southland Ballroom. $12–$15/9 p.m.