He may look like a harmless grandpa now, but back in the day, country music legend George Jones caused enough trouble for several lifetimes. One of the purest singers the world has ever heard, Jones has racked up an impressive number of hit singles over the past 50 years. He's also collected an equally impressive number of tales about his drug and alcohol consumption. These addictions, combined with a famously bad temper, led to enough missed concerts that he earned the nickname No Show Jones. He's been married four times, and there's more than one story out there about Jones riding his lawnmower to the local liquor store after his car keys were hidden. Apparently Jones is sober now, but we've been hearing this about him for years. He brings some of the wisdom and battle scars he got from all these experiences to his concerts, most of which he actually shows up for these days. One thing that hasn't changed: Jones' ability to lose himself in his songs. He still has one of country's best voices, and there's enough ache in it to bring a tear to the eye of even the manliest man. — Matthew Wilkening
7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 9. Akron Civic Theatre. Tickets: $41.50 and $57; call 330-253-2488 or go to ticketmaster.com.
MINUS THE BEAR
When it comes to sex, indie rock has been historically frigid. Cory Murchy, bassist for Seattle's progressive indie rockers Minus the Bear, doesn't get it. "Rock & roll is all about sex and all those illicit things that we're not supposed to talk about," he says. Minus the Bear have built their career on exploring all those illicit things — like the thinly veiled foreplay commonly found in R&B music. While its lyrical libido has been on display for years, the band hasn't quite matched that preoccupation in its music until its latest album, Omni, which is loaded with sex jams. Even without the steamy "turn off the lights, touch me in the dark" and "sweat rolls down your thigh" lyrics, the catchy "My Time" draws more from prime Hall & Oates than the math-rock Minus the Bear played when they formed in 2001. "It's definitely the oddball on the record," admits Murchy. "It's all about being a band and just making music and trying to bring all those influences together. And yeah, sometimes it sounds like a weird '80s pop song." — Jeremy Henderson
With Tim Kasher and New Idea Society. 8 p.m. Thursday, December 9. House of Blues. Tickets: $20, $18 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND
There aren't too many guitarists as riveting onstage than the New Jersey-born Randolph. He's been making records for about a dozen years now — his first appearance was recorded live in a church. And there's a definite sacred quality to Randolph and the six-member Family Band's music — you can hear gospel's give-and-take running through the grooves of his songs, which have grown more secular over the years. Their latest album, We Walk This Road, is produced by T Bone Burnett, who swathes it in dusty elegance, elevating the Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Prince covers to holy heights. But Randolph and the band made their bones onstage, where the frontman's searing pedal steel sings, howls, cries, and just about overshadows everything else going on around it. He's a pro showman too, feeding (and feeding off of) the audience. There's real fire here, but there's also a sense of reverence in his playing. Hallelujah. — Michael Gallucci
9 p.m. Friday, December 10. House of Blues. Tickets: $22-$35; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
It isn't easy to grow old gracefully, but Canton's Relient K have managed to embrace pop-punk without losing their soul. Even though they're a contemporary-Christian band, Relient K have never sounded particularly preachy. The band's move to the majors for 2004's Mmhmm brought mainstream attention, and it continued to tighten the screws on its pop smarts without forsaking the songs' pulsing tempos. Mmhmm and its follow-up, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, showcase polished production; last year's Forget and Not Slow Down is notably warmer and livelier. Judging from the album's uplifting spirit, frontman Matt Thiessen could probably work a second career as a motivational speaker. The album was written after Thiessen broke up with his fiancée, but he generally sidesteps bitterness and self-pity — pushing on rather than lingering in the hurt. "Without you I'm still whole/You and life remain beautiful," he sings, though he's not too saintly to note, "Those that helped you choose/Haven't the slightest clue as to the magnitude of what you're about to lose." Go, Matt! — Chris Parker
With Sherwood and Deas Vail. 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 14, and Wednesday, December 15. Musica. Tickets: $15; call 330-374-1114 or go to ticketweb.com.
Stoner-rock heroes the Sword had to cancel several shows a couple months back after their drummer left in the middle of the band's current tour. They've regrouped with a fellow Texan (Kevin Fender, from the hardcore band Employer, Employee) on drums and are ready to assault your ears with their potent mix of modern-day doom metal and old-school fuzz-rock. The band's latest album, Warp Riders, dips a little into prog waters, getting more ambitious in scope, sound, and concept. The record has something to do with a planet half-shrouded in darkness that ends in an epic battle, but you can ignore the sci-fi storyline and just soak in the band's murky guitar riffs and slow-churning, druggy pace. Frontman J. D. Cronise is the Sword's mastermind, guiding his band into territories that are so sluggish at times, you'll probably feel like crashing there for an hour or two. Still, few groups sound like the Sword these days — you have to head back to the early '70s and the dawn of heavy metal for music like this. Make sure you pack your bong before you step into the time machine. — Gallucci
8 p.m. Wednesday, December 8. House of Blues. Tickets: $18, $15 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
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