He plays like a fusion of Albert King and Albert Collins and sings like a slightly hoarse Otis Redding with a Cajun accent. Tab Benoit‘s swamp-inflected blues expose his Louisiana roots, but there’s as much Texas in his music due to the twin Albert vibe. But Benoit won’t stick to one genre. He’ll go from Wolf’s “Howlin’ for my Darlin’” to Boozoo Chavis’ “Dog Hill” to Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine” in a set. But he doesn’t do just covers. A prolific songwriter, Benoit pens tunes that sound like classic blues with a Louisiana feel. He’s second-billed with former Nighthawk Jimmy Thackery a lot, but has the talent, material and technique to carry a show by himself. He doesn’t come through these parts much, but Blue Bayou Club could change that if it gets good support for Benoit’s show on Thursday, May 18 at 9 p.m. Tickets run $16-18. For more, see www.bluebayouclub.com. –Grant Britt
You might know Larry Reni Thomas as the voice of Sunday Night Jazz on grassroots community radio station WCOM, or as the reliable presence at the jazz jam on Friday nights at The Know Bookstore and Restaurant in Durham. Now hear him in a new role: The Chapel Hill-based historian, teacher and jazz scholar will read this weekend from his first book of fiction, Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!: A Fictional Account of the Wilmington Ten Incident of 1971. Thomas holds that the incident was retaliation for the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, and shows how four days of widespread violence changed the course of the city’s history. He’ll make appearances on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at the Regulator Bookshop and on Friday, May 26 at 7 p.m. at The Know Bookstore.
In that time of year
From Joel Martin’s exploratory jazz outfit Jazzical to Howlin’ Wolf guitar partner Hubert Sumlin on Saturday and from world-blues master Corey Harris to sophistication savants Europa Jazz and Katharine Whalen on Sunday, this year’s Artsplosure in downtown Raleigh promises plenty. And it’s not just music: An art market offers all kinds of items from across several states, while Moore Square Park hosts several large-scale concept installations, including Joseph Huberman’s floating solids and a giant sand sculpture. Buskers will abound, and activities extend to Exploris. For more, see www.artsplosure.org.
In charitable (and democratic) laughter
A benefit concert where you vote on the recipient of your largesse? That’s the twist when inDecision Theater, one of the region’s finest improv groups, slates two shows this weekend to benefit the AIDS Community Residence Association, the Durham Crisis Response Center, the Piedmont Wildlife Center and Triangle Beagle Rescue. After audience members vote for their favorite charity, the profits will be split accordingly. At Durham’s Common Ground Theater, Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8; for reservations call 810-1255. For more info, see www.indecisiontheater.com. –Byron Woods
In not the same-ol’
You are The Sames. At least, that’s what Durham rock thunderstorms have had us all believing for years. Now they’re hanging up the distortion pedals with an all-in-the-family showcase at the Cat’s Cradle Friday, May 19 with friends The Rosebuds, Schooner, Pleasant, North Elementary, Audubon Park, The Torch Marauder and the Pox Family Singers. While tracers of crackling fuzz hover, The Sames always anchor their songs with tent peg-sized barbed hooks. Onlookers slapped the “shoegazer” label on them, but for my bloody money, their rock is in the fore, not buried in hiss. Guitarist Marc Faris reaches tonal bliss as Zeno Gill arches his voice to emphasize the tenuous proceedings. Gill runs the label Pox World Empire, home to many of the brightest lightning bugs in our fair backyard. Go family style at 8:30 p.m. It’s free. For more info, see www.catscradle.com. –Chris Toenes
In deep water
Deepa Mehta’s Water, the third in her “elemental” trilogy (following Earth and Fire) begins with the image of the lotus, a bloom that flourishes even in filthy water. Set within a starkly impoverished widows’ ashram in 1938, the energetic Chuyia, an 8-year-old widow, arrives. She creates a prickling of expectation in the community, triggering a forbidden romance between Kalyani, forced into prostitution to support the ashram, and Narayan, a dreamboat Gandhian idealist.
The orthodox branches of many religions enforce their most extreme tenants by subjugating women. Water‘s production was physically threatened by Hindu fundamentalists and eventually was filmed secretly in Sri Lanka. Mehta’s controversial feminist view of some of India’s thorniest problems suggests that even if idealism at first appears to be a weak response to injustice, sometimes it contains hidden powers. Opening Friday in local independent theaters. –Laura Boyes