Who'd have guessed that a prime-time soap opera about young, pretty, horny, and neurotic doctors would turn out to be such a cultural watershed? Not only did Grey's Anatomy give Katherine Heigl's booming career a leg-up, it also jolted singer-songwriter Greg Laswell out of obscurity. Not that he'd be completely unknown without the boost, but having six songs on one of TV's biggest shows (including its pulse-pounding '09 season finale) certainly doesn't hurt in getting the word out. (Laswell's songs have also popped up in One Tree Hill, Smallville, and Without a Trace.) But don't hold these mainstream ambitions against Laswell, because it hasn't tarnished his style one bit. He's gentle and self-deprecating, introspective without being pouty, brooding without high-handedness. Gauzy vocals, layered arrangements, and immaculate songcraft remain staples of his work. And fans will tell you that his live shows are every bit as riveting as his records. — Mark Keresman
Greg Laswell, with the Rescues and Harper Blynn. 9:30 p.m. Thursday, October 28. Cambridge Room at House of Blues. Tickets: $15, $12.50 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
MAYER HAWTHORNE & THE COUNTY
Hawthorne looks like a TV show version of a big-city hipster: the glasses, hair, clothes, and smirk all say "way cooler than you'll ever be." But the Michigan native glances back — way back — on his debut album, A Strange Arrangement, perfectly reproducing '60s and'70s soul music. Hawthorne is part of a recent trend of nerdy white guys who sing like Curtis Mayfield and a bunch of Motown stars, but unlike most of his peers, the dude is actually quite good. Hawthorne's faithfulness to old-school styles and sounds occasionally makes his music sound sterile, like it was hatched in a lab by notebook-toting scientists, but there's enough heart running through the grooves to draw you in. Most of Strange Arrangement's rigid synthetics open up considerably onstage, where Hawthorne's band the County lays down thick, sultry backing (Hawthorne played most of the instruments on the album by himself). Of course it's no substitute for the real thing, but Hawthorne's Smokey Robinson impression is the closest some PBR-swiggin' guys are going to get to this kind of music. — Michael Gallucci
Mayer Hawthorne & the County, with Gordon Voidwell. 10 p.m. Friday, October 29. Grog Shop. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
For a relatively young band, Canton natives Lovedrug have had more than their share of record-company woes. Frontman Michael Shepard, the only remaining member since the indie-rock group's 2001 formation, left music behind for a while to go to film school. But he was eventually dragged back in and released Lovedrug's debut album, Pretend You're Alive, in 2004. The record was picked up for distribution by Sony, which was all set to release the follow-up CD (Everything Starts Where It Ends) in 2007 when the band parted ways with the major label. They returned to the indie company that originally released their debut and reveled in creative freedom. Then, two years ago, after Lovedrug released their third album, The Sucker Punch Show, their indie label collapsed and filed for bankruptcy. In June, the band put out EP — Part II, the second in a series of self-released mini-records (the third is due soon). You'll probably hear a few of the new songs when Lovedrug play a Halloween show at Akron's Musica this weekend. — Aaron Fowler
Lovedrug, with Apres Vous, A Minor Bird, and Moonmen. 8 p.m. Friday, October 29. Musica. Tickets: $10; call 330-374-1114 or go to ticketweb.com.
GUIDED BY VOICES
It's become the blueprint for rock & roll reunions: aging hipsters play a special one-time show, decide they enjoyed themselves enough, and then work up a full-blown tour. So it goes with Robert Pollard and Guided by Voices' "Classic '93-'96 Lineup." Once lovingly referred to as Guided by Beers for their hard-drinking performances, one of history's most beloved low-fi indie bands recently reconvened for Matador Records' 21st anniversary blowout. Mere weeks later, the Dayton natives have mapped out a six-week road adventure. With no new product to pump, GBV's reunion shows promise more than three dozen songs that dig deep into the band's cult appeal. Old faves like "Gold Star for Robot Boy," "My Valuable Hunting Knife," "Johnny Appleseed," "Hot Freaks," and "I Am a Scientist" are showing up almost every night on the Hallway of Shatterproof Glass tour. And apparently not much has changed since the good ol' days — including the onstage partying. You never know if "reunion" really means "one last time." That should be motivation to bag your pillowcase of treats for something a little more exciting on Halloween. — Peter Chakerian
Guided by Voices. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 31. Hales Gym at Oberlin College. Tickets: $30; call 440-775-8121 or go to etix.com.
By this point, you pretty much know what you're getting with a Bob Dylan show. You'll hear some old favorites, maybe a couple of recent things, a handful of tunes you never heard of, and several songs that you probably know but just don't recognize because Dylan is screwing around with their arrangements. Face it: You're seeing Bob Dylan in 2010 because he's Bob Dylan. The ninth volume of his terrific Bootleg Series — The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 just came out, but don't expect the legend to acknowledge its release onstage. He's also still riding high on 2009's Together Through Life, but don't expect him to make any special point to focus on that album either. Rather, you can expect to hear Dylan and his band roll through 40-plus years' worth of songs with an effortless grace that you may mistake for casual indifference. Is that "All Along the Watchtower" they're playing now? Maybe. And is that "Like a Rolling Stone"? Could be — we'll know for sure when the chorus kicks in. And that one may or may not be something from Blood on the Tracks. That's what a Bob Dylan show is these days. It may suck, it may be awesome, or — most likely — it'll fall somewhere in between. — Michael Gallucci
Bob Dylan. 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 2. E.J. Thomas Hall. Tickets: $29.50-$59.50; call 800-745-3000 or go to livenation.com.
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