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Live Music!

by: COURTESY OF Paul Colvin, 
The Ascetic Junkies, performing on Dec. 11 with Bark Hide and Horn and St. Frankie Lee at Backspace in Northwest Portland, will give away its new four-song EP, “Don’t Wait for the Rescue Squad.”

Dec. 4

Neo-soul

John Craig's new album 'Umlaut' combines soulful vocals - ala Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, but without all the swooping - backed with extremely catchy, danceable electro-pop music. It's the sound of orangey dusk - that time between the end of the work or school day when the evening lies ahead with all its promise of romance or loneliness. The sound of being young enough to stay up all night and rage, but old enough to realize playing it smooth and cool will get you more places than getting in someone's face.

John Craig with Oh Captain My Captain, 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, Someday Lounge 125 N.W. Fifth Ave. $8 advance, $10 door. Info: 503-248-1030, www.somedaylounge.com, myspace.com/johnboatmusic, myspace.com/ohcaptain.

Dec. 4, 5

Homeward bound

Portland's indie folk-pop-rock group Blind Pilot is coming home this week after a tour supporting its much-acclaimed debut, '3 Rounds and a Sound.' If you haven't heard Blind Pilot, it is sort of like going to an open mic night at a bar when some unassuming acoustic guitar-playing cat comes up, invites a couple of players in the room to sit in with him and then proceeds to blow everybody away with his driving, intense and longing sound. Blind Pilot's two shows will benefit p:ear, which aids homeless and transitional youth, and the Oregon Food Bank (if you bring a non-perishable food item).

Blind Pilot, Laurie Veirs and The Hall of Flames, Mimicking Birds, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, and with Veirs as well as Point Juncture, WA, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St. Dec. 4 is all ages, Dec. 5 21 and up. $13 advance, $15 day of show. Info: 503-284-8686, wonderballroom.com, blindpilotmusic.wordpress.com, myspace.com/lauraveirs, myspace.com/ natelacy (for Mimicking Birds), myspace.com/ptjuncturewa.

Dec. 10

String king

Charlie Hunter does not play five-string guitar, nor six-string - the boy plays seven, count 'em, seven strings, baby! He also plays them very well, as evidenced by his jazz-flavored outing, 'Gentlemen, I Neglected To Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid.' The new CD ranges from Wes Montgomery jazz smoothness and New Orleans street stomp to funky dance grooves and swinging modern blues meditations. Hunter is the classic musician's musician, having backed Norah Jones, Mos Def, John Mayer, D'Angelo and many others. His economical playing is about as tasty as one can get on the guitar.

Charlie Hunter with Eric Kalb and Alan Ferber, 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi St. $18 advance, $20 day of show. Info: 503-288-3895, www.mississippistudios.com, www.charliehunter.com.

Dec. 11

Folk and beyond

Portland's The Ascetic Junkies joke on their MySpace site that a fan once said they sound like U2 combined with Alanis Morrisette, and that they disagreed. So does this writer - they sound more like Alanis Morrisette backed by a bluegrass-folk-rock-pop band, and that's a good thing. Like any hardworking roots band worth its Americana salt, they have found a way to make the old sound new in a manner that can't help but make you want to hear what's coming next in their set list. The group - rooted in the musical partnership of Kali Giaritta on vocals, glockenspiel and keys and Matt Harmon on vocals, guitar and keys - also features some drums, banjo and bass and will give away its new four-song EP 'Don't Wait for the Rescue Squad' for free (via your iPod, e-mail, etc.) at a show with Bark Hide and Horn and St. Frankie Lee.

The Ascetic Junkies, Bark Hide and Horn and St. Frankie Lee, 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, Backspace, 115 N.W. Fifth Ave. All ages. $6. Info: 503-248-2900, myspace.com/theascetic junkies, myspace.com/barkhideandhorn, myspace.com/stfrankielee.