YES, PLEASE: Dave Wilson, Lynn Blakey, Ledisi, American Aquarium, Jason Boland, Saxapahaw Oktoberfest, Dex Romweber & The New Romans, Le Weekend, Felix Obelix, John Hiatt and The Combo, Zola Jesus, Shonen Knife, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
VS: Jason Isbell vs. The Jayhawks
INTRODUCING: The Daughter Is Ambiguous
10.20 DAVE WILSON, LYNN BLAKEY @ THE CAVE
Similar story lines: Chatham County Line leader Dave Wilson previously had a more rock-oriented outfit called Stillhouse, while Tres Chicas songbird Lynn Blakey used to front a more rock-leaning group called Glory Fountain. CCL is still a primary pursuit for Wilson, but this solo appearance may bring forth material stretching beyond their bluegrass base. Blakey lately has played under her own name more than with the Chicas, while still pursuing a similar folk-rock vein. With both artists, it's really all about the magic of their voices; perhaps they'll sing a song together at some point in the evening. $5/ 9 p.m. —Peter Blackstock
10.20 LEDISI @ CAROLINA THEATRE
These days, New Orleans native and soul singer Ledisi might be as integral to the city's musical heritage as any one of its brass bands, but you might not know that, as abundantly gifted, cultivated vocalists like Ledisi are often left wailing to the choir while talentless pop singers have all the fun. Start with her Grammy-nominated LP, Lost & Found, and if you're avoiding bandwagon-shame by jumping on her fifth and most recent release, Pieces of Me, a better idea would be to go small and hip with N.O. horn extraordinaire Trombone Shorty's recent jazz ballad, "Then There Was You." On that track, Ledisi's vocal spill should kick-start your curiosity. She's starting the promotional tour for Pieces of Me in Durham; we are much obliged. With Timothy Bloom. $30–$55/ 8 p.m. —Eric Tullis
10.22 AMERICAN AQUARIUM, JASON BOLAND @ LINCOLN THEATRE
This terrific twin bill is a must for roots rock and country fans. Lending a healthy dose of twang to its pearl-snap poetry, hometown heroes American Aquarium straddle the line between alt-country and rock 'n' roll on whiskey-drunk romps and ballads. Jason Boland and The Stragglers co-headline, bringing a fine haul of red dirt tunes straight from the Stillwater source. Boland's voice is very rich and plenty country, while The Stragglers are a sharp backing unit that stays true to tradition with a touch of modern perspective. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
10.22 SAXAPAHAW OKTOBERFEST @ HAW RIVER BALLROOM
The German original may be the largest volksfest (people's fair) in the world, but this Saxapahaw spin might just be the quaintest. The annual community gathering features a harvest farmers market, kids' games, beer, wine, barbecue, arts and crafts, and three stages of music to keep you entertained all afternoon. This year's featured bands include the Gypsy jazz gentlemen The Onyx Club Boys, Americana rockers Gasoline Stove, bluegrass pickers Rye Mountain Boys, West Africa-by-way-of-Carrboro jammers Diali Cissokho and Kairaba, and ethereal indie-folkniks Birds and Arrows. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged. Find the ceremonial plastic swan. 4 p.m.—Ashley Melzer
10.22 DEX ROMWEBER & THE NEW ROMANS @ THE CAVE
Dexter Romweber keeps busy these days, mostly with the Dex Romweber Duo, which he shares with his drum-whiz sister, Sara. The rightly lauded pair have spent the past few months crisscrossing highways supporting the duo's latest, Is That You In The Blue? But Romweber isn't one to take a break, and so he's reconvened The New Romans, his locals-only big band. Romweber's more than capable of capturing the slinky, smoky essence of his noir-tinged Americana all by his lonesome. Flanked by thick swells of organ and the saxophone's brassy bleat, though, these songs move with a burlesque dancer's playful grace. 10 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
10.22 LE WEEKEND, FELIX OBELIX @ THE PINHOOK
Le Weekend's music is complicated but not convoluted, mathy but not obtuse. Rather, this Chapel Hill outfit parlays the buoyant feel of '70s prog into choppy structures reminiscent of Mr. Bungle's California. It's a nice mix that allows this trio to showcase stunning musical ability without rubbing it in. And that match of accessibility and technicality results in a perfect soundtrack to your, um, weekend. Felix Obelix's avant pop, which weirdly mixes the sounds of a carnie sideshow with Wendy Spitzer's falsetto, rounds out the bill. $5/ 10 p.m. —Corbie Hill
10.24 JOHN HIATT AND THE COMBO @ CAROLINA THEATRE
He's America's answer to Neil Young—an enduring, flinty-voiced roots rocker with a spark-throwing six-string style. The Indianapolis native's rough-hewn country-blues frequently veers into heartland rock with no-nonsense arrangements. Hiatt's released 20 albums in nearly four decades, most better received critically than commercially. There was a moment during the late '80s and early '90s when his profile rose due to a few fine releases (Bring the Family, Slow Turning) and his supergroup Little Village (Nick Lowe, Jim Keltner, Ry Cooder). His latest, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns, boasts brighter production and more sonic detail, all in service to another batch of keenly sketched songs. With Lilly Hiatt. $45–$75/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
10.24 ZOLA JESUS @ LOCAL 506
