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ALTERNATIVE

Scotland Barr and the Slow Drags

Local artiste Scotland Barr has a voice that sounds like it's been marinated in its fair share of whiskey - there's a gruff, slightly smoky and well-seasoned feel that makes the sense of regret and loss in the lyrics all that more tangible.

Part Joe Strummer, part Shane MacGowan, Barr spins a yarn like no one's business, while his band makes his upbeat tales of being down and out read like the best possible dog-eared paperback.

Get there early for the superlative Rachel Taylor Brown and the always rocking Michael Dean Damron (late of I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House) and his Loyal Bastards.

9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., 503-231-9663, free

SONGWRITER

Leigh Marble

In a city that's teeming with singer-songwriters, Leigh Marble quickly has distinguished himself from the pack.

'Red Tornado' is only his second album, but Marble's world-weary voice and whipsmart lyrics cut to the quick and smolder with regret.

Whether he's bemoaning the state of our nation or the state of a relationship, Marble's got a way with words - with bull's-eye marksmanship, he manages to be clever without being trite and precise without being preachy.

He's one of those rare songwriters who's also a top-notch storyteller.

9:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, Ash Street Saloon, 225 S.W. Ash St., 503-226-0430, $5

HIP-HOP

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco is a skateboarding rapper from the wrong part of Chicago - a fluid, fluent street poet and MC who manages to seamlessly marry credibility and cranial capacity in a way that cuts through genre boundaries and scores a direct hit on every level.

His recently released sophomore album, 'The Cool,' is a concept record, but thankfully one that doesn't need to come with an explanation.

Fiasco's deft linguistics, perceptive abilities and skills as a storyteller are impossible to resist.

8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, Roseland Theater, 10 N.W. Sixth Ave., 503-224-2038, $20, all ages

- Barbara Mitchell