Despite membership changes and an exhausting road schedule, the Drive-By Truckers have released a new album at least every two years since their 1998 debut. But co-leader Patterson Hood has never seemed much like the sort to be lost for words or, in this case, songs. In the same decade-plus, he's issued three solo albums, the best-executed of which is last year's great Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Hood's characters share an inclination toward mishaps, but it's how they handle the toil (and how he relates it) that makes the difference: On tragic album opener "1201," it's the drunk who can't stay sober long enough to realize that his life is falling apart. On banjo double-timer "Better Than the Truth," the self-pitying Billy Ringo serves as the town's stoned jester, until he decides simply to give up. And on the heartbreaking duet "Come Back Little Star," Hood pines beautifully for his late friend, the singer Vic Chesnutt, who took his own life in 2009. Like ghosts, these characters come back to haunt Hood, serving as bittersweet fodder for another poignant dozen. TUESDAY, FEB. 12, AT THE ARTSCENTER. $15/8 p.m.
BENEFIT FOR IAN BRUCE
This is the sort of show that we hate to see but that we're glad to have: When Tir na nOg's Local Beer, Local Band series emerged as a premiere outlet for weekday tunes in Raleigh, the sound for most of those Thursdays was managed by Robert Bruce, an audio engineer more affable than most. In recent weeks, his 3-year-old son, Ian, has undergone surgery to correct long-term urinary system complications. To support Ian, 10 of the bands his dad has cared for over the years return to help, including bombastic pop quintet I Was Totally Destroying It, songwriting statesman Kenny Roby, hip-hop fusion enthusiasts LiLa and country-rock agitators Old Quarter. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT TIR NA NOG & THE POUR HOUSE. $10/9:30 p.m./9 p.m.
BARREN GIRLS, YARDWORK
Merge Records wasn't always the Grammy-winning label with claims to The Arcade Fire, Spoon and Neutral Milk Hotel; no, in its salad days, the Chapel Hill-born imprint often issued the music of its friends, such as Finger, Erectus Monotone, Polvo and the flagship, Superchunk. In April, they'll resemble that label of old with the release of Hell Hymns, a four-song, 10-minute EP by four-women, Raleigh-and-Richmond act Barren Girls. Like a middle finger-shaped box of Nuggets, the quartet's debut is giddily psychedelic and decidedly antagonistic. They're joined by Yardwork, a Charlotte band whose members funnel résumés of math-rock, hardcore, world music and free jazz into wild-eyed and contagious permutations of shout-along pop. Zack Mexico opens with outlandish garage revamps imported from the Carolina shore. SATURDAY, FEB. 9, AT KINGS. $5/9:30 p.m.
Jeff Warner's mother wrote (and he edited) the book on old-time American songs, or at least one of the most famous: Traditional American Folk Songs From the Anne and Frank Warner Collection amassed many of the tunes that the pair gathered during five decades of travels into the South in search of the nation's musical bedrock. The multi-instrumentalist Warner remains an undisturbed conduit for those discoveries, singing old tales of woe and hope in a voice that's declarative in purpose and unadorned in approach. That is, though he's a fine performer, Warner seems most interested in his family's nearly 100-year-old mission—to find the song, save it and pass it along with fidelity. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT THE DEPOT IN HILLSBOROUGH. 7 p.m. SUNDAY, FEB. 10, AT THE N.C. MUSEUM OF HISTORY. Free/3 p.m. (pinecone.org)
CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS & VUSI MAHLASELA
Now in its seventh year, UNC's Global American South Conference attempts to view the region through a particular lens or theme every year. This time, it's music, meaning that, in addition to lectures and round tables, there are performances. The most notable is this strange union of the state's historical entertainers in Carolina Chocolate Drops with Vusi Mahlasela, a defiant and hopeful South African hero, singer and poet. Both in driving purpose and place of origin, Mahlasela and the Drops make very different folk music, but the combination is just strange enough to work. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT UNC'S MEMORIAL HALL. $69–$119/8 p.m.
