Patterson Hood may not be Americas poet laureate, but hes pretty close when youre talking about the dark end of the street. When it comes to evoking the hopes, dreams and fears of folks desperate enough to make Tom Waits look upper-crust, the Drive-By Truckers co-leader is your man. Hoods latest solo album Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance (ATO Records) tones down the Truckers flat-out roar just a bit, all the better to draw those characters in vivid detail. Hoods raspy howl and dead-on verisimilitude makes Heat Lightning feel as much like a nonfiction documentary as a record. He plays live at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, and tickets are $15 ( artscenterlive.org for details). Hell also be back in the area to play March 5 with the Drive-By Truckers at Saxapahaws Haw River Ballroom ( hawriverballroom.com).
Other highlights: • Friday: Grammy nominees the Carolina Chocolate Drops play UNC-Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall, intriguingly paired with the renowned South African singer Vusi Mahlasela; Chris Stamey unveils his terrific new album at the ArtsCenter, while Jon Shain does the same at the Casbah in Durham; and Toro Y Moi plays the Cradle. • Furthermore: Sunday brings ’90s hitmakers Soul Asylum to Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre, and deadpan comedian Steven Wright to Durham’s Carolina Theatre; and there are a couple of really good roots-rock options Thursday – Frontier Ruckus at Chapel Hill’s Local 506, or Corb Lund at Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe.