The year's first truly great week of concerts features a pair of especially pleasing pop acts in Barrance Whitfield and Tennis at Three Links and Club Dada, respectively. Then there's a veritable vulnerable songwriting workshop at the Kessler with Josh Ritter and Gregory Alan Isakov one one bill, and plenty more around town.
Barrance Whitfield and the Savages
Thursday, January 16, at Three Links
Take Al Roker (yeah, the weather guy) and merge him with Barry, Jack Black's record store maniac in the movie High Fidelity. Surround the resulting character with an ass-kicking, rockabilly-tinged R&B band. Simmer for 30 years, then bring to a boil. What you end up with would be something very similar to Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, and the album they released last fall, Dig Thy Savage Soul. Formed three decades ago in Boston, the original band released some acclaimed albums and earned a reputation as a great live band. Then guitarist/producer Peter Greenfield quit the music business, leaving Whitfield to soldier on. And soldier on he did, gigging with a rotating cast of musicians, primarily in Europe where the Savages had developed a fan base. And, like Barry, working in an independent record store in Boston when not on the road. Having sold his energy business, Greenfield and other members of the original Savages rejoined Whitfield a couple years ago. Dig Thy Savage Soul suggests they have only improved with age. See them get their freak on. Douglas Davis
Thursday, January 16, at Dada
"Mean Streets," off Tennis' newest EP, Small Sound, is a music lover's wet dream. If you aren't sucked in by Alaina Moore's spritely and seductive vocals on this opening track, then you are probably flatlining and should see a doctor immediately. The song also achieves the feat of being a complete throwback cut and thoroughly modern at the same time, mixing echoing keys, groovy drumming and pop sensibilities in such a way that the track would fit comfortably on indie-rock and oldies stations alike. And this song is a microcosm of the diversity found throughout the EP. "Timothy" is a delectable fusion of '80s-style pop and modern rock, "Cured of Youth" and "Dimming Light" are solid pop numbers, and the closing "100 Lovers" shows off the band's funky, jazzy side. If you're looking to dance, Tennis will make your feet hurt in the best way possible. Brian Palmer
Josh Ritter and Gregory Alan Isakov
Friday, January 17, at the Kessler Theater
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Perhaps lost in the Roman orgy that is the collection of year-end "best-of" lists were two records that were probably released too early in 2013 for late-season notice. Or maybe they were too quiet and introspective to compete with the noise of critics hating on any act loosely associated with a Mumford-fueled so-called "Folk Explosion." Indeed, banjo picking and drum kicking have increased folk music's general popular profile recently, but singer-songwriters Josh Ritter and Gregory Alan Isakov have for more than a decade been singing songs that bind pain, joy, loss and love inside immaculate stories that require one to truly listen. Idaho native Ritter's post-divorce Beast in its Tracks, released last March, is stellar in its open-chested approach to despair and recovery while Isakov, a Philadelphia-raised native of South Africa, offered the July 2013 record The Weatherman, in which he expands on his stellar ability to convey profundity in a subtle, intricate manner. Kelly Dearmore
Waka Flocka Flame
Sunday, January 19, at Trees
You might know Juaquin Malphurs better by his stage name, Waka Flocka Flame. The 27-year-old Atlanta rapper has made quite a name for himself since the release of his 2009 club-banger hit, "O Let's Do It." After the single launched him into the mainstream spotlight, his debut album Flockaveli was a runaway success, debuting at No. 6 on the Billboard 200. Since then, a string of successful strip-club bangers and dope-boy anthems have kept Waka on our radio dials and in the national rap consciousness. This week, Parade of Flesh and Top Shelf bring the former 1017 Brick Squad rapper to Deep Ellum for what will no doubt be an evening that Dallas won't soon forget. Vanessa Quilantan