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CL's picks for the week's best shows 

Wed/18

JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT, BENJI HUGHES Touring in support of his excellent sophomore release, Isbell is riding down the path of creativity with growing confidence and a natural flow of words and melody. Expect a slightly older, wiser Jason. The esoteric Hughes opens. $15. 8:30 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- James Kelly

DALE WATSON, SLIM CHANCE AND THE CONVICTS Though Watson wasn't alive when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens forged the Bakersfield sound, he coulda been born in one of those honky-tonk bars. It's not nostalgia, just authentic old-school country. $15. 8 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar. 404-875-1522. www.smithsoldebar.com. -- Chris Parker

THURS/19

LIL' ED & THE BLUES IMPERIALS You can't claim to love authentic Chicago slide guitar boogie blues and never have experienced Lil' Ed's colorful, vigorous, rollicking shows. Those who have always come back. For anybody who hasn't, here's another chance to make things right. $12. 9 p.m. Blind Willie's. 404-873-2583. www.blindwilliesblues.com. -- Hal Horowitz

THE CLIPSE, HOLLYWEERD, YELAWOLF, PROTON, BORN WIT IT With a major act like the Clipse headlining and the legendary DJ Red Alert providing sounds, alongside Don Cannon, Rasta Root and Ox Banger, it's another big night for Atlanta's new wave of hip-hop. 18-and-up. $10. 9:30 p.m. 595 North. 404-835-2329.

www.595north.com. -- Rodney Carmichael

ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Mei-Ann Chen makes her ASO subscription series debut, conducting the first Atlanta performance of "Above Light" by Xi Wang, Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto" featuring violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 5." Repeats SAT/21 and SUN/22 at 3 p.m. $16-$73. 8 p.m. Symphony Hall. 404-733-5000. www.atlantasymphony.org. -- Mark Gresham

FRI/20

SHAWN KELLERMAN Blues-rocking guitarist Kellerman needs to be seen as well as heard. While his albums are good, it's the sweaty live show, complete with eye-popping foot and fretwork, that will leave your jaw on the floor. $8-$10. 9 and 11 p.m. Darwin's. 770-578-6872. www.darwinsblues.com. -- HH

SAT/21

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC In his final year as the N.Y. Philharmonic's music director, Lorin Maazel dusts off a program of middle-weight classics: Berlioz's "Roman Carnival Overture," Schumann's "Symphony No. 4" and Tchaikovsky's "Suite No. 3 in G Major." $80. 8 p.m. Emerson Hall. Schwartz Center. 404-727-5050. arts.emory.edu. -- MG

RAMSEY LEWIS While recognized for the smooth groove of "The In Crowd" and funkified "Hang On Sloopy," Lewis is one of the finest jazz pianists of all time. His fine compositions and gentle tone are unmatched, and his trio is simply wonderful. $39-$65. 8 p.m. Rialto Center for the Arts. 404-413-9849. www.rialtocenter.org. -- JK

UNTIED STATES, OMINOUS CASTLE, BAMBARA Experimental-rock outsiders Untied States play a brash, noisy and baroque-rock lurch that falls somewhere between Mike Patton and Igor Stravinsky. Ominous Castle looks to the ether to craft distant, post-industrial soundscapes that balance concerted songwriting with shoe-gaze haze. Bambara also performs. $5-$7. 9 p.m. Drunken Unicorn. www.thedrunkenunicorn.net. -- Chad Radford

NOOT D' NOOT, DARK MEAT, DJ COZY SHAWN & BRETT ECLECTIC (THE BROTHERS FUNK) Experimental-funk ensemble Noot d' Noot plays a set of deep grooves and rhythms. Athens' freak-rock outsider Dark Meat returns to terrorize the faint of heart. The Brothers Funk spin records between bands. $8. 9 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- CR

SUN/22

ROBERT MCDUFFIE Macon-born, internationally acclaimed violinist McDuffie performs a century-note-admission recital to benefit the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. $100. 2 p.m. Rhodes Hall. 404-885-7812. www.georgiatrust.org/whatsnew/classics_at_the_castle.htm. -- MG

BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT, RIO EN MEDIO The narcotized sway of Brightblack's slowly shambling blues drone suggests the Doors on morphine listening to Spacemen 3 with Michael "420" Phelps. The duo's languid boy-girl vocals simmer in the shimmer like road haze but never boil. $10. 8 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- CP

TUES/24

MARAH These Philadelphia urban rockers caught the attention of Bruce Springsteen, who added vocals to a song, but don't hold that against them. Theirs is a gritty, streetlight-illuminated rock that feels claustrophobic yet expansive and haunted by ghosts hovering between the lines. $12. 8 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar. 404-875-1522. www.smithsoldebar.com. -- HH

...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD, FUNERAL PARTY, MIDNIGHT MASSES Dreamy kin of Sonic Youth, Trail of Dead's guitars ring and rage in spiraling, spiky plumes of shimmer and aggression, ebbing and flowing like a buzzing powerline. They're back on an indie for their latest, The Century of Self. $15. 8:30 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- CP

Bands/performers/venues wishing to be included in Sound Menu's noted-acts boxes may send recordings, press material and schedules two weeks in advance to Creative Loafing c/o Rodney Carmichael, 384 Northyards Blvd., Suite 600, Atlanta, GA 30313, or e-mail information to: rodney.carmichael@creativeloafing.com. To be included in the listings only, e-mail venue and band schedules by Thursday at noon (for the issue that comes out the following Wednesday) to soundboard@creativeloafing.com.

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