THURSDAY 1.21

Freedy Johnston

Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater

Come for the voice, stay for the lyrics. Freedy Johnston's luminescent Kansas-Hoboken plainness would suit either the country or R&B he skirts, if not the bossa nova he adores, because his inflection-free emphasis on lovely pop melodies transcends persona. That leaves his unreliable narrators more vivid: "Don't Fall in Love with a Lonely Girl," off his new album recorded in Nashville, Rain on the City, is catchy romantic doom as Juliana Hatfield might imagine it, while "Livin' Too Close to the Rio Grande" is a great road/river song ("Between the wife and the ex and the government...I never met a dollar that wasn't spent") informed by the soulful ease he otherwise displays on "The Devil Raises His Own." None of those might be essential to non-fans the way his '90s hit "Bad Reputation" or sophomore album were to many, but they enrich a live greatest-hits worth catching, this time at a venue that guarantees intimacy. If the grownup Taste of Minnesota hecklers pay their way in, Johnston will have to challenge them to a bowling game. All ages. $15. 10 p.m. 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.825.8949. Peter S. Scholtes

Tea Leaf Green

Minnesota-based band-made-good Motion City Soundtrack
Peter Yang
Minnesota-based band-made-good Motion City Soundtrack

Cabooze

Putting a modern gloss on the work of such legendary acts as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band with their funky, psychedelic sound and dedication to their classic-rock roots, Tea Leaf Green have established themselves as one of today's preeminent jam bands. What sets the San Francisco quartet apart is the renowned songwriting and distinctive keyboards of Trevor Garrod, whose lyrical ruminations are delivered in a Jerry Garcia-like tenor. With their considerable chops and regular appearances as festival headliners, there's no doubting TLG's jamming pedigree—a fact that was reinforced when none other than Justin Kreutzman, son of the Dead's drummer, Bill, released a documentary about the band in 2006 called Rock 'n' Roll Band. Back on the road after a rare two-month hiatus from their usually relentless touring, expect TLG to explore such hits as the Jammy Award-winning "Taught to Be Proud" along the outer limits of some mind-bending jams. With Elmwood. 18+. $15/$18 at the door. 8:30 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. Jeff Gage

FRIDAY 1.22

Fourth Annual TC Hip Hop Awards

First Avenue

Making their move to First Avenue, with KMOJ's Miss Georgia on the red carpet and comedian Boima Freeman returning to host, this year's TC Hip Hop Awards feature three of the finest local performers in hip hop: Micranots legend I Self Devine (who made one of the '00s' best albums), Unknown Prophets (who did the same last year), and Lil Buddy, the '90s rapper whose live comeback at Soundset '09 (following a download-only track with Slug and Muja Messiah) was the talk of the Rhymesayers crowd. Laugh all you want that these awards began four years ago with a "white rapper" category: Their steadfast focus on the mixtape/MySpace street scene offered such happy surprises as R&B talent Chantel Sings and a beautifully orchestrated Abstract Pack reunion two years ago. This year, the TC Legends honorees are Minneapolis/St. Paul hip-hop pioneer Travitron and singer RL of Next (whose "Wifey" remains one of the biggest hits by a Minnesotan of the past decade). Other performers include Guante, Trama, Illuminous 3, A&R, Slink Proper, Ale, Kredentials, Chevy Boy, Margeaux Davis, Sick, Studio & G-Rize, and KFAI's Special Dark on the ones and twos. 18+. $10/$12 at the door. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Peter S. Scholtes

SATURDAY 1.23

Motion City Soundtrack

First Avenue

It can feel like immaculate pop records come from another state, or maybe an airless planet where microscopic production details can be fussed over by robots in some hermetically sealed studio—in other words, it's easy to believe that these albums can't be homegrown. But rock quintet Motion City Soundtrack hail from Minneapolis and have been cranking out slick, hummable power pop in your own backyard for 13 years, trading overnight success for a process of steadily gaining popularity. The work is paying off: The band's fourth album (My Dinosaur Life, out now) sees them making the leap from punk imprint Epitaph to the big leagues of Columbia. Even if MCS have found a new abode for their music, it doesn't mean that they've forgotten their roots; the band's U.S. tour kicks off with this show in First Ave's Mainroom, a nod to Twin Cities fans who have been loyal since the band's early days and proving that there's really no place like home. With Set Your Goals, This Providence, and the Swellers. All ages. $20. 5 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

SUNDAY 1.24

Curtis & Loretta (CD-release show)

The Cedar

As veteran treasures of the Twin Cities folk scene, Curtis & Loretta don't really have a reputation for covering the hits—until now, though the popular tunes that receive their customary charming and spirited attention on their new album go all the way back to '58. That would be 1858, the year Minnesota became a state. In fact, the songs on Our Heritage in Song would have been widely sung around the new state that year and were brought together by Curtis & Loretta as part of a Minnesota sesquicentennial project. There are sea chanteys; a children's ditty to the tune of "Yankee Doodle"; songs related to voyageurs, farmers, loggers, homesteaders; some dealing with contemporary issues like the looming Civil War and the evils of slavery; several referenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder; one recounting the exploits of outlaw Jesse James; and Abe Lincoln's campaign song. It's a sweeping tapestry of life and times 150 years ago, with topical threads that remain relevant today, specifically those about hard times and the poignant "When This Cruel War Is Over." As expected, Curtis & Loretta nail every one: His rich tenor entwines with her sparkling soprano for thrilling harmonies, while they adeptly accompany themselves on vintage stringed instruments that would have been familiar to nascent Minnesotans. To further set the mood, Curtis & Loretta will dress in 1850s attire when they introduce this truly unique project at the Cedar. All ages. $10/$12 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

TUESDAY 1.26

Shawn Colvin

Dakota Jazz Club

Although she burst onto the scene as a leading light of the new folk movement in the 1980s, winning the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording with her debut album, Steady On, Shawn Colvin came from an eclectic background that included rock, western swing, and diverse experiences as a prized session singer. That all meant that when she got around to writing her own material—usually with John Leventhal's music vividly illuminating her sculpted lyrics—there arose numerous dimensions beyond the standard folk lexicon. Her introspection was often deeply, even painfully personal, reflecting the ups and downs of her life, but also thrillingly precipitous ("Shotgun Down the Avalanche"), ripe with rebellious spirit ("Tennessee"), even murderous ("Sunny Came Home"). Those are among the familiar songs on last summer's Live (Nonesuch), culled from three solo performances at Yoshi's in San Francisco and essentially a career retrospective featuring songs from all her albums. Paring things down to just her golden, autumnal voice and quietly elegant guitar work, Colvin is at once intimate and expansive in scope, glowing in the very flame of her creative spark and further burnishing the quality of her tunes. There are three lovely covers—Robbie Robertson's "Twilight," the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place," and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"—serving as reminders that she's also a great interpreter too. It'll be the same deal at the Dakota: intimate solo performances at a great jazz club. $45. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Wednesday and Thursday —Rick Mason

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