by Ryan Snyder

Upcoming shows you should check out


Quick thought experiment: If Justin Moore wasn’t constantly talking about what a country boy he is, would anyone know? The title of his Billboard No. 1 album last year, Off the Beaten Path, suggests he’s a singer who strays from the cornpone clichés that have dominated contemporary country music for the past few years, but the record is anything but. Never mind that he sings in a Southern accent so phony that it makes Scotty McCreery sound like Frank Nelson; it’s arguably the most egregious offender of a lot that includes virtually indistinguishable releases from Luke Bryan, Tyler Farr, Jason Aldean and Jerrod Niemann, all of which have at least one song about how great (i.e., white and conservative) their small town is, and what a blessing the existence of both beer and tailgates are to them, plus a flaccid stab at crossing over into hip-hop. Moore and his management know what sells in the 2010s, though. When he opened for Darius Rucker at the White Oak Amphitheatre last May, there was hardly a cliché he didn’t invoke. He made fun of his ex’s new guy because he eats sushi and can’t skin a buck on “Bait a Hook,” and as an intro to “Guns,” he proudly proclaimed himself a member of the NRA, and “anyone who had a problem with it could kiss [his] ass.” Ignore the “Don’t read the comments” rule for a moment; the YouTube video for that song provides a microscope into the audience for which his music been tailored. Moore’s May tour was just a primer for the inevitable, as his headliner status has been consecrated with his Off the Beaten Path tour. He’ll play the Greensboro Coliseum on Thursday night with veteran songwriter Randy Houser and newcomer Josh Thompson, whose single “Way Out Here” begins with the line “Our house is protected by the good Lord and a gun.” Should be a real big hit.


The New Grass Revival were more than just a group of bluegrass pickers that broke all the rules; they were a band that piqued tastes undiscovered in the most stubborn of string purists and reticent outsiders. They were dusty hippie phenoms, able to pick circles around the best while reworking pop hits to the chagrin of the mainstream bluegrass community. While it was group founder and linchpin Sam Bush that kept their music rooted in the sounds of Monroe, it wasn’t until bassist John Cowan joined the band three years into their existence that all of the group’s possibilities fully took hold. Cowan’s smooth, supple bass style and soulful lead vocals brought them further into the realms of rock and R&B, and eventually the old guard began to accept them. When John Cowan performs this Sunday for what is becoming a yearly gig at South Stokes High auditorium, it will come in a place that’s among the holy places for bluegrass: the county where greats like Lester Flatts and Charlie Monroe spent their last days. The John Cowan Band, featuring Jeff Autry on guitar, Shad Cobb on fiddle and Ed Toth on drums, will be presented by the Stokes County Arts Council and supported by the Good Fellers and the Holly Creek Girls. The show starts at 5 p.m., and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.


Every year, the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Critics Poll opens a lens into the wonderfully arcane methodology through which the worldwide music-writing literati rank the year’s best releases. This year, Kanye West’s Yeezus, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires In the City and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky topped the poll’s conventional metric, but as with anything related to taste, the poll accounts for subjectivity. It accounts for how enthusiastic they were about an album, how hip a particular critics’ tastes might skew, how “metal” those tastes are, the cult factor of an album, and how that album’s popularity was propelled a particular song or songs. Muchacho, the sixth album by songwriter Matthew Houck’s perpetually underrated alt-country project Phosphorescent, was respectably well received according to this poll; it landed at No. 50 overall, picked up a mid-ranged enthusiasm rating, and was relatively centrist, though it was almost nil on the “metal” metric (despite his band members occasionally sporting Darkthrone and Morbid Angel T-shirts at live shows). The poll did, however, reveal its favor was propelled by the incredible “Song for Zula,” a windswept, reverbsoaked exposition on real heartache and how it can close you off for good, but it’s also not fair to define Muchacho by a song that sounds like the son of U2’s “With or Without You.” As a whole, Muchacho paints Houck as the patron saint of the broken-hearted, but it does so with a Dwight Yoakam shimmy (“Ride On/Right On”), loaded lyrical world weariness (“Down to Go”), and straight-up Lee Hazlewood-style sumptuousness (“A Charm/A Blade”). When he comes to the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte on Friday night, the crooner who went all in for his love of Willie Nelson on 2009’s To Willie will still be there, but now he’s layered enough to really get people’s attention. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. !