Critics' Picks: Jeff Magnum, Lenny Kravitz, and more

Cass McCombs Band's masterful recording techniques revealed
William Canzoneri

Cass McCombs Band

7th St. Entry, Wednesday 2.1

Frequently, when a musician decides to release two or more albums within the same year, you find yourself wishing they just combined the best of the lot in order to make one stellar record. In the case of Cass McCombs, who released both Wit's End and Humor Risk in 2011, it's hard to imagine one without the other. Both albums keep alive the evocative story McCombs tells as a songwriter. After a stirring stop at the Entry in July in support of Wit's End, McCombs again returns to that intimate room as part of his Humor Risk tour, a slightly more boisterous affair than its spare predecessor, with a rougher edge to it, both lyrically and melodically. But no matter what album McCombs draws from, this is bound to be a fulfilling show. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson

Jeff Mangum

Historic State Theatre, Saturday 2.4

Jeff Mangum is the idolized former leader of Neutral Milk Hotel. His peak and premature swan song, 1998's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, most closely resembles New Zealand's Tall Dwarfs, Martin Carthy, and the group's Elephant 6 compatriots, but if you take it for a collection of unearthed sea chanteys performed by the Mad Hatter, you aren't far off. Some of the tunes play with campfire intimacy; some are awash in fuzz bass, crying saws, and out-of-tune horns; and at least half might stick with you forever. Since then, Mangum hasn't released any new, original material, and is sometimes spoken of as a recluse—a celebrated recluse, as Thomas Pynchon has shown, is often just someone who doesn't talk to reporters. Lately he's been out and about more, turning up to lead a sing-along of his oldies at Occupy Wall Street, and for concerts such as this much-anticipated solo show. Sold Out. 7 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Dylan Hicks

An Acoustic Café Evening: Carrie Rodriguez, Kelly Joe Phelps, Pieta Brown

Dakota, Saturday 2.4

Carrie Rodriguez, a fiddle ace, singer, and songsmith from Austin, Texas, hosts this third annual road version of the radio songwriters' showcase. A classically trained instrumentalist, Rodriguez originally developed her sly and sultry singing voice playing with Chip Taylor, and later established herself as a first-rate songwriter. Last fall's We Still Love Our Country is a collaboration with Ben Kyle of the Twin Cities band Romantica, staking a convincing claim on the male-female country duo tradition (think Loretta and George) with memorable covers of Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, and Boudleaux Bryant. The Pacific Northwest's Kelly Joe Phelps is a phenomenal guitarist who crosses country blues, folk weathered on the Western frontier, jazz improv, and a touch of avant-garde. His sound ranges from dusty, exquisitely etched solo acoustic guitar pieces that tap the likes of John Fahey and Skip James, to original songs with striking imagery and insight eloquently scratching at the human condition. Pieta Brown matches poetic lyrics with a sinewy, rootsy blend of country, folk, blues, and gospel, often with a haunting, mercurial spirit. Her latest album on St. Paul's Red House Records is appropriately titled Mercury, recorded with members of Mark Knopfler's road band and evocative Iowa guitarist (and producer) Bo Ramsey. As a vocalist Pieta shows off familial ties to dad Greg in her phrasing, which also suggests Bob Dylan, and stepmother Iris Dement in timbre—amid a touch of Lucinda Williams. This is a rare assembly of three of the most singular artists in the singer-songwriter game. $23. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

City and Colour/ the Low Anthem

First Avenue, Saturday 2.4

Canadian songwriter Dallas Green has gradually captured the music world's attention while recording and performing as City and Colour. His third full-length studio record, Little Hell, was released in June, and finds Green expanding on his fragile, acoustic-based style in favor of a richer, more expansive sound to suit his euphonious vocals. Thankfully for City and Colour fans, the new record is still full of the stirring, emotionally raw numbers that caught everyone's attention in the first place. Openers the Low Anthem, an accomplished and deeply affecting Rhode Island quintet, should not be missed. All ages. $22 adv/$25 door. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775 —Erik Thompson

Lenny Kravitz

State Theatre, Tuesday 2.7

Lenny Kravitz's current fan base is far different from those who followed him when he broke onto the music scene in the late '80s. He traded in the soulful, socially conscious songs of his early days for radio-friendly stadium anthems that catapulted him to stardom. After releasing his funk-fueled ninth studio album, Black and White America, toward the end of 2011, Kravitz has wisely decided to scale back on playing arena shows, and this time through Minneapolis he's in a far more intimate spot at the State. Whether he adjusts his arena-rock-laden set list to suit his elegant surroundings remains to be seen. All ages. $55-$70. 7:30 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 1.800.982.2787 —Erik Thompson

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7th St. Entry

701 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403-1327


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