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Our Picks: Seven Concerts In The Next Seven Days

Special to The Courant

Jake Shimabukuro

The ukulele has gotten a pop-culture overhaul over the last 15 years. The little four-stringed instrument was, for a time, thought of as a toy, or a joke. Blame Tiny Tim, if you want. But the uke has always had a secret society of admirers — Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and loads of other songwriting giants had formative experiences with the instrument. And then throngs of quiet folkie singer/songwriters started playing the easy-to-carry four-stringers.

Jake Shimabukuro is basically the first name in ukulele virtuosity. Shimabukuro, who is from Hawaii, can play with the rapid-strumming flurries of a flamenco guitarist and he can also deftly deploy liquid slides and gentle melodicism.

He does covers of familiar songs like Leonard Cohen’s majestic and oft-recorded “Hallelujah,” and Shimabukuro does an incredible job of playing both chords and melody at the same time. He can do gypsy jazz, he can do mellow pop standards, he can do traditional Hawaiian-style playing and more.

Shimabukuro is a humble master of his instrument. See Jake Shimabukuro at Infinity Hall, 32 Front St., Hartford, on Friday, July 27, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $44 to $54. 866-666-6306 and infinityhall.com.

One Time Weekend

One Time Weekend is a jam band from Collinsville. The quartet moves from gnarly prog-leaning guitar workouts to reggae grooves with spaghetti Western flourishes and carnival-esque tempo shifts. Funk-metal is not foreign to them.

OTW sound like the band’s might have equal parts Sublime and Phish in their collective DNA. In a way, the band is heir to, or a descendant of, the McLovins. The vibe is deliriously stitched-together, and, perhaps in honor of its made-from-composite-parts aesthetic, OTW has been known to cover the Edgar Winter Band’s bombastic classic-rock funk-prog workout “Frankenstein.” They are young, local shred nerds at their finest.

See One Time Weekend at The Arch Street Tavern, Arch St., Hartford, on Saturday, July 28, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7 to $10. 860-246-7610 or archstreettavern.com.

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force

Nigerian afrobeat legend Fela Kuti made radically provocative music that taunted corrupt politicians, called out greedy oligarchs, and ridiculed multinational corporations that misused natural resources. Fela, who died in 1997, was a bane to hypocrites and a hero across Africa. His eldest son Femi got his start playing in Fela’s band.

Afrobeat, the style that Fela basically invented, is deeply funky, with scrubbed and interlocking guitar patterns, dense horn blasts, call-and-response vocals and percussion spiked with off-beat accents. The duration of the music itself — often going on for much longer than the standard pop song — is radical, too, undermining in its way the easy commodification and selling of the recordings.

In a time of aggressive border policing, military chest-thumping, questions about the reliability of elections, and xenophobic rhetoric, America and the world can use the music that Fumi Kuti is making more than ever. His latest record, “One People One World,” continues the tradition of his father, calling for unity, equality and peace. This is protest music for the 21st century, allowing fans to dance while chanting down what they see as evil and wickedness.

Femi Kuti & the Positive Force come to Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge, Ridgefield, on Thursday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.50. 203-438-5795 and ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Pallbearer

Pallbearer is a metal quartet with doom-y tendencies from Arkansas. As fits the low-and-slow style, the guitars sound drenched in iron shavings, making a sonic slog for the ears. The band just released a new single, “Dropout,” which has a pleasantly narcotized tempo and a feeling to the rhythm section that evokes the lumbering of malicious giant robots.

Thematically, Pallbearer rolls out the topics of suffering, eschatology, darkness and insanity, with songs like “I Saw the End,” “Thorns” and “Dancing in Madness.” The music hearkens back to Black Sabbath, as all doom does, but there’s also plenty of grand, harmonized guitar motifs in the manner of Metallica.

The band is doing something different in the vocals and melody department, folding in an expansive soaring uplift to the mix of gloom and darkness. When people talk about finding doom to be cathartic and almost therapeutic — beautiful, even — Pallbearer is one of the bands they’re talking about.

Pallbearer plays Space Ballroom, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, on Thursday, July 26, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. 203-288-6400 and spaceballroom.com

Barefoot Truth

Barefoot Truth’s brand of breezy, jammy, acoustic-tinged jam-soul funk is part of the tradition that includes Jack Johnson, Hootie and the Blowfish and the Dave Matthews Band. Think of it as island music for landlubbers.

Frontman Will Evans is from Connecticut, and the band established a real New England-wide fanbase before sliding into a semi-retirement in 2012.

The band plays two big regional shows this summer, one in Boston and the other in Connecticut. In Barefoot Truth, and in his solo work, Evans writes a lot about inspiration, beauty, love, growth, nature and humility. Some people like a little darkness in their music, but others prefer warmth, positivity and light, which is what Barefoot Truth delivers.

Barefoot Truth performs at Fairfield Theater Company’s Stage One, 70 Sanford St., Fairfield, on Friday, July 27, at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $28. 203-259-1036 and fairfieldtheatre.org.

Frank Lacy

Trombonist/composer/bandleader Frank Lacy has a mind-blowing list of achievements.

The Texas-born musician got his start playing with soul singer Joe Tex. Over the years he’s worked with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the Mingus Big Band, McCoy Tyner, David Murray, Henry Threadgill and Lester Bowie. Lacy has taught at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and he’s also worked or performed with numerous popular artists like D’Angelo, Black Uhuru and KRS-One. Lacy plays with a boisterous, shouting zeal, when he wants, bending and slurring notes, bobbing back and forth, making his performance seem like dance as well.

Seeing him will be an important part of hearing him. He does delicate and subtle, too. There’s a video of Lacy riding the subway in New York City, playing solo, and it gives one a sense of his control, expressivity, tenderness and force. As a player and performer, Lacy has a distinct presence and power.

The Frank Lacy Sextet plays The Side Door, 85 Lyme St., Old Lyme, on Saturday, July 28, 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. 860-434-0886 or thesidedoorjazz.com.

Brent Cowles

Brent Cowles is quite a singer. He has a shape-shifting voice that he can control like it’s coming from the back of his throat or deep in his chest. He can do coos, velvety falsetto and aching country-soul.

Fans of Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Gillian Welch, Dylan LeBlanc or Shovels & Rope will appreciate the ways that Cowles mixes Americana with roots, rock and gospel touches. The Colorado singer just released “How To Be Okay Alone,” his solo debut.

Cowles was raised in the church. His father is a pastor. And something of that quest for meaning and fervor of faith comes through in Cowles’ music. The title track on the new record has the great line: “you’d have to hold me down to keep me out of this crowd.” There’s the suggestion that healthy solitude requires outside assistance. Expect to be hearing more about him over the coming years.

Brent Cowles performs at Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, on Monday, July 30, at 8 p.m. Free with RSVP, or $5 at the door. 203-789-8281 and cafenine.com

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