Taking care of business

Digging for gold in the roots and world-music scene
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  September 14, 2009

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Boston is one of the healthiest markets for live roots music in the country — a place where acts as diverse as Americana darlings the Avett Brothers (House of Blues, October 18), Icelandic popsters Múm (Somerville Theatre, October 21), and local blues heroes the Radio Kings (Johnny D's, October 16) can all draw crowds. But here are the 10 roots shows we don't want to miss this fall.

JAMES MCMURTRY | September 26 | McMurtry established himself as a acoustic-guitar-wielding folkie with a penman's wit appropriate for the son of novelist Larry McMurtry. But he's evolved considerably since his 1989 debut, Too Long in the Wasteland (Columbia). These days, he travels with an electric guitar, an edgy amplifier, and a string of guitar stomp boxes to help conjure the ruckus in his far-flung stories. His latest CD is the heavy-hitting Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod), where guests like British piano legend Ian McLagan and guitarist John Dee Graham throw down with McMurtry's dark social commentary. His "Cheney's Toys" is the best Iraq-war-protest number recorded to date. | Johnny D's, 17 Holland St, Somerville | $12 | 617.776.2004 or www.johnnyds.com

PACO PEÑA FLAMENCO CO. | October 4 | World-class guitarist Peña is at the core of this colorful group, whose line-up includes a percussionist, two guitar accompanists, and three superb dancers. Rhythmically complex and brimming with melodic and visual grace, they're among the leading practitioners of this 19th-century fusion of Arabic, Andalusian, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures. | Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, Boston | $30-$42 | 617.876.4275 or www.worldmusic.org

AL GREEN | October 15 | The reigning King of Memphis soul remains on the comeback trail following last year's Questlove-produced Lay It Down (Blue Note). He's still got the moves and grooves. | House of Blues, 36 Lansdowne St, Boston | $49-$59 | 617.931.2000 or www.houseofblues.com

"ROOMFUL OF BLUES 40TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW" | October 16 | Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor enough personnel changes to fill a phone book have stopped this Rhode Island–based jump-blues little big band. This show celebrates their durability and their latest album, 2008's Raising a Ruckus (Alligator). | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | $20 | 617.395.7757 or www.regattabarjazz.com

"RAMBLIN' ROADSHOW AND MEMPHIS REVUE" | October 18 | This triple bill with Lucero, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm's Juke Joint Duo, and Amy Levere nearly covers the spectrum of classic Memphis music (aside from the crucial link of the aforementioned Al Green). Barbecue-belt rockers Lucero arrive on the tail of their first album in three years, the major-label debut 1372 Overton Park (Universal), which is due October 6. Burnside — grandson of and drummer to Mississippi hill-country-blues legend R.L. Burnside — and guitarist Malcolm continue Burnside's family tradition with their stomping outfit. In May, they won a well-deserved Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut for their Two-Man Wrecking Crew (Delta Groove). And bass-thumping rockabilly diva Levere's 2007 Anchors & Anvils (Thirty Tigers) was one of the late Memphis legend Jim Dickinson's final productions. You may also recognize her from her role in the pulp-blues movie Black Snake Moan. | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | $20 | 617.931.2000 or www.ticketmaster.com

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