If You Need To Avoid Your Family This Weekend, Go See These Shows 

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The Takoma Kid

Eric Hutchinson at the Beachland Ballroom on Friday, Nov. 28

National recognition came to this recent New York transplant (originally from Takoma Park, Maryland) via gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who last year helped put Hutchinson's Sounds Like This on iTunes' Top 10 list. As a result, he became the online store's biggest-selling indie artist ever.

That kind of endorsement might have made this serious singer-songwriter cringe a bit, but he surely deserves the attention. The music he makes - a blend of R&B, folk and pop - is catchy and hummable, and though the influences he mentions on his MySpace page (Stevie Wonder, Motown, the Beatles) are quite noticeable, he succeeds in finding his own voice. The buzz he's been getting from audiences is quite impressive, considering Warner dropped him from its roster shortly after the release of Sounds Like This in 2007, leaving him to promote the music on his own, via relentless touring and word of mouth. The hard work ultimately paid off and the label has since called back. Hutchinson's songs rely on the power of his laid-back guitar playing and his strong vocal delivery. On tunes like "You Don't Have to Believe Me" and "OK, It's Alright With Me," he updates the classic Motown sound for the 21st century with touches of a young Billy Joel, while "Back to Where I Was" suggests John Mayer without the pretension. This 28-year-old is definitely promising - you'll be hearing a lot from him in the future. Meaghan Smith and Matt Hires open at 8:30 pm. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $12.50 advance, $14 day of show. - Ernest Barteldes

THE PRODIGALS

If all the former members of Celt-rockers the Prodigals were to reunite, they'd rival the size of the Wu-Tang Clan. But somehow the band's tight, upbeat, accordion-driven sound has remained remarkably consistent through 10 years of changes around founder and frontman Greg Greene, as the retrospective Whiskey Asylum demonstrates. "There were two deciding criteria" for choosing songs from the band's extensive catalog, says Greene. "First, they had to be representative of the current band - these are all songs you will hear if you go to a concert right now, songs that have stood the test of time. And second, among those current songs, what are the tracks folk most avidly respond to at our concerts? Which are the ones that come up again and again as requests, 'Where can I find this track?'" The 18-song compilation includes "Spancil Hill," one of the band's strongest covers, and "Whiskey Asylum," one of five new songs and a surprisingly sweet ballad on the magical powers of alcohol. The Prodigals will preview the set for the first time ever tonight at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $10. - Frank Lewis

Ekoostik Hookah

These jam rockers outta Columbus make an annual pilgrimage to town for a Thanksgiving weekend show. Nothing new there. This time, however, the guys are pushing a new DVD, Live at the Newport. Low-budget even by low-budget standards, its grainy quality and pedestrian camera direction don't do the band a great service. The group, however, set out to make something simple and the 80-minute DVD fits the bill, as it's a no-frills affair that features a particularly good 2007 performance. Highlights include inspired version of tunes such as "Ohio Grown" and "Intrepid Traveler," one of the band's grittiest rockers. The Werks open at 8 p.m. at the House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). Tickets: $16-$25. - Jeff Niesel

Darker My Love

Los Angeles five-piece Darker My Love has built its touring résumé trekking around the country with better-known bands like Alkaline Trio, but the combined discographies of members make them no less seasoned. Singer-guitarist Tim Presley, formerly of late-'90s hardcore punk band the Nerve Agents, joins former Distillers drummer Andy Granelli. Both musicians reinvent their punk-rock roots in Darker My Love, finding a shoe-gazing, orchestrated style showcased on their 2006 self-titled debut more suited to their musical sensibilities. The group delves into psychedelia, playing around with reverb-heavy guitars and distorted vocals, much like Black Rebel Motorcycle's earlier work. The songs extend further into space in a live setting, where the band is free to explore the sonic territory of each song and noodle around with instrumentation. It's an illogical step from the musicians' former bands, but a positive one nonetheless. The Strange Boys and Safari open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $10. - Emily Zemler

James Hunter

Discovered by Van Morrison in the early '90s, English-born soul man James Hunter had never made it in the U.S. until 2006, when his CD People Gonna Talk was released domestically on Go/Rounder Records. A cross-country promotional tour followed, and he found himself opening for the likes of Los Lonely Boys, Aretha Franklin and Morrison himself, who once employed Hunter as a backup singer (you can hear his harmonies on Morrison's memorable A Night in San Francisco) and has championed him since. He has gotten a lot of buzz for reviving interest in Sam Cooke-style melodies, and as a result, he wound up landing a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album. Now touring in support of his second U.S. release The Hard Way, Hunter sticks to his time-honored formula of blending original tunes with classics from forbearers like Ray Charles and James Brown. By listening to him, you'd never know he was born and raised across the pond - he sings with a perfect American accent, which he picked up while listening to his grandmother's records growing up. As he said in a recent radio interview, "If I start singing in British English, let's see how quick you turn your radio off - there couldn't ever be a Sam Cockney." Backed by Jason Wilson (stand-up bass), Lee Badau (baritone sax), Damian Hand (tenor sax) and Jonathan Lee (drums), and handling guitar duties himself, Hunter evokes simpler times without ever sounding dated. His band sounds incredibly tight and familiar with the music - after all, these guys are also the blokes who play on those highly enjoyable, retro-sounding discs. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $15. - Barteldes

