Lucero frontman Ben Nichols has an aggressive punk energy that could incite even the most upstanding citizen to break a law or two. He also has a soulful rasp that could break hearts from a mile away. Along the way, his ever-expanding band matches him step for swaggering step. Lucero's just-released Women & Work is a love letter to the music and atmosphere of their hometown of Memphis — a sonic sample platter of everything the group has been doing infinitely well for more than a decade, alternately roaring and purring like street-corner buskers occupying the intersection of Al Green Street and Alex Chilton Boulevard. Lucero are on the road two out of three nights a year, and every place they play is like a church being saved from shingles to boiler room — every audience is a congregation in the throes of something much bigger than themselves. Praise the Lord and pass the Stax; Lucero are tearing up the countryside again. — Brian Baker
With William Elliott Whitmore. 8 p.m. Thursday, April 12. Grog Shop. Tickets: $18; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Howlin Rain's San Francisco looks a lot like the one of four decades ago. The quintet uncorks all kinds of retro sounds on its third album, The Russian Wilds. Mixing a galactic dose of heavy blues with its sludgy psych-rock, Howlin Rain come on like any number of bands that could and quite possibly have played the Fillmore West back when drugs were mandatory and showers were optional. Ghosts of hippie rock's past roam free — everything from Blue Cheer's metallic crunch to Humble Pie's blustery boogie to Crosby, Stills & Nash's super-tight harmonies to the Grateful Dead's, um, adventurous spirit can be heard in Howlin Rain's music. Cynics could dismiss them as stoner rock, but there's more to it than that; the riffs and grooves spread much broader. Twee-poppers Belle & Sebastian picked them to play their music festival, which says a lot about their appeal. So do the songs, which are more restless than the band's shaggy appearance lets on. — Gallucci
With Buffalo Killers and Broncho. 9 p.m. Friday, April 13. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
Chris Corsano has been one of the avant garde's most prolific artists over the past decade. His achievements read like a who's-who of underground cool. There's Björk and Thurston Moore, but also Jim O'Rourke and Jandek. The percussionist is all over the map, as comfortable exploring free jazz as he is psychedelic rock. His collaborations with saxophonist Paul Flaherty are uncompromisingly raw and electrifying. If you're a fan of groove exploration, Corsano's work with guitarist Heather Leigh Murray as Jailbreak produced a noise-rock beast in The Rocker. And every now and then, Corsano flies solo. That might seem peculiar for a drummer, but he boasts the uncanny ability to transform his flailing into what sounds like a full-blown ensemble. He's an octopus whose liberal definition of percussion — everything from butter knives to plastic funnels — produces a dizzying breadth of textures and timbres. — Justin Farrar
With Drake, Henry, Scheible Trio, and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. 9 p.m. Saturday, April 14. Pat's in the Flats. Tickets: $5; call 216-621-8044 or visit patsintheflats.com.
Hot Chelle Rae
It seems like everybody in Nashville is related to someone in the music industry. Even so, this Nashville pop-rock band scored a pretty impressive genealogical card. Singer Ryan Follesé and his drummer brother Jamie are the sons of songwriter Keith Follesé (who's penned songs for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill), guitarist Nash Overstreet's dad is singer Paul Overstreet (who had some Top 10 country hits in the late '80s and early '90s), and bassist Ian Keaggy is the son of Youngstown Christian-rock icon Phil Keaggy. But the group actually made its bones the old-fashioned way: by constantly touring. They began as Miracle Drug, but renamed themselves after being stalked online. Their 2009 debut, Lovesick Electric, yielded some airplay with the single "Bleed." Their second LP, last year's Whatever, cracked the Top 10 with the song "Tonight Tonight." They're now on tour with a stop at House of Blues this week. — Baker
With Action Item and Electric Touch. 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 18. House of Blues. Tickets: $18, $15 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
Face it: Questlove will always be cooler than you. Drumming for the Roots is just the starting point of the 41-year-old hip-hop maestro's awesomeness. He's a shrewd and sympathetic producer who's slathered warm helpings of old-school soul onto records by Common, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Al Green. He's an obsessive musicologist who fills his spots as Jimmy Fallon's Late Night bandleader with a slyness lost on guys like Paul Shaffer (would David Letterman's sidekick intro a Michele Bachmann appearance with Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch"?). He's also one of the best music writers around, chronicling R&B's multilayered past — especially the parts that link the '70s to rap — in essays and lists for various publications, as well as penning extensive liner notes to Roots albums that read like artist manifestos. And then there are his DJ sets, like the one he's bringing to the B-Side this weekend, where he spins everything from the Supremes, Beyoncé, and Kanye West to Bill Haley & His Comets, Joni Mitchell, and Toto in a quest to thematically tie together the history of popular music. He also has the best hair in the business. So you might as well give up right now. — Michael Gallucci
With DJ Eso. 9 p.m. Saturday, April 14. B-Side Liquor Lounge. Tickets: $20; call 216-932-1966 or go to bsideliquorlounge.com.