YES, PLEASE: Diali Cissokho & Kairaba, Birds And Arrows, Jeff Crawford & Skylar Gudasz, Dex Romweber & The New Romans, John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff, Other Lives, Lud, Martin Sexton, Rayland Baxter, Grogh, Bitter Resolve, Systems, Thorlock, Jkutchma & The 5 Fifths
EH, WHATEVER: Tommy Emmanuel
VS: William Fitzsimmons vs. Wrinkle Neck Mules
INTRODUCING: Lazy Janes
02.23 DIALI CISSOKHO & KAIRABA @ THE PINHOOK
West African funk and Ethiopian roots reggae join forces for this primal dance party. Energy should be high for this first Triangle show of 2012 for Diali Cissokho & Kairaba. They've just returned from Africa, where they were collecting and perfecting grooves in Mali and Senegal. "We have a new sensibility from playing with the musicians there. We're also that much closer to the music that we play," says percussionist Will Ridenour. Meanwhile, Dub Addis' savory combination of jazz-influenced horns, East African dub and reggae makes for the perfect Motherland combo. Singer-songwriter Jonathan Santos, from the Asheville collective Glocal Soul, brings conscious acoustic soul to the table. $5/ 9 p.m. —Sylvia Pfeiffenberger
02.23 BIRDS AND ARROWS, JEFF CRAWFORD & SKYLAR GUDASZ @ TIR NA NOG
Whether it's tote bags, guitar straps, paintings, calendars or even decks of tarot cards you're seeking, the Birds and Arrows website is there for your band-crafted needs. On the off chance you're all stocked up on those items, it's a happy coincidence they also offer beautiful music. The trio's lush, country-tinged numbers combine entrancing vocals above skeletal folk now anchored with cello. The sunny acoustics of Jeff Crawford are a natural fit for their folk harmonies. His country rock arrangements and pop melodies are as familiar and welcome as a warm summer breeze. He'll be joined by Skylar Gudasz for this set of charming tunes. Free/ 10 p.m. —Ashley Melzer
02.23 DEX ROMWEBER & THE NEW ROMANS, JOHN HOWIE JR. & THE ROSEWOOD BLUFF @ CASBAH
Those expecting explosive chemistry between rockabilly enthusiasts Dex Romweber and producer Rick Miller may have been disappointed with 2009's smoky, jazz-inflected Ruins of Berlin. Anticipation makes the payoff more intense, though, so it's hard to imagine how last year's Is That You in the Blue? could be more exciting. From canny covers like the Orbison-inflected country of "Nowhere" and a howling take on rockabilly chestnut "Homicide" to fiery originals like "Jungle Drums," it's a perfect retrospective of Romweber's many musical moods. He's joined tonight by his full band, the New Romans. John Howie Jr.'s Rosewood Bluff exchanges his longtime George Jones fascination for a Haggard country-rock bite. With The Third Expression. $7/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.24 OTHER LIVES @ LOCAL 506
Stillwater, Okla., five-piece Other Lives opened for Bon Iver last fall, which is a fitting place for their modern take on rustic music. Their sophomore release, last year's Tamer Animals, pushes and perpetuates the folk-rock continuum with sweeping arrangements both gentle and haunting. The album's orchestral array of acoustic textures is fascinating and lush. On "For 12," Jesse Tabish sings of a never-ending journey over blooming harmonies and reserved hums that are entrancing in a way you may never want to leave. Sydney, Australia's WIM open. Their self-titled debut album carries Grizzly Bear-mannered swoon. $12/ 9 p.m. —Ashleigh Phillips
02.24 LUD @ THE CAVE
Some readers may know Kirk Ross as the former editor of the Carrboro Citizen, the burg's community newspaper, or as the Independent's Exile on Jones Street columnist, and not as the leader of Lud, one of Orange County's most tenured indie rock bands. In all capacities, Ross displays a developed knowledge of his home: Lud mellows out the slacker tones that made Chapel Hill famous in the '90s, grafting the nervy sound of peers like Archers of Loaf to the more laid-back approach of R.E.M. Sometimes, this makes their music more sleepy than comforting, but when it works it's a more than adequate reminder of the good old days. Midway Charmers open. $5/ 10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
02.25 MARTIN SEXTON, RAYLAND BAXTER @ CAT'S CRADLE
Unlike Dave Matthews and his John Alagia-produced ilk, Martin Sexton's capable of pulling off rootsy blue-eyed soul without sounding bland or insincere. It's not just his effortless vocal range, unaffected style and earnest evocation, either; Sexton's light touch and everyman charm render his sentimental songs less cloying than anyone else in the genre. His performances vacillate from spirited rock to laid-back strumming, but his passion and magnetism rein the songs back in before they go over the top. The one-time Harvard Square busker seems to innately understand how to connect with people, as two decades and seven studio albums can attest. $20–$23/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.25 GROGH, BITTER RESOLVE, SYSTEMS, THORLOCK @ NIGHTLIGHT