As Zola Jesus, the singer Nika Danilova recently released Conatus, her third full album but first after a barrage of hype and an association with a new swell of American gothic bands pushed her very near the spotlight. Conatus has been criticized for its lack of surprise—Danilova's voice sounds here like it always has, distant but somehow very aggressive, like a cabaret singer stranded in this digital decade. But a closer listen shows that she's dramatically sharpened her songs, meaning that her hooks can hold above a piano ballad just as assuredly as they can over straight, slight '80s dance themes. Zola Jesus has yet to miss a beat. With Xanopticon. $12–$14/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
10.25 SHONEN KNIFE @ THE PINHOOK
The three-female Osaka trio Shonen Knife has been recording and regularly churning out records of their punk-fueled, chiming power pop for three decades now. What's more, their biggest experience as a band perhaps came two decades ago, when they opened for one of their obsessive fans, Kurt Cobain and his Nirvana, on a full tour. But their music—charismatic, spirited and triumphantly jovial—is exactly the sort of stuff that will never outlive its seemingly nonexistent expiration date. This is exactly the sort of music that serves as a constant reminder that a perfect three-minute pop song is a hard thing to ignore or forget, even after all this time. The Ghost of Rock opens. $12–$14/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
10.26 TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS @ KINGS
Yes, Ted Leo just played down here not five months ago. Yes, Tennessee's Pujol was opening for him back in May. And no, Leo hasn't released any new music since The Brutalist Bricks came out last year. Unlike that solo show back in May, though, he's playing with a full fleet of Pharmacists, meaning that the hits—both old and new —will pack a little more punch. Any chance to see him do his thing is a chance worth taking. With Goner. $12–$14/ 9:30 p.m. —David Raposa
WEDNESDAY, OCT, 26
Claim To fame: Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist
Jason Isbell probably can't wait until he escapes the shadow of those three prime-era DBT albums to which he contributed so he can establish himself in his own right. He's getting closer. His three albums since the 2007 split have found Isbell exploring life on his own like a college student, stepping outside his Southern country-rock background to diddle with stronger country, folk and pop. His latest, Here We Rest, often evokes a dusty Texas country vibe reminiscent of Hayes Carll. Though it's probably uncalculated, the overall effect has been to establish Isbell's bona fides more as a canny writer than a musician tied to a particular style. With James McMurtry and Nick and the Babes. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $14.50–$18/ 8pm.
From: Minneapolis, Minn.
Claim To fame: Preceded but helped Uncle Tupelo lay alt-country's foundation
History's been kinder to Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy than Mark Olson and Gary Louris, but it's not hard to imagine a world where the opposite holds true. Both groups splintered in the mid-'90s, though Louris forged on with the Jayhawks for three more albums. The band throve on the frisson between Louris and Olson, though, balancing Olson's backwoods predilections with Louris' sharp '60s pop instincts. Without Olson, the Hawks forsook country for less rewarding pop and rock experimentation before returning from a hiatus last year behind a reunited Olson and Louris on Mockingbird Time, an album that rediscovers the old balance. Though Isbell's promising, he can't stand toe-to-toe with these trailblazing Jayhawks. At CAROLINA THEATRE. $28–$38/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
10.22 THE DAUGHTER IS AMBIGUOUS @ NIGHTLIGHT
It's a project driven by keyboards that swell and recede, as Ryan Gustafson—better known for spells in Boxbomb, Light Pines and with his own sad-eyed country-rock—explores the wide-open expanses of synth music. Some songs by The Daughter is Ambiguous tap an industrial vein ("Grammar School"), while others offer gentle NPR-ready waltzes ("Osiris//:\\My Dance"), dreamy new age minimalism overlaid with goofy yet serious guided meditations ("Imagine/:\Yourself") and dramatic vocal fugues reminiscent of The Dirty Projectors over moody cabaret shuffles ("Gloria"). They're all available on Gustafson's site (thedaughterisambiguous.com), where he's been posting roughly a song each week for the last couple months.
"I've listened to a lot of classical music—the more modern, minimalist guys and on into the more experimental realm," he says. "That played a little role, like, 'Can I do this?'"
He started learning to play organ and synthesizers in a dedicated manner this spring after fooling around on them for years. Frequently, the tunes sound like auditions for movie soundtracks, and Gustafson won't deny his curiosity. "I would love to do that. Unfortunately, I don't know a lot of people in the film world," he says. "Mostly I'm just trying to expand and challenge myself."
He's already collected eight songs on the site, but for the moment, he has no interest in releasing an album, preferring to immerse himself in the process and not the product. "The only goal," he says, "is to explore, create and on to the next one as soon as that one's on the site." —Chris Parker
The Daughter is Ambiguous joins Michael Pisaro and Greg Stuart at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $6.