This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Michael Hurley, Ciompi Quartet, The Golden Dogs, Ash Reiter
EH, WHATEVER: Cass McCombs, Northern State/ Tegan and Sara, Badfish (Sublime tribute)
VS.: Todd Snider vs. Keller Williams
LAST WEEK'S PARTY: Caetano Veloso
SONG OF THE WEEK: Todd Snider's "East Nashville Skyline"
11.15 MICHAEL HURLEY @ NIGHTLIGHT
Michael Hurley's career as a folk singer is the stuff of folk legend: A born wanderer who stumbled into his first release—a 1965 LP for Smithsonian Folkways—by walking up the road, Hurley has released material on Warner Brothers, toured with big acts and enjoyed minor revivals since Koch Records latched onto his legacy in 1996. His appeal is instant and subversive: A bent blues guitar player with an aged hand at old-time fiddle, Hurley reworks traditionals with idiosyncrasies and warts. His originals—steeped in Leadbelly, etc.—are like love letters from some other gloried side of whimsy and sweetness. 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
11.18 CIOMPI QUARTET @ DUKE'S PAGE AUDITORIUM
Not that you need new reasons to go see the Ciompi Quartet, the world-class classical ensemble based in Durham, but with international star Bella Davidovich, it's as good as a Sunday gets. Davidovich is an Azerbaijani pianist who left Soviet Russia for the West like many artists in the '70s. Her precise approach reflects her devotion to the music that took her through a world war and two continents. $15; free to Duke students/ 3 p.m. —Chris Toenes
11.19 THE GOLDEN DOGS @ LOCAL 506
The festival of pop-rock hooks and hoopla that is the Golden Dogs' Big Eye Little Eye places the Canadian quintet much closer to the Cavedogs and Diamond Dogs than the Honeydogs and Hangdogs on the canine continuum. There's even a post-Beatles McCartney song, though it's not the one about the sheep dog. With Cool Ethan and Dan Bryk. $8/9 p.m. —Rick Cornell
11.20 ASH REITER @ NIGHTLIGHT
There's no denying Reiter's resemblance to Jolie Holland's breathy, angelic vocals, though Reiter leans more towards folk and indie pop despite her jazzy intonation. Reiter's warmth belies the melancholy of her songs, though her voice alights so gently over her troubles it's easy to be mesmerized by their beauty. With the Blank Tapes and Hard Luck Stories. $5/10 p.m. —Chris Parker
11.17 CASS MCCOMBS @ LOCAL 506
Not bad, just boring, especially after opener Clang Quartet steals the show with his Armor of God noise-by-invention set in the 506's floor: Peripatetic songwriter-with-band Cass McCombs downshifted his Smiths/Cure predilections for this year's Dropping the Writ, and the results lack a conviction he once commanded. Smart, layered production stands as Writ's strongest element, as McCombs manages to flash dichotomous styles and their surprises into small spaces. But McCombs' newfound noir is one ear-and-out stuff. Coheadliners and backing band Ariel Pink inform pop curios with disco flirtation, noise passes, sunny vocals and a Warhol embrace of both the obvious and imperfect. $10/9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
11.17 NORTHERN STATE/ TEGAN AND SARA @ CAT'S CRADLE
Remember Luscious Jackson? Swap out the diet-grrl and add some kitschy blue-eyed hip-hop and you've got this bomb, Northern State. Even Adroc production credits can't save the Jersey trio's latest, Can I Keep This Pen?, from its hammy, overly aware, failingly precious self. Take a little extra time and enjoy dinner, so as to miss these Garden-variety jokesters, opening for deserving Lilith graduates Tegan and Sara. SOLD OUT/ 9 p.m.—Robbie Mackey
11.16 BADFISH (SUBLIME TRIBUTE) @ CAT'S CRADLE
Like a mine shuttered after a horrific accident, Sublime has attracted entrepreneurial prospectors who recognize there's still gold at the end of that shaft. Sadly, the only thing the followers risk in extracting their riches is ridicule for the naked cash grab. No worries, bands like Badfish are doing it "for the kids." For the kids' money, that is. Three original bands open. $15-$18/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
SUNDAY, NOV. 18
From: Portland, Ore.
Since: Mid '80s
Claim to fame: "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues"
Snider's a gifted songwriter and avowed acolyte of John Prine, having released several records on Prine's Oh Boy Records after Snider told MCA his opinion of their ways. The story echoes the attitude of outlaw countrymen Snider reveres like Billy Joe Shaver, with whom he's close. (His haunting ballad "Waco Moon" is dedicated to Shaver's late son Eddy.) As with the puckish critique of grunge that first broke him, Snider's given to wry commentary from the self-effacing, honky-tonk ode, "Conservative, Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White American Male," to the strummy censorship-minded folk-blues of "The Ballad of the Kingsmen." A sure bet. At THE POUR HOUSE at 8 p.m. for $15.
From: Fredericksburg, Va.
Since: Early '90s
Claim to fame: Looping one-man band (now with real band)
The live experience is necessary to fully appreciate Williams' folk-bluegrass jam funk. His loose, loopy narratives thrive on a quirky, folksy outlook, sort of like John Prine kicking the hacky with author Tom Robbins. His laidback, goofball charm shines brightest when he performs, vamping and joking even as he moves from guitar to drum machine to keyboards like Stations of the Cross, constructing songs with loops, one instrument after another. It will be interesting to see how that charisma fares inside his first full band, the all-star cast including Jeff Sipe and Gibb Droll he's calling the WMD's. A gamble. At LINCOLN THEATRE at 8 p.m. for $20-25. —Chris Parker
11.16 PROOF @ SLIM'S
Raleigh murk-math trio Proof has long had a full-length record out, so they should require no introduction. Except that self-titled debut was released in the fall of 2003 on the now ostensibly defunct Pidgeon English Records, and Proof—slowed by fatherhood, school and other bands like bassist Greg Eyman's Goner—has been mostly off the radar for the past few years. Proof returns as a four-piece this week, though, with The Greatest Hits frontman Jeramy Lowe adding vocals and guitars. The new Proof is a byproduct of the 2005 installment of Kings Great Cover-Up, where Proof plus Lowe became Fugazi for a night. Lowe says the union has been a long-time coming, and he's excited about the two songs the band's written as a four-piece: "It's in a similar vein as Proof, but with three people singing, it's certainly going to have more opportunities for melody." With Dropsonic and Fighting Poseidon at 10 p.m. for $3. —Grayson Currin
LAST WEEK'S PARTY
11.07 CAETANO VELOSO @ UNC'S MEMORIAL HALL
Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso invented Tropicália in the late 1960s by cannibalizing elements of samba, bossa nova, Nuggets-era psychedlia and the Beatles. It should be of little surprise that on his 2006 release, Cê, he's eaten up bands like The Strokes and Interpol and spat out the nova-wave anthem "Odeio" ("I hate you"), a song he played twice to a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday. It wasn't quite Muddy Waters at Newport, but don't tell that to the Brazilians and literati dancing in the aisles. Equally arresting was the disco-beat ballad "Nine out of Ten," from his post-exile album Transa ("I'm alive, and I know that one day I must die.") That's a page that, 30 years later, Wayne Coyne borrowed for The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" A grand night befitting someone of Veloso's import. —Matt Saldaña