DR. RALPH STANLEY & THE CLINCH MOUNTAIN BOYS
In a promotional documentary for his 2011 gospel album A Mother's Prayer, Ralph Stanley, now 85, handles the topic of his age with typical frankness: "As old as I am, I figured [that album] might be the last one I might be able to do. I don't know of anyone that's as old as I am that's still singing." The years apparent in Stanley's voice have only made his singing—confident and plaintive, aged but still urgent—that much more poignant, affording the gospel and traditional numbers he sings the wisdom of experience and finality. Thanks to his voice's star turn in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Stanley's position as an American treasure has become a widely acknowledged fact, not a notion cloistered to folk and country music obsessives.
And on the note of uncertain futures, Stanley's appearance in Carrboro starts The ArtsCenter's 10th annual American Roots Series, one of the state's most thoughtfully programmed schedules of music. Late last year, citing budget issues, The ArtsCenter laid off Tess Mangum Ocaña, the series' mastermind. Enjoy it while it's here. FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at THE ARTSCENTER.
$31–$39 SOLD OUT/7 p.m.
SPEEDY ORTIZ, ROOMRUNNER
At first blush, the five songs on Sports, the great little EP released by Massachusetts' Speedy Ortiz last summer, will likely suggest atavistic indie rock—sassy and simplistic, angst-heavy but educated. Listen closer, though, and pay special attention to Sadie Dupuis' writing and delivery; her voice sits at an unexpected border of boredom, ire and humor, perfectly reflecting tunes that explore getting off and making out, playing games and watching them. And as a band, Speedy Ortiz suggests Pavement with discipline, slingshot riffs backed by a real rhythm section. Baltimore's Roomrunner offers a convincing rerun of grunge's period of primacy. Durham's The Mercators open. THURSDAY, JAN. 3, at MOTORCO. 9 p.m.
LUEGO, SAY BROTHER
Though geographically separated by less than four hours of blacktop, Durham's Luego and Columbia, S.C., band Say Brother share radically divergent approaches to Southern rock. Luego is sophisticated and nuanced, wedging earworms between fanciful arrangements that solder classic-rock sizzle to chamber-pop grace. But the longhairs of Say Brother run wild, stomping sneakers and shouting out songs about wrecked hearts and minds. They're united by a great unavoidable zeal, delivering this music as though it's the balm that rights the world. They'll share the stage FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at THE CAVE with the surf-rock send-ups of The Piedmonstmen, playing a $5 bill that starts at 10 p.m.; SATURDAY, JAN. 5, they'll rendezvous at SLIM'S at 9 p.m. for another little Lincoln.
More than two decades ago, Kenny Roby made his move to the big city of Raleigh to make music with his rock band, The Lubricators. But The Lubricators broke up, as did Six String Drag, the alt-country flagship that, for a moment, seemed to be Roby's convoy to commercial success. Whether intentional or not, those collapsing opportunities turned Roby into a musical amoeba, capable of frequent shifts in shape. After turns as a bandleader both raucous and refined (and both, simultaneously), Roby lands some of his best turns to date on the forthcoming Memories & Birds, which positions him as the pensive poet sharing sonic space with The National, Bon Iver and Damien Jurado. JPHONO1 opens. FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at CASBAH. $6/9 p.m.
MISLED YOUTH, LAST WORDS
This brutal bill should blow 2013 wide open: Washington, D.C., act Misled Youth come on heavy and hooky, their whipsmart rhythm section and direct riffs pushing up a serrated yammer that's emphatically accusatory. This is their first show in Raleigh, and it's the first show ever for the first of four bands, Future Binds. In early 2012, Last Words released its four-song, five-minute Tied Demo. One of the most insurgent blasts to come out of the Triangle last year, Tied paired serpent vocals with a bracing band somehow both restless and relentless. FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at BERKELEY CAFÉ. $7–$9/9 p.m.
