Barton Carroll is a storyteller as much as he is a songwriter.
Vacillating between stark, Steinbeckian tales of the down, out and never-will-be's and the lilting romanticism of an Irish poet, his songs grab your attention and keep it.
Carroll has toured the world with former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann and been part of local critical darlings Dolorean.
Tonight, he and Dolorean honcho Al James share the stage for what promises to be a compelling and enthralling night of acoustic music.
10 p.m. FRIDAY, Jan. 25, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave., 503-288-3895, $8
There's a delicate balance involved in playing centuries-old musical forms today - a need to honor traditions, pass along the torch, connect with new, more globally savvy audiences and evolve with the times.
As the world's pre-eminent kora player, Toumani Diabate is intimately familiar with (and involved in) that process.
An intricate 21-stringed instrument from West Africa, the kora has been played by the Diabate family for 71 generations.
Diabate himself has become a musical ambassador, collaborating with blues legend Taj Mahal, flamenco groups, Indian classical musicians and many others.
His unique synthesis of traditions both new and old is beautiful and effortless.
8 p.m. FRIDAY, Jan. 25, Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-233-1994, $24, all ages
He finally may have proclaimed himself a ruler on his latest album, 'King Cool Nutz,' but veteran Portland rap impresario Terrance Scott (aka Cool Nutz) actually presides over his own kingdom.
Scott's label, Jus Family, has become a bastion of and breeding ground for local hip-hop talent, and tonight you can catch Cool Nutz, Syndel of Siren's Echo and host DJ Chill, along with extended-family members Cancer Rising and Living Proof.
If you've been curious about the state of local hip-hop - or just want to hear some great music - tonight's an excellent opportunity.
9:30 p.m. SATURDAY, Jan. 26, Ash Street Saloon, 225 S.W. Ash St., 503-226-0430, $10
Over the years, Portland transplant Ohmega Watts has earned acclaim for his progressive and eclectic brand of hip-hop.
Fueled by live instrumentation and a long-standing fondness for percussion, Watts' music is soulful, sophisticated and funky - making for the kind of album whose broad appeal has more to do with its creator's intelligence and broad interests than a lowest-common-denominator factor.
His latest release, 'Watts Happening,' has earned high praise from all corners of the media, including a nod for Best Album of 2007 from Impose magazine.
Whether you're a die-hard hip-hop head or a dilettante, Ohmega Watts is a name you should know.
9:30 p.m. SATURDAY, Jan. 26, Berbati's Pan, 10 S.W. Third Ave., 503-226-2122, $15
Norfolk and Western
Local purveyors of tumbleweed pop Norfolk and Western have been noticeably absent for the past half a year while drummer Rachel Blumberg toured with Bright Eyes and the whole band spent some time recording in Spain.
They've got a new album that should be out in the fall, but you shouldn't pass up this opportunity to see them live - not only should they be debuting some new material, but Blumberg and singer-songwriter Adam Selzer once again will hit the road as part of M. Ward's touring band, which means local shows are at a premium.
9 p.m. SATURDAY, Jan. 26, Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., 503-231-9663, $10