This four-piece bill offers a small but stylistically broad sample of local heaviness, with support from the Thorlock, touring our way from the Midwest. Bitter Resolve sails with Sabbath through space, making psychedelic music that's fleet on top and stubborn on the bottom. Systems incorporate a bit of post-rock into their old-school melees, overcoming would-be generational divides with an aim into fitful infinity. Thorlock plays nasty, well-rendered stoner metal that lands, staggering, somewhere between High on Fire and Harvey Milk. Grogh, a new outfit of Raleigh veterans, rounds out the bill. $5/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.26 JKUTCHMA & THE 5 FIFTHS @ THE PINHOOK
A year ago, Jason Kutchma was touring alone, retracing the path his band, Red Collar, had followed across America not long before. He had only a self-released live recording of five songs, built on percussive strumming and his weathered croon. There was promise, and of course there was conviction, but it still felt unfinished. What a difference a year makes: With his crack backing band, The 5 Fifths, in tow, Kutchma has realized the promise of those early solo outings and his "gospel punk" aesthetic. Smears of steel guitar and brushed drum hits cast a glow on Kutchma's Springsteen-informed country. With three other solo acts: The Library (Matt Long of Mayflies USA), Jphono1 (North Elementary's John Harrison) and Clinton Johnson (Reid Johnson of Schooner). $5/ 8 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
02.25 TOMMY EMMANUEL @ MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM
If you were to unpack the approximately three zillion notes Australian acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel has crammed into four decades of interpretations of songs ranging from blues standards to antediluvian pop melodies, the emotional content would essentially reduce to this motto: "I am such a badass guitar player." Indeed, listening to the man sometimes described as the world's greatest acoustic guitar player is a little bit like reading the worst book ever written in the world's best handwriting—a stylistic marvel, to be sure, but mostly empty inside. Thinks to the flexibility and intimacy of their setup, solo guitarists like John Fahey, Loren Connors or, hell, even Neil Young have often been able to share a whole story or feeling with only strings and fingers. But Emmanuel's ostentatious playing makes for a stage with lights and props, but no tale to tell. $30.50–$36/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
SATURDAY, FEB. 25
FROM: Jacksonville, Ill.
CLAIM TO FAME: Self-reflective and pensive
William Fitzsimmons started recording music after working as a mental health therapist. His songwriting evokes that healing process, as electric hums wash beneath confessional acoustic meditations. Throughout his three-album career, he's been compared to Iron & Wine and the late Elliott Smith. In preparation for his fourth release, 2011's Gold in the Shadow, Fitzsimmons took a two-year break from music altogether. On "The Tide Pulls From the Moon," Fitzsimmons reflects on his return, gently prophesizing "the coming of a cleansing flood." There's hope for the subdued, it seems. With Seattle's Noah Gundersen. At THE POUR HOUSE. $17/ 7:30 p.m.
WRINKLE NECK MULES
FROM: Richmond, Va.
CLAIM TO FAME: Self-reflective and raucous
The Wrinkle Neck Mules pick and grin through a country-booted kick, but it's not just about dogs and farms and trucks. The Virginia five-piece doles dark-hearted Americana that hollers out from the edge of the woods, dealing with problems by airing them out. The Mules' fifth release, this month's Apprentice to Ghosts, mixes bluegrass harmonies and a pedal steel strong as 'shine. In one sinister, tough-love stomper, Andy Stepanian proclaims, "I keep my faith in the double blade." There's hope for the roughnecks, too. With Charlottesville's Peyton Tochterman. At BERKELEY CAFE. $10/ 9 p.m. —Ashleigh Phillips
02.24 LAZY JANES @ KINGS
Lazy Janes take their name from a Philadelphia punk squat house where someone who had overdosed moldered on a couch for weeks. While that might be gruesome enough for a goth band, a friend of theirs described the sound as more like "Riot Grrrl meets Dead Moon."
Indeed, the quartet's approach is kind of punk rock. Drummer Nicole Story and keyboardist Jenny Williams had never played their respective instruments before, but the quartet just enjoyed making music with their best friends. "It's way more fun because we're learning together," says Story, "and there's no pressure."
Though they've only been at it a couple months, they've already written at least eight songs and are set to record a demo disc with Sorry State Records' Daniel Lupton. In the meantime, Story and singer/guitarist Carla Wolff, who work together at Fox Liquor Bar, have been spending recent late nights after work in the practice space they share with Whatever Brains. So much so that Whatever Brains have cracked, "It's like your clubhouse."
That's just their style. Story acknowledges that practices can become a "drunken mess," but in the best way. "We'll run through our set," she explains. "It's a song and then a bunch of nonsensical banter. But we crack ourselves up." They hope to bring that same lighthearted, fun-loving attitude to their debut show this week. —Chris Parker
The Infamous Sugar, Torpor, Noncanon and the Lazy Janes play Friday, Feb. 24, at Kings. The 10 p.m. show costs $6.