During the last 25 years, Bill Callahan has assumed three chief musical roles. He's been a playful but often poignant lo-fi miscreant, and he's served as a solemn songwriter delivering his blues in an old oak baritone. He's been a bandleader, too, capable of harnessing all manner of string sections and gospel choirs, darting flutes and intertwining drums within his elliptical and keen observations. His latest, Dream River, is a refined exercise in those last two modes. On "Summer Painter," for instance, Callahan speak-sings over a noise squall, a repetitive bass line and feedback thrusts echoing behind his words. Meanwhile, "Spring" finds him shuffling over flutes and half-Latin percussion, suave in his sound and confident in his power to land the line, "All I want to do is make love to you—in the fertile dirt."
The Dodos, Dustin Wong
Though they've occasionally drafted an auxiliary member to add density or lace their songs with vibraphone, drummer Logan Kroeber and guitarist and singer Meric Long have become very good at being the duo known as The Dodos. Carrier, their new album, swims in sound, in spite of the outfit's limited size. Using Kroeber's restless, punctuation-heavy drums as his catapult, Long unfurls tides of acoustic and electric guitar, aggressively strummed chords threaded together by fingerpicking that recalls an old bluesman on Ecstasy. Carrier is a gray record, with its lyrics of darkness and trouble backlit by friends pounding at and singing away their worries. Opener Dustin Wong is a guitar wunderkind, a human arpeggio machine who turns one million guitar notes into tunes shaped like neon clouds. His most recent work adds bigger beats and more bass, turning his songs into the most delicate club anthems imaginable. With First Person Plural. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Kings. $12–$15/8:30 p.m.
Chuck Johnson, Libraness
Chuck Johnson and Ash Bowie, the leader of Libraness, are veterans of Triangle indie rock: Johnson fronted Spatula two decades ago, while Bowie remains the strangely tuned guitarist and singer of Polvo. After stints in improvisation and electronica, Johnson now creates elegant, immersive guitar instrumentals, more full of questions than commands. Bowie recently resurrected Libraness, a solo project that takes shape for this show as a four-piece band. Mount Moriah's Heather McEntire opens. Sunday, Sept. 29, at The Pinhook. $7/8 p.m.
This will rule: Ruidosa Inmundicia is a blistering and breakneck hardcore trio from Austria, though they shout out loud in Spanish because their savaged-voice frontwoman is Chilean. They do nothing new or original, but their less-than-a-minute tantrums are ingenious for their oomph. Greensboro's BrainxToilet—a grindcore band that sometimes staggers into more modest tempos—opens, along with Raleigh's new Vacant Planet. Friday, Sept. 27, at The Maywood. $6/9 p.m.
Valient Thorr, Ramming Speed
In advance of the nationwide tour that brings Valient Thorr to its somewhat-native Chapel Hill, the brazen and delightfully political metal dudes printed gargantuan black-and-white stickers bearing their logo—a few feet high and several more feet wide. They've been leaving them all across the country, from the walls of Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum to venue trash cans on the West Coast. Those stickers are a perfect metaphor for Valient Thorr's approach to most everything; they're boisterous and proudly exaggerated, stuffing high-flying riffs and hyperbolic social commentary into invigorating rock jams. Their latest, the heart-on-its-sleeveless-tees Our Own Masters, is their best yet. Boston's Ramming Speed lunges in and out of thrash, death and black metal; their latest, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die, is a knotty, kinetic race to the end. The new and incredibly named Black Oatmeal opens. Sunday, Sept. 29, at Local 506. $10/9 p.m.
OneBeat, Shirlette Ammons T4GB
This is an after-party for NC PrideFest, but it's also one of a very select number of tour dates for OneBeat, a Brooklyn-based arts organization that brings together 25 musicians from around the world for a month-long series of discussions and collaborations. Reviews of this year's OneBeat work have been astounding, and this show should offer an interesting window into people from two dozen countries working to share one musical language. Shirlette Ammons brings her hard-hitting new rap project to the bill, while ever-busy producer Apple Juice Kid plays with five drummers in a massed ensemble he's calling "Big Beat Dance." Saturday, Sept. 28, at Motorco. $10/9 p.m.
Fresh Roots Festival
This day-time celebration features food trucks, plus wine and beer made in downtown Hillsborough. It's also the rare municipal celebration with a strong roster of free music. Yep Roc Records recently relocated its offices from Haw River to Hillsborough, and they welcome three fine label songwriters—Kim Richey, Josh Rouse and the young Jonah Tolchin—to the party. Saturday, Sept. 28, in downtown Hillsborough. Free/10 a.m.
Belle Adair, Daniel Bachman
Alabama's Belle Adair suffers from and succeeds on its musical wanderlust; its recent debut, The Brave and the Blue, moves from soundscapes suggestive of sunrise to sad-eyed songs sung at the gloaming, from intricate art-country tessellations dependent upon Jethro Tull to somber reflections offered from a coffeeshop corner. Though the results are uneven, the sweet coo of singer Matt Green threads together the variable looks. Daniel Bachman—one of the most exciting and versatile young acoustic guitar players to enter the instrumental scene of late—opens. He's just moved to Chapel Hill, so look for his name on more bills soon. Monday, Sept. 30, at Motorco. $5/8 p.m.
A fascinating New York performance spectacle, Reverend Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes is a gospel artist in drag, advocating for equality and baiting with humor. A former bluegrass musician, Mapes pauses her traditional and original gospel numbers to deliver stories about her complicated life as a closeted queen in the South with irrepressible wit and candor. "Rev. Yolanda's Old-Time Gospel Hour," as she calls her show, is unequal parts parody, tribute and progress, a deeply reverent update on institutions that haven't necessarily yet made way for folks like the reverend. Friday, Sept. 27, at The ArtsCenter. $13–$17/8 p.m.
Clockwork, Creatures is the intricate debut of post-hardcore Carrboro crew Greaver. Bathing philippics in carefully controlled musical atmospheres and dividing headlong lunges with coruscating passages of drift and build, Greaver's tunes are urgent transmissions tempered by time and refinement. Midwestern bludgeoners Morality Crisis make the mad music of young men—talk of ending everything and threats directed at no one, hammered out with brutal bass lines and characterized by pinball wizard dynamics. Kindred opens with its debut show. Saturday, Sept. 28, at The Maywood. $7/10 p.m
We all get lost sometimes, so no worries: Turn around and exit the front entrance of Walnut Creek Amphitheater. Turn right on Sunnybrook. Cross Interstate 440. After another 1.5 miles or so, turn left onto Poole Road. When Poole splits, head left onto Martin Luther King. Stick with it for two miles and turn right onto Wilmington Street, beside Shaw University. You've now left the Rascal Flatts concert, where bluegrass instruments (a mandolin! a song called "Banjo"!) will resurface melodramatic pop-rock with an accent, and arrived at one of the country's bigger actual bluegrass celebrations. Enjoy. But if you insist: With The Band Perry and Cassadee Pope. Friday, Sept. 27, at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. $40.35–79.60/7:30 p.m.
Golden Suits is the solo project of Fred Nicolaus, known best for his work in Department of Eagles, a side project for Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen. The songs on Nicolaus' Yep Roc debut, released earlier this year, suggest a solo outing not in their instrumentation (they're actually rounded out quite well) but in their lack of musical tension. They bop or charge along, any sense of dynamics supplanted by the feeling that Nicolaus wants these songs to go to only one place—that is, a pallid and bland zone between Death Cab for Cutie and The Dodos. With Bears in the City and Octopus Jones. Friday, Sept. 27, at Local 506. $8–$9/9 p.m.