In April, Torche released Harmonicraft, a fine album of the band's heavyweight but buoyant pop-metal. But Harmonicraft seemed frustratingly easy to Torche, a melodically sharp band that's most interesting when they make those hooks work in spite of the mess around them. In December, they returned with "Harmonslaught," the perfect A-side to a single that made you remember not only the song but also the beating it supplied. Few bands have been so vexing and rewarding to me in recent years, so they're always worth the chance, even with caveats. Bats and Mice opens with Midnight Plus One. THURSDAY, FEB. 7, AT LOCAL 506. $10–$12/7:30 p.m.
Last year was a noteworthy one for Danny Seim, Justin Harris and Brent Knopf, the three original members of brazen Portland act Menomena. Seim and Harris released their first Menomena record as a duo, the recharged and sophisticated Moms. Meanwhile, Knopf, who left the trio in 2011, issued Prophet, the second LP from his solo acoustic gig-turned-proper band Ramona Falls. Though his voice is often fraught with worry, Knopf's new material dosed the intricacy of his Menomena days with new oomph, giving his complex songs kinetic reinforcement. With Social Studies. TUESDAY, FEB. 12, AT LOCAL 506. $10/9 p.m.
Rapdragons are a Foreigner-sampling, weed-loving Baltimore hip-hop duo. At their best, they spill emcee Greg Ward's anxious and world-weary rhymes over beats that cavort with the same playfulness as the city's weirdo indie rock enclave. Baltimore rapper and Rapdragons collaborator Cutlass 83 is menacing and minimal, using spartan beats as base-level platforms for unflinching verses about hardships and handicaps. Just days before reuniting his college band, Art Lord & the Self Portraits, for a sold-out Raleigh show, Sam Herring of Future Islands opens this small front-room gig. MONDAY, FEB. 11, AT LOCAL 506. Free/9 p.m.
RAPPER BIG POOH
In the wake of Little Brother, you've likely heard about Phonte Coleman's solo rap career and his soul sophistication with The Foreign Exchange. And Little Brother's onetime in-house producer, 9th Wonder, continues to build a massive résumé of credits and accomplishments, recently becoming a hip-hop archive fellow at Harvard. But Rapper Big Pooh has been busy too, releasing the second volume of his Fat Boy Fresh album series late last year. Though occasionally defeatist and somewhat bitter, Pooh's best material still moves with the same childlike enthusiasm of his early successes, as though he were a young man stepping into the bright world for the first time, microphone in hand. Under his given name of Thomas Jones, he's also generated a second reputation as an NBA scribe for independent website Rant Sports. Buy him a drink, and ask him about Pau Gasol. With Chaundon, Lute, Forever FC, DJ Skillz and Joe Scudda. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT KINGS. $10/10 p.m.
What a difference two months makes: When guitarist Tim Reynolds visited Raleigh in December, he played a professional sports arena, adding screeching solos and electric textures to the Dave Matthews Band's set. But in February, he returns with his own trio, TR3, an occasionally awkward crew that pits interests in heavy metal, Eastern modes and lysergic freakouts against a funk-rock background. At his best, Reynolds goes haywire over the backbeat, multiple effects turning his six strings into a swarm. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT SOUTHLAND BALLROOM. $14–$18/9 p.m.
TORO Y MOI
If Anything in Return, the latest album from chillwave survivors Toro y Moi, is a dance record, I suggest wearing bedroom slippers. A record so slight it seems perennially in search of an elevator, Anything finds Toro y Moi forgoing former fun for songs whose main achievement is a disposition of sophistication. With Wild Belle and Dog Bite. FRIDAY, FEB. 8, AT CAT'S CRADLE. $13–$15/8:30 p.m.
Florida band Holopaw makes ornate, intricate and insular indie rock that is obsessed with fitting those descriptors. Like Okkervil River without momentum or Shearwater without peaks, Holopaw uses cool textures to create a morass of post-grad superficiality. TUESDAY, FEB. 12, AT NIGHTLIGHT. $5/10 p.m.