Augustana

Augustana has been scaling the outer edges of mom-rock success for a couple of years now, ever since "Boston" dented the Top 40. The California quintet eases into its songs with a casual simplicity that matches singer Dan Layus' hushed sighs. The band plays it safe on its second album, Can't Love, Can't Hurt, which was released earlier this year. The flowing pianos, sweeping chords and near-anthemic rush that propelled 2005's All the Stars and Boulevards are even more direct on Can't Love, Can't Hurt. Layus is positively huggable - and almost girly - on tracks like "Sweet and Low" and "I Still Ain't Over You." A summer tour with old-school mom-rockers Counting Crows and Maroon 5 bolstered Augustana's standing on adult-alternative playlists. It really doesn't add up to anything more than your average Fray Patrol One Tree Anatomy songs for Very Special Moments, but with sick kids, cold weather and the holidays right around the corner, you take what you can get. Augustana - with OneRepublic, the Spill Canvas and the Hush Sound - plays EJ Thomas Hall (198 Hill St., 330.972.7570) at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $20-$25. - Michael Gallucci

Eric Alexander Quartet

Coming in second at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition back in 1991 (the winner was the great Joshua Redman) was the first big stepping stone in the career of this Chicago-born musician currently residing in New York. Well-known for his fluent chops and musical curiosity, he was signed to Crisscross Records almost immediately after that contest, and he has since recorded 18 CDs as a bandleader. The latest is Temple of Olympic Zeus (released on HighNote, a New York-based independent label that has been his home since 2004). He has also participated in countless sessions as a sideman with David Hazeltine, guitarist Pat Martino and various others. Alexander started out as a classical pianist when he was a child, but after a few meltdowns during performances, he left the genre and picked up the saxophone at 12, realizing that with jazz he would be allowed to get away with making a few mistakes. At William Patterson College in New Jersey, Alexander studied under legends like saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist Rufus Reid. Listening to his sound, one notices influences from John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and especially George Coleman, "because of his very hip harmonic approach," as Alexander explains on his website. At his Nighttown appearance, he'll be sharing the stage with Peter Zak (piano), Tom Knific (acoustic bass) and Billy Hart (drums), the latter being one of the most storied drummers in recent jazz and soul history because of his collaborations with the likes of Sam & Dave, McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz and Charles Lloyd. The show starts at 8 p.m. at Nighttown (12387 Cedar Rd., 216.795.0550). Tickets: $20. - Barteldes

Gary Hoey Band

It has been two decades since this Boston-born guitarist left his hometown for Los Angeles in a U-Haul truck and several thousand dollars in his pocket to pursue a full-time musical career. Strangely, he was motivated by an unsuccessful audition with Ozzy Osbourne, who was then looking for a replacement for Jake E. Lee. Embracing the surf-rock genre once he reached the West Coast, Hoey covered Focus' "Hocus Pocus" in 1993, a tune he often includes in live set lists. He has also gained recognition from his work on the soundtrack of Bruce Brown's Endless Summer II, a semi-documentary flick that followed surfers Pat O'Connell and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver and the evolution of the sport since the late '60s. In addition to touring and recording under his own name, Hoey has also provided music for corporations like ESPN and Disney and worked as a sideman with the likes of Foreigner, Steve Vai, Brian May and several others. He's currently on the road with his annual Ho Ho Hoey show, which features personal renditions of holiday classics blended with original favorites and music from his forthcoming album, which is being promoted with a free download of his new single, "Only Human" at his website, garyhoey.com. Expect lots of mean guitar licks; this guy means business. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Winchester (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681). Tickets: $15. - Barteldes

The Gates of Slumber

A certain type of bare-bones, biker-friendly metal attracts lifers. Think of Lemmy; think of Scott "Wino" Weinrich (the Obsessed, St. Vitus, Spirit Caravan); think of Pentagram's Bobby Liebling. Now add the Gates of Slumber to that list. This Indianapolis power trio drops gigantic, Sabbathian riffs like concrete slabs off high scaffolding. Their third album, Conqueror, throbs like a Harley in low gear, as frontman Karl Simon howls tales of war and destruction. The album cover features a painting of Conan holding a severed head in one hand and a sword in the other, as a naked babe sits at his feet; track titles include "Children of Satan," "Ice Worm" and "To Kill and Be King." This band will crush your skull like an egg. And their touring partners Demiricious recently graduated from Slayer clones to gritty contenders for Lamb of God's throne. This is American metal at its best. Demiricous, Midnight and Argus open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $8. - Phil Freeman

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