Late last year, former Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil frontman Blake Schwarzenbach finally arrived with an LP of new material. Backed by members of Against Me! and Bitchin', this new band, Forgetters, tied the gusto of Schwarzenbach's past to more open-ended arrangements. Despite the acoustic guitar and references to pirates and outlaws in the midst of great heists, Future Kings of Nowhere is a direct descendent of Schwarzenbach's work, with frontman Shayne Miel shouting out his lines and fighting with his guitar like a new convert to rock's great insurrection. Appropriately, they open. Also, Almost People. THURSDAY, JAN. 3, at LOCAL 506. $10–$12/9 p.m.
THE POONHOUNDS, BACK STABBATH
The Poonhounds are the occasionally reuniting, perpetually shit-talking band of longtime Pour House soundman Jac Cain. Together, they make loud, lewd and basic rock, and they have a theme song. Back Stabbath brings together four area music veterans, including great drummer Jon McClain, to recreate the strange world of Sabbath with a fiery female leader named Rose Higgins. Speaking of fire, Succubus Sorority combines burlesque appeal and circus skills and stunts. Fire, near nudity, sex jokes, rock 'n' roll? It's going to be a weird one on Blount Street. Thick Edge also plays. SATURDAY, JAN. 5, at THE POUR HOUSE. $5/10 p.m.
OULIPO, THE CHARMING YOUNGSTERS
Though Raleigh's Oulipo are named for a literary movement that often placed playful limitations on word choice or style, the band itself yields to no such constraints. Their maximalist pop suggests the grandeur of Broken Social Scene and the layers of Animal Collective, rushing headlong with euphoria. Openers The Charming Youngsters keep to coffee-shop basics, but their bright-eyed, big-city pop is no less enthusiastic. Emotionally loaded and somber New York band Bellows moan in the bill's middle. SUNDAY, JAN. 6, at KINGS. $5/9 p.m.
STEPH STEWART & THE BOYFRIENDS
Durham singer-songwriter Steph Stewart has often been compared to Tift Merritt and Gillian Welch. Only Welch's most hardscrabble material, though, matches the folk firmament of Stewart. Indeed, her best songs (the sad banjo trot of "Coal" or the longing guitar traipse in "Of the Night") feel like updates to tunes Harry Smith might've collected. Despite the Neko Case nod of her band's name, Stewart seems less interested in smooth country/pop/rock permutations than direct and unflinching tales of reality. SATURDAY, JAN. 5, at BROAD STREET CAFE. Free/10 p.m.
The great Southern rock bludgeon of Leadfoot caps this very mixed metal showcase: Skip the scream-and-chant-and-snort metalcore of Killing the Catalyst, as well as Enemy in Disguise's laughable mix of Deftones murk and Kid Rock renegade posturing. And while Hold Back the Day's blustery stomp has its moments, Leadfoot's classic and stupid sprawls own the night. Skycrest opens. FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at LINCOLN THEATRE. $8–$10/7:30 p.m.
If Asheville bluegrass act Town Mountain needs a marketable motto, might I suggest "Steady as They Go"? Startlingly proficient and subserviently reverent, Town Mountain pushes bluegrass down the middle of the road, writing and playing it with the safety on. If the best bluegrass is music of great joy, sadness and storytelling, Town Mountain is the CliffsNotes, bowdlerized and boring. Also, The Gravy Boys. FRIDAY, JAN. 4, at THE POUR HOUSE. $8–$10/10 p.m.
Based on their quick-cut music video, their "recommended if you like" alliances and their general sign-us-now Web presence, Philadelphia trio Among Criminals want to be rock stars with their fast, tight "alternative rock" blasting out of stereo systems during the summer. But their music feels no different than the innumerable bands that haunted second stages at the gawky attempts of radio stations to create their own Lollapaloozas in the '90s, with bros like Eve 6 and Vertical Horizon. If The Cave is a round hole, Among Criminals is one dumb square peg. MONDAY, JAN. 7, at THE CAVE. 10 p.m.