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Monday, March 9
Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver has always been a seething mass of contradictions. Half exquisitely sensitive poet, half dumb-as-dirt hillbilly, Shaver is a deeply spiritual man who has also, in the course of his 75 years, sinned and transgressed so ceaselessly and so vociferously that it is a wonder he is still able to walk the earth, let alone get on a bandstand and preach his marvelously idiosyncratic honky-tonk gospel. The Texas-born troublemaker has long been a significant force in country music — his songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, George Jones — and his current album, Long in the Tooth, was perpetrated at as high an artistic altitude as Shaver’s ever achieved. — Jonny Whiteside
Tuesday, March 10
The Pop Group
Bristol’s The Pop Group were one of the earliest English postpunk bands and continued to have a massive influence on dance music and underground rock long after the quintet broke up in 1981. Whereas other early postpunk groups such as Public Image Ltd. and Wire had a more aggressive sound, The Pop Group paired the subversive lyrics of “We Are All Prostitutes” with dance-friendly funk and disco grooves. The clean funk chords and knotty bass riffs of “She’s Beyond Good and Evil” have simultaneously influenced punks such as The Minutemen and more commercial-minded entities such as Duran Duran, among countless others. Three members of The Pop Group’s original lineup — singer Mark Stewart, guitarist Gareth Sager and drummer Bruce Smith — reunited in 2010 and are about to release the rampantly freaky opus Citizen Zombie, their first new album in decades. — Falling James
Wednesday, March 11
Ethan Miller and his band Howlin’ Rain have a complicated history. His breakout group, Comets on Fire, were psychedelic id unleashed at top volume, and his left turn afterward to Howlin’ Rain’s conspicuously less shreddy Americana threw off some people. Plus there’s not enough space here to detail the Rick Rubin years that followed. So to make it simple, when you think of Miller, you should think of Link Wray, whose guitar playing was once so psychotic it was banned from radio and whose lesser-known second act was a set of desolate and personal albums that seem now to set prelude to Howlin’ Rain’s Mansion Songs. Like Wray, Guy Clark, J.J. Cale or even Zevon, Miller’s newest release is about getting wise the hard way, and the songs that come when you really got it alone. — Chris Ziegler
Thursday, March 12
In the early 2000s, Electric Six hit big with the club kids after single “Danger! High Voltage” (first released under the name The Wildbunch) appeared on a 2ManyDJs mix CD. The Detroit band captured the sound of the era with cheeky lyrics and rock songs that were good for the dance floor, and that single was no fluke. After their debut album, Fire, was released in 2003, crowds started singing the lyrics to “Gay Bar,” which remains the band’s cult hit. Last fall, Electric Six released their 10th album, Human Zoo, and filled it with monster rock (“Karate Lips”) and quirky dance tunes (“It’s Horseshit!”) all imbued with the bizarre, frank and amusing lyrics their fans have come to expect. — Liz Ohanesian
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Hurray for the Riff Raff
Hurray for the Riff Raff is a rootsy, folk-style outfit from New Orleans, but they’re not strictly retro like so many politely quaint revivalists. Singer/banjo plucker Alynda Lee Segarra is just as inspired by riot grrls such as Kathleen Hanna as she is by traditional folk singers. The tunes on Hurray for the Riff Raff’s latest album, Small Town Heroes, are decidedly rustic in nature, but they’re imbued with a melancholic sadness and modern attitude that belie the down-home arrangements of “The Body Electric” and “The New SF Bay Blues.” Her songs might sound ancient, but in addition to “Levon’s Dream,” her heartfelt homage to the late Levon Helm, Segarra’s lyrics celebrate the downtrodden “riff raff” from all walks of life, including gay and transgender people, who are sometimes ignored by mainstream folk singers. — Falling James