Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival
If Shakori Hills, the biannual roots-and-more music festival in Chatham County, were a restaurant, its dishes would be served either a la carte or in the form of great, big, strange stews. This fall, for instance, you can get your bluegrass from Big Fat Gap and your bop from Peter Lamb & The Wolves, your pop from Brett Harris and your zydeco from Preston Frank. Or you can choose among many mélanges of it all, from the outbound newgrass explorations of Yonder Mountain String Band to the gyre-like folk-pop of the reborn Bombadil and the pedal steel turbocharge of virtuoso Robert Randolph.
But the most exciting combination this year is both the least likely and most historically intriguing one: The Texas-born Cedric Watson wrestles several forms of the Old South, including lonesome tunes, jumpstarted zydeco and thorny blues. Mali's Sidi Touré, meanwhile, makes knotty songha blues, characterized by a pervasive drone embattled by ceaseless propulsion. The links between their music are ancient and obvious, given America's former financial interest in Africa's West Coast. But combining them, onstage in the same band? It may sound strange, but the early tapes of their International Blues Express are intoxicating, like two long-lost cousins suddenly catching up. Thursday, Oct. 10–Sunday, Oct. 13, at Silk Hope. $15–$110.
Richard Buckner has a long-running reputation as a peripatetic sort, having lived not only in most regions of America but also having crossed the northern border into Canada for a time. His music follows suit, breaking the lines between country and alt-country, indie rock and folk rock, poetry and prose and lyrics by binding them together with hardscrabble willpower. His indefinable aesthetic seems to be a chief reason that, though he's emerged as one of this country's most gripping lyricists over the last 20 years, he's generally lurked at the periphery of popularity in various scenes. Pay no mind to that, though: His new Surrounded is a charming and challenging record, delivering the same sort of stunning character portraits as Gillian Welch with anamorphic musical accompaniment. He sometimes invokes the pulse of techno beneath the burl of his hard strums and wobbly, pockmarked baritone. That doesn't make defining him any easier, but it's one of the best, simply being himself. Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Pinhook. $8/9 p.m.
The Gibson Brothers
Though they live so far north in upstate New York that they're blocks away from being a Canadian band, the five-piece Gibson Brothers are this country's modern bellwethers of traditional bluegrass. To wit, they've won IBMA's sacred Entertainer of the Year prize two years in a row, including last month in Raleigh. With high, tight harmonies and unfairly precise playing, they are a captivating force. But they're not only concerned with ferocious picking sprees. Their tender-hearted latest, They Called It Music, hinges on a handful of slow originals that survey the exigencies of love and the assurance of faith. Sure, they're allegiant to the old craft, but the Gibsons participate in bluegrass's continuum by first learning it and then tacking on. Friday, Oct. 11, at Cary Arts Center. $24–$26/7:30 p.m.
The Helio Sequence, Menomena
Both The Helio Sequence and Menomena supply intricate, audacious, two-piece indie rock from the Pacific Northwest. The Helio Sequence used to be bold and cataclysmic, with huge drums and guitar clamor breaking the bounds of their songs. Last year's Negotiations is a bit more subdued, but it's fun, nevertheless. Meanwhile, Menomena has only gotten more aggressive and interesting as time has progressed, with their uncanny senses of rhythm, arrangement and production resulting in records that splinter any expected frameworks. They occasionally have trouble rendering the material live, but it's worth the risk. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Kings. $15/9 p.m.
Martin Bisi, Caltrop
Martin Bisi is a repeating rock 'n' roll footnote: He recorded early albums by Swans and Sonic Youth, worked with Bootsy Collins and Whitney Houston and helped jumpstart John Zorn's Naked City and Bill Laswell's Material. Thanks to the recent resurgence of young New York bands vested in the dark and heavy, he and his aesthetic have enjoyed something of a resurrection. His new Ex Nihilo is his first solo album in five years. Like a house of horrors haunted by a medieval choir and a free jazz band that delights in fright, Ex Nihilo is an hour-long crawl through sinister madrigals and malevolent soundscapes. It's a fitting if fitful encapsulation of Bisi's legacy. Caltrop headlines with its raised-in-the-sun Southern anthems. Chicago duo Invisible Things, who open, sculpt a thousand guitar pricks, long electric roars and ever-roiling drums into short-lived but nevertheless colossal waves of sound. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Nightlight. $7-$9/10 p.m.
Jel, Tennis Rodman
Jel is a cofounder of anticon., the hip-hop collective that helped stretched the length of that hyphen during the last decade. His beats and remixes sound warm but feel cold, as though the crackle of his drum machine bounces against the walls of a concrete bunker. The woozy productions of Tennis Rodman feel like dance parties in the near-dark, the motion slowed until each bit of a beat becomes a punch with a gloved hand. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Kings. $7/8:30 p.m.
Bloody-minded and well-schooled in the ways of traditional thrash, Sweden's Antichrist plow ahead at breakneck speed. They pause to take brief pirouetting solos, two guitars twisting upward into spires. They inevitably race ahead again, storming into an abyss of sawtoothed vocals focused on necrotic ends and heroic demons. New York's Natur and Richmond's Vorator open. Thursday, Oct. 10, at The Maywood. $8/10 p.m.
The Down Hill Strugglers
You might not recognize the name, but The Down Hill Strugglers are at the youthful vanguard of old-time American music: Through their work with New Lost City Rambler John Cohen, these three New York multi-instrumentalists and workaday singers have helped reinvigorate these antediluvian tunes, playing them with the skills of experts but the spirits of amateurs. They link with Durham's The Hushpuppies, now nearing a third decade of picking and howling the standards of the South. Thursday, Oct. 10, at The ArtsCenter. $6–$14/8 p.m.
Zingaresca comprises Oleg Timofeyev and Vadim Kolpakov, two boosters of the Russian seven-string guitar. Kolpakov is a descendent of one of its best-known players, while Timofeyev is a scholar devoted to its legacy. You might wonder, then, why they take one of the final dates of this year's Music of the Carolinas series, which generally explores the more traditional sounds of the region. Last week, the North Carolina Museum of History opened two concurrent exhibits to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. With their hyperkinetic arrangements for dual guitars, Zingaresca adds another dimension to the host's installations. Sunday, Oct. 13, at NCMH. Free/3 p.m.
The Smoking Flowers
Nashville pair Kim and Scott Collins push from brassy folk-rock concerned with home life to winsome, drifting jangle documenting the call of the road. The instrumentation is simple, with harmonica sighs, mandolin fans and accordion jaunts tracing around the acoustic guitar cores. These two sing together wonderfully, with cozy harmonies that put you in their living room. Thursday, Oct. 10, at Slim's. $5/9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at The Cave. $5/10 p.m.
With innocence in your heart and nostalgia in your mind, perhaps you think, "Oh, it's Saturday night, and I've got no plans. I'll go see Emerson Hart. I sure did love that 'If You Could Only See' song he did with Tonic!" While that's understandable, try to control yourself: Hart's solitary solo album, 2007's Cigarettes and Gasoline (dangerous!), was a half-hearted foray into modern pop-country pap, with songs so affected they simply could have been named "Melodrama Nos. I–XII." With Vienna Teng, a graceful singer-songwriter who has seemingly been waiting for her big break for a decade. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Carolina Theatre. $22–$32/8 p.m.
It's hard not to like the idea of Colleen Green's music: Above caustic electric guitar and a pattering drum machine, she sings half-sweet, half-sour about movies and friends, crushes and being cool. She's into weed, sweets and sports. She even made an album about The Descendents' Milo. But the songs on her new Sock It to Me are both obvious and listless, the narcotics in the system draining the fun from the bottom rather than adding some exciting twist. With The Memories and White Fang. Friday, Oct. 11, at The Pinhook. $7/10 p.m.