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Cheryl Wheeler

WAMC Performing Arts Center, Thursday

Cheryl Wheeler returns to the Linda Norris Auditorium tonight because—well, because the people wanted her back. And by “people,” we mean folks who appreciate emotionally charged, well-crafted music. Music that exhibits both heart and a sense of humor: Wheeler has a reputation for being almost as much of a comedian at her shows as she is a musician. Sure, one of her songs became a Top 10 hit for Dan Seals in the late ’80s, and, sure, she did the major-label thing (until Capitol decided that only Garth Brooks was worthy of their promotional efforts), but Wheeler’s been proudly independent for a decade and a half now, going her own way musically and releasing acclaimed albums through stalwart labels like Rounder. If that’s not enough, her Web site promises that “almost half of the songs” she performs live have never been recorded. (May 24, 8 PM, $23, 339 Central Ave., Albany, 465-5233 ext. 4)

Sucka Brown

Savannah’s, Friday

Boston band Sucka Brown have been kicking around the Northeast for several years now, and it seems the years have been kind. The band’s sound, labeled as “rock-funk-pop” on their MySpace page, has developed from a Chili Peppers-derived blend that leaned heavily on the “funk” part of the equation to a more refined and melodic thing that references moderns like Incubus and Maroon 5. (In good ways, natch.) Tomorrow (Friday), Sucka Brown will return to Albany to celebrate the release of their new one, and first for New York label RoHo Records, What Elephant? Solid Blue will open. (May 25, 9 PM, $5, 1 S. Pearl St., Albany, 426-9647)

Sloan Wainwright

Caffe Lena, Friday

Sloan Wainwright does it all: rock, jazz, blues, folk and pop. OK, maybe we can’t include rap in that list, but you get the idea. Wainwright has been an innovator on the independent music scene since her first self-titled album and has sustained her reputation for strong songwriting and vocal skills on her most recent album, The Song Inside. Wainwright makes a point of reaching and inspiring her listeners; according to the singer, she and her band “take our audience on a journey, we come in full tilt and do our show.” Of course, it’s impossible to write about Sloan Wainwright without mentioning her successful family. Wainwright’s father was a journalist and songwriter, and the editor of Life magazine. Her brother, Loudon Wainwright III, is also a popular musician and proud pa to musicians Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Roche. How’s that for a gene pool? At Caffe Lena tomorrow (Friday), Sloan Wainwright will be accompanied by guitarist Stephen Murphy and Cadence Carroll on percussion and vocals. (May 25, 8 PM, $15, 47 Phila St, Saratoga Springs, 583-0022)

Fred Eaglesmith

Club Helsinki, Saturday

Deemed a “blue-collar country prophet” by fans, Fred Eaglesmith—like many great country crooners—sings of love and loss, cowboys and pretty ladies, and farming and drinking. His recent album, Milly’s Café, was nominated for a Juno award this year for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. Though things have been going well for Eaglesmith and company, the band hit a personal snafu last week when longtime band member Willie P. Bennett checked himself into a hospital after not feeling “up to snuff.” Turns out he had had a heart attack, and therefore had to take a leave from the band for a while. Regardless, the show will go on without Bennett (until he gets the go-ahead from his doctor to perform again), and Eaglesmith and his band will perform at Club Helsinki this weekend. (May 26, 9 PM, $25, 284 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass., 413-528-3394)

Freedy Johnston:
Can You Fly? A Bar/None Birthday Bash!

MASS MoCA, Sunday

In addition to introducing They Might Be Giants into the world, Hoboken, N.J.’s Bar/None Records has brought us records from Petra Haden (her priceless re-creation of The Who Sell Out), Of Montreal, Evan Dando, Alex Chilton, Mason Jennings, and many others. The label celebrates its 20th—well, 21st actually—birthday this weekend in, of all places, North Adams, Mass. (Maxwell’s must have been booked.) This is fortuitous for us because another fine Bar/None artist, Freedy Johnston, will be on hand to perform his acclaimed second release Can You Fly? in its entirety. Selected as one of the top albums of 1992 by Musician, Spin, Village Voice, People, and Playboy, it was the album that established Johnston as one of his generation’s great songwriters. Also on Sunday’s birthday bill are New York pop combo Vampire Weekend, and singer-inventor Brian Dewan. (May 27, 7 PM, $21, 87 Marshall St., N. Adams, Mass., 413-662-2111)

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