by Ryan Snyder

Upcoming shows you should check out

Robert Earl Keen, ‘nuff said

If there’s a single, surefire way to turn on the holiday spirit in late October, it’s by catching Robert Earl Keen on a good night. “Merry Christmas from the Family” is a guaranteed staple of his sets come December, but around the time of his Thursday night set at Ziggy’s is when the Texas songwriter usually starts feeling a little more festive. Despite not getting his due attention from the mainstream country world until just over a decade ago, Keen has penned a slew of tunes that are high in the alt-country canon. Nearly every up-and-coming country singer worth their beans has covered “The Road Goes on Forever,” but the rest of Robert Earl Keen’s discography could keep a Waffle House jukebox cranking all night. Tickets to Keen’s Ziggy’s show are $25 at the door, and he doesn’t have a new album and his show isn’t tied to any promotion, which leaves it wide open as the Texas sky.

Lyte and still a rock

Need a Ruff Neck? She won’t be too hard to find. MC Lyte is not just one of the greatest female lyricists of all time, but as one of the real originators, one of the hip-hop’s greatest de facto lyricists, period. On just this past Tuesday, she was the very deserving recipient of BET’s I AM Hip Hop Award, something like the rap game’s Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Her trailblazing contributions to hip hop, both as genre and a community at large, include simply being the first female rapper to ever release a solo album (1988’s Lyte as Rock) and though she has shifted more toward activism and philanthropy since 2003’s Da Underground Heat Vol. 1, those contributions have become as significant has the steady stream of bangers she dropped between the late ’80s and mid ’90s. Soon to award the MC Lyte $100,000 First Wave Scholarship to its second recipient, her work will stay in education this weekend as an artist-in-residence of sorts at UNCG’s homecoming festivities. Aycock Auditorium will host a student hip-hop competition on Friday night for the opportunity to open for the legendary MC in the same spot on Saturday night, but the question remains: Does she still have game? Like she said on “The Rap Game,” “Just as quick as you get large/ You can quickly shrink and sink into the crates and collect dust/ Don’t be mad cause it happens to the best of us.” Her rap life might have died, as she went on to say, but she knows how to survive. Tickets to the Saturday performance are $22 and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Del McCoury and friends play Land Jam 5 at the Carolina Theatre

The next time you’re tubing down the Dan River with a Dale’s Pale Ale in hand, take a moment to think about how it’s remained the scenic wonder that it is. A lot of credit for that experience goes to the Piedmont Land Conservancy, who’s helped to enact protections for more than 2,200 acres of the river’s watershed. For the most part, private donations have helped to enable those protections and one yearly concert has been a big boost to those efforts. It happens once again at the Carolina Theatre this Friday, with yet another one-of-a-kind lineup. The Del McCoury Band could is one of bluegrass’s biggest draws by itself, but bring in Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon fame and Jay Starling from Larry Keel’s dynamite band, and you have something special that more than crystallizes the efforts of the Piedmont Land Conservancy. The Laurelyn Dossett Band will host and perform as well. Tickets are between $20 and $32.50 and the music starts at 8 p.m.