When it comes to straightforward roots music, greatness is sort of like courts deciding obscenity: It’s a lot easier to recognize than to define or explain. And “Haw” (Paradise of Bachelors Records), the new album from Chapel Hill’s Hiss Golden Messenger, is undeniably great – 12 amazing and expertly rendered plain-spoken songs about life and death and how hard the time between can be. With contributions from members of Megafaun and Bowerbirds, HGM main man M.C. Taylor also has some of the finest players in the area backing him up. Taylor will play these songs solo at Saturday’s ConvergeNC Southern Music Festival, an event that runs from 3:30 p.m. to midnight at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bell Tower Amphitheater. Mipso, Kaze, Music Maker Blues Revue and more are on the bill. Admission is free, and Taylor/HGM’s turn should come up in the early evening hours. See convergencfest.com for details.
Other highlights: • Friday brings the great Motown icon Smokey Robinson to Durham Performing Arts Center, Yarn to Raleigh’s Southland Ballroom and the hyper-eclectic Duhks to Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw; the great Kenny Roby has a new album to show off, “Memories & Birds,” Saturday night at Kings in Raleigh; also Saturday, jazz pianist Diana Krall croons at DPAC, Holy Ghost Tent Revival enthralls at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle and Goldsboro smooth-jazz hitmaker Nicholas Cole opens for Lalah Hathaway at Raleigh’s Meymandi Hall (see page 1D); Wednesday, the always-fun They Might Be Giants enlarge the Cradle while DJ duo Flosstradamus is at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre and Weird Al Yankovic laughs it up at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (see page 7D); and newly minted MacArthur Fellow (and Grammy winner) Chris Thile plays with pianist Brad Mehldau Thursday at Durham’s Carolina Theatre.