Mary Johnson Rockers and Jocelyn Arem
The General Store Cafe—Carrboro's Mary Johnson Rockers possesses a voice built for singing of lingering touches (as she does on her gorgeous "Two Step") and songwriting skills built for subtle but lasting detail. Pies, pennies and Patsy Cline all play major roles in songs that are never rushed and are blessed with scenes that are never forced. Those are neat tricks, as is her ability to make the Americana sound feel fresh. Joining Rockers on the bill is Jocelyn Arem, a folklorist, educator and singer-songwriter, with those first two roles clearly informing her music and its nods toward Woody Guthrie and his fellow Americana pioneers. The music starts at 8:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell
The ArtsCenter—When Kevin Welch played the ArtsCenter in 1996, there were more empty seats than bodies in the house, and it seemed possible one of my favorite singer-songwriters would never return; clearly, critical acclaim alone couldn't keep him in groceries. Thirteen years later, though, he's still wrapping his guitar around haunting lyrics, and tonight's your chance to hear what you missed back then.
The 53-year-old Oklahoma-raised Welch has carved a meandering career trail. After charting in mainstream country, Welch and others formed Dead Reckoning Records, which put out some of Welch's best work, including 1995's Life Down Here on Earth.
After the rest of the Dead Reckoners "all got tired and went home," as Welch puts it, he couldn't bring himself to quit. He toured and recorded relentlessly to keep the label alive and sold songs to stars like Randy Travis and Trisha Yearwood. More recently, efforts with partners Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin have earned Welch nominations for the Americana Music Award's duo/ group of the year, including one for Kane Welch Kaplin, which Americana Music Times named its "Best Album of 2007 That No One Told You About."
The 8:30 p.m. show costs $18, with Grammy-nominated songwriter Eliza Gilkyson opening. Get acquainted with his music at kevinwelch.com—and don't say we didn't tell you. —Jennifer Strom
Caleb Calypso and the Midnight Marauders
Farrison-Newton Community Building, N.C. Central Campus—In Caleb Calypso, Durham playwright Howard Craft's latest project, the title character is an African-American soldier stationed in Bamberg, Germany, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The hero, while contemplating re-enlistment, considers the army's professed desire for a higher caliber quality of soldier. The play, we're told, explores "issues of race, class, regionalism and homophobia in today's New Army." This is a work in progress directed by UNC's Joseph Megel as part of the New Works Process Series. After two performances last weekend at UNC, tonight at NCCU is the third and final show. The show is free and begins at 8 p.m. For more information, contact Karen Dacons-Brock at email@example.com or 530-7340. —David Fellerath