This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Little Brother, Cave, Justin Townes Earle, White Magic
EH, WHATEVER: Unwed Sailor, Mobius Band, New Atlantic/ Paper Rival
VS.: Elizabeth Cook vs. Stacey Earle
INTRODUCING: Left Outlet
LAST WEEK'S PARTY: The Great Band Swap
SONG OF THE WEEK: Elizabeth Cook's "Sunday Morning"
12.07 LITTLE BROTHER @ CAT'S CRADLE
Reporting from the road with Little Brother days after its first major-label release, The Minstrel Show, hit shelves, I spent an afternoon in the back lounge of Little Brother's tour bus with Rapper Big Pooh talking about music. We were on the road to Boston, and, in the New England autumn, Pooh's head cold would barely let him breathe. That night, you couldn't tell: Little Brother's performances are all triumph and cheer, the emcees and their cadre (which should be huge tonight, as it's the two-months-tardy release show for LB's excellent if transitional third LP, Getback) turning an audience into a party. With Evidence of Dilated Peoples. $15-$17/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.08 CAVE @ NIGHTLIGHT
New Midwest monster CAVE is anchored by two members of Warhammer 48K, an excellent skuz-punk-metal troupe from Columbus, Mo. CAVE's dense rhythms build from a bed of heavy krautrock, piled high with psychedelic and noise aberrations. Mindfucking Chicago noisemaker Rotten Milk is in the band this trip down South, so expect the extreme. With Clang Quartet and Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan. $6/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.08 JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE @ HIDEAWAY BBQ
Steve's boy Justin has some of Aunt Stacey's Americana twang and a little of his namesake's itinerant shuffle, but his milkshake-smooth vocals and unaffected delivery ensure his material cuts clean and deep. This year's self-released debut, Yuma, showcases an almost precocious assurance. $8/ 6 p.m. —Chris Parker
12.10 WHITE MAGIC @ LOCAL 506
Mira Billotte moved to Brooklyn near the beginning of the decade, soon starting White Magic and penning "One-Note," a song some saw as capturing the essence of the resurgence of skewed folk in young circles. White Magic's first album was equivocal, but its latest EP,
Dark Stars, finds her exercising one of music's most possessing voices over gauzy textures and twinkling piano. With Shipwreck and Shipwrecker. $8/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.11 MOBIUS BAND @ LOCAL 506
Möbius Strip is a term for a non-orientable, one-sided surface. Mobius Band is the name of a New York/Massachusetts band that aims for the non-orientable tag by writing heartbreak numbers that pulse above live drums and around an array of circuit-bent keyboards. It's all a bit one sided, for sure, and the promise of the band's excellent debut EP, City vs. Country, gives way to standard indie pop stricture and structure on the overly comfortable second full length, Heaven. What a wittingly and unwittingly ironic title. With The Epochs and Middle Distance Runner. $8/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.10 UNWED SAILOR @ VINTAGE21
In 2007, making music that can be classified as Mogwai/ Slint/ Explosions post-rock is like digging your own grave. But Unwed Sailor, a Seattle-born band making cinematic music for the Xanga set, is too lifeless to lift the shovel. Their pusillanimous sound is too careful to command, and their pentatonic, predictable structures aren't smart enough to demand attention. San Marcos' This Will Destroy You doesn't have reservations about going from whisper to wrath, but they don't mind being Explosions II, either. Love&Reverie and Archer, You Mistook Me open. $5/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.12 NEW ATLANTIC/ PAPER RIVAL @ THE BREWERY
Paper Rival's yearning, punchy and earnest emo digs up decade-old Promise Ring, while the jangling, textured New Atlantic sounds like Richard Marx bought the Plimsouls on Craigslist for a song and outfitted them with decal flames. The melody and restraint from screaming are appreciated, but aside from pleasant ambience, these bands are all just tokens of promise. Who goes to shows for that? With Charlotte Sometimes and Yearling. $10/ 6:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7
From: Wildwood, Fla.
Since: Late '90s
Claim to fame: Hello "Dolly"
Cook appeared at the Grand Ole Opry more than 100 times with nothing more than a self-released set of demos, a testament to the chiseled perfection of her voice. Often compared to Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Cook sashays with a sassy, unaffected strut that knows its power but isn't stuck on it (see "Sometimes it Takes Balls to be a Woman"). Her easy, genuine manner affords her the flexibility to swing from earnest gospel ("God's Got a Plan") to tender, countrified Nico ("Sunday Morning"). Her latest, Balls, is spunky as its title suggests, thanks to the crackling country rock backing and Rodney Crowell's crisp, vibrant production. After her abortive major-label odyssey, it's evident she can take a punch and keep kicking. Uninhibited and bold, she's the winner. At HIDEAWAY BBQ, and The Wrights open. $10/ 9:30 p.m.
From: San Antonio, Texas
Since: Mid '90s
Claim to fame: Good genetic stock
Earle's got the pedigree and the past: Following in big brother Steve's footsteps, she picked up his guitar at 15, stayed with him after her divorce and eventually backed him on 1990's The Hard Way. In 1994, Earle met husband and musical partner Mark Stuart, and they've been honing their parched, shuffling old-timey twang ever since. Earle's high vocals are a stark, ringing presence against the music's earthy tones and Stuart's dusky baritone. The combination is amplified by disturbing lyrical sucker punches, like the untoward behavior hinted at in "Up in Annie's Room." The understated music is as rich in character as the songs, and similarly unfolds with unhurried precision. More mannered than Cook, Earle's music leaves you looking for the danger. At THE ARTSCENTER. $15/ 8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
12.11 LEFT OUTLET @ THE POUR HOUSE
Raleigh's Left Outlet goes big: Whether building acoustic ballads or blazing through thick, textured space-rock tracks, Left Outlet's choruses and sounds aim for a grand statement. Fitting, since the band is more of a musical collective than anything else. For a year, band founder Timothy Lemuel has been gathering a group of musicians to play: "Right now, we've got about four solid members, but we always have other people playing with us," he says. "There can be four people on stage or 12 depending on the show."
Lemuel hopes to find as varied an instrumentation as he can for the growing band, to make it as eclectic and inclusive as possible. That's a feeling he hopes to share with the audience. "Our show is a total sensory experience. Sometimes we have people making balloon animals on stage or throwing paper stars out into the audience. Mostly we want people to walk away with something to remember." With the Cringe. Free/ 9 p.m. —Kathy Justice
LAST WEEK'S PARTY
12.01 THE GREAT BAND SWAP @ DUKE
The Great Band swap certainly showed a sense of community, as one band—Midtown Dickens, for instance—played the songs of five others—Megafaun, The Future Kings of Nowhere, Eberhardt, The Wigg Report and Beloved Binge. But, above all, it proved that the host, Duke Coffeehouse, and the night's beneficiary, Bull City Headquarters, aren't mutually exclusive. That is, Durham rooms can support one another. Projectile beer, glowsticks, sweat, incense, lap steel guitar, toy ponies on stage, acoustic sets on the floor, a stage dancer named Soy Bomb: 'Twas one of many memorable Durham nights, a sign of more to come. —Savannah Ford