After wooing coffeehouse customers during her formative years, Bronx native Lucy Woodward somehow found herself singing empty pop songs, just like dozens of other teen hopefuls. But unlike many of those now-forgotten names, Woodward eventually started making the music she wanted to make. "I stopped listening to what was on the radio and started to go with what I knew and what I felt," she says. That translated into sultry-blues-meets-jazz, with a little swing thrown into the mix. Woodward taps into her soulful side on her new album, Hooked. More important, she also taps into her sensual side. Vintage jazz meshes with '30s-style cabaret to make a refreshing break from the pop songs found on her first two albums. Songs like "Ragdoll" and the lustful "Slow Recovery" showcase the singer's soothing new sound. Think of Hooked as a clean slate for Woodward, and her current tour as the perfect forum to showcase her now-blossoming talent. — Courtney Kerrigan
7 p.m. Wednesday, August 10. Nighttown. Tickets: $15; call 216-795-0550 or visit nighttowncleveland.com.
Here are some facts about Tim McGraw: His first name is actually Samuel. He has almost as many compilation albums (seven) as studio albums (10); 12 of them hit No. 1 on the country chart. His first acting role was on The Jeff Foxworthy Show in 1995; he's since appeared in movies like The Blind Side and Flicka. His musical hero is Keith Whitley, who died on May 9, 1989 — the very same day McGraw quit college and moved to Nashville to start his career. He's won 3 Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, and 11 County Music Association Awards. Taylor Swift wrote a song about him, and he wrote a song about his father, 1970s Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw. He covered Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and sang a duet with rapper Nelly. His summer tour, Emotional Traffic, is named after an album McGraw recorded but his record company won't release. Hopefully we'll hear some songs from it when he comes to town this week. — Brian Baker
With Luke Bryan and the Band Perry. 7 p.m. Friday, August 12. Blossom Music Center. Tickets: $30-$95; call 330-920-8040 or visit ticketmaster.com.
Try saying this sentence in less than a second. As you fail miserably, keep in mind that only a handful of people in the world can actually accomplish this. Twista is one of them. The Chicago native broke a Guinness World Record for Fastest Rapper in 1992, spewing out a whopping 11.2 syllables in one second. Not that it did much for his career. No one bought his first mixtape, and his name was absent from the charts until 1997, when "Get It Wet" stalled at No. 96. But something clicked in 2004, when he scored a No. 1 album with Kamikaze. A No. 1 single with Kanye West and Jamie Foxx, "Slow Jams" (ironically), helped. Twista has since released four albums and a slew of EPs, mixtapes, and collaboration records. He's now on tour promoting his latest album, last year's The Perfect Storm. You probably won't understand a word he says when he drops by Peabody's this weekend, but he's still pretty damn entertaining. — Phil Barnes
With Jmo. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, August 13. Peabody's. Tickets: $20, $15 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or visit peabodys.com.
Atmosphere were unfairly branded "emo rap" a decade ago. Slug's lyrics may lean more toward confessional journal entries than street-corner g talk, but the tag comes nowhere near the duo's influence. Slug (pictured) and producer Ant helped put Minneapolis' hip-hop scene on the map and have since released introspective yet playful speaker-rattlers. They've also given mic time to some of underground hip-hop's most talented prospects and provided a home to some of its most lauded legends on its Rhymesayers label. No surprise that as other "emo rap" upstarts have faded from cultural consciousness, Atmosphere are still going strong. On their latest album, The Family Sign, Slug still spits stories about his turbulent personal life and inner demons as Ant expands his repertoire of beats, serving up ethereal slow-burners, piano ballads, and old-school party-starters. Like most of Atmosphere's releases, it's engrossing but not easy to pin down. And it's definitely not "emo rap."— Matt Whelihan
8:30 p.m. Monday, August 15. House of Blues. Tickets: $23, $20 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
The Cool Kids
Chicago's Cool Kids were one of the first hip-hop groups to be embraced by the powerful blogosphere that usually reserves its word-tripping hyperbole for hipster indie rockers. Rappers Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks' baked rhymes about dirt bikes and video games made them way more accessible to pasty bedroom bloggers than, say, some Miami rapper's rhymes about slinging coke. But that was three years ago. That's a long time for hip-hop. That's an even longer time for blog-blessed artists (just ask Tapes 'n Tapes or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). When Fish Ride Bicycles, the Cool Kids' debut album after a series of EPs and mixtapes, just came out last month, and it's a wild ride across laid-back beats and playful rhymes. The flow is easy and the bass is deep — this is summer music made for block parties. Some of the buzz may be off the Cool Kids since their first splash in 2008, but there's still plenty of reason to spark them up again. — Michael Gallucci
With Rhyme & Reason, Tony Starkks, and Light Pollution. 8 p.m. Sunday, August 14. Grog Shop. Tickets: $18, $15 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
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