- JOSHUA FROM VELVET KENTE
9:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $5.
This time last year, Velvet Kente had only a handful of live shows under its belt. Observant local scenesters might have remembered the band's front man, joshua, from his live performances from several years prior, or know that “Project Runway” star Korto Momolu used his song “binti” to debut her collection at New York Fashion Week. But practically speaking, Velvet Kente was an unknown quantity last January. By March, the funk-rock-Afrobeat hybrid was unquestionably regarded as one of the state's finest. What happened? The Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase. Which is not to say that the Showcase made Velvet Kente or that the band wouldn't have blown up on its own, but the Showcase certainly helped speed things along. On Thursday, get a taste of what makes last year's champs so special and make sure you come back a week later as we begin the search for this year's in the 2010 Musicians Showcase. Local pop-rockers Whale Fire, who also made a strong showing in last year's Showcase, share the bill. LM.
MARTINA MCBRIDE / TRACE ADKINS
7:30 p.m., Verizon Arena. $35.75-$59.75.
Martina McBride's been a lot things over the course of her nearly 20-year career. A honky-tonk revivalist. A country-pop balladeer. An adult radio crossover. And now, with the “Shine All Night” tour, a rock star. Or at least that's the image she's hoping to project with all the costume changes, grand staging, props (one video clip on her website shows her perched on a sliver of a blue moon, rising above the stage) and, especially, big electric guitars. Musically, it's as if she's been Keith Urban-ized — put in a new, punchy pop-rock context — which, as far as staying relevant goes, doesn't seem like a bad idea. But to be sure, you're going to get at least a peek at all the different sides of Martina. Like McBride, Louisiana native Trace Adkins started his career in the neo-traditionalist vein before shifting to pop-ier pastures. Lately, that's meant embracing Nash Vegas' version of rock 'n' roll (imagine a shinier, 2010 version of .38 Special) and rap (hick-hop?). Try dialing up Adkins' monster hit, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” on YouTube for a primer. LM.
7:30 p.m., Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA, Conway. $40-$50.
When Loretta Lynn last visited Arkansas, she took the stage at Robinson with all the requisite poof and sparkle you'd expect from the queen of country music, and she sang in a voice about as bright and strong as she did half a century ago. But perhaps owing to her age — she was 73 at the time — she ceded a lot of stage time to a younger generation of Lynns. For fans of “Coal Miner's Daughter,” it was nice to see the narrative played out, to get a listen and a look at Loretta's children all grown up, but otherwise, the second- and third-generation Lynns were pretty much a drag, especially relative to their mom. So let's keep our fingers crossed that she left her brood at home. Either way, if you're a fan and you haven't ever seen Loretta Lynn, you better seize the opportunity. There's not too many 75-year-olds still touring regularly. LM.
THE SALTY DOGS
9:30 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Brad Williams might have the most iconic voice in local music. Rangy and rarely onstage without a cowboy hat, the Salty Dogs front man sings in the kind of easy twang that comes from growing up in Marked Tree, but he tempers it with a big helping of Southern soul (you could imagine Williams doing right by a Dan Penn song). Williams and the Dogs — Brent LaBeau (bass), Bart Angel (drums), Nick Devlin (guitar) — often get pegged as “new traditionalists” or “honky-tonk revivalists,” which to these ears is just another way of saying country music that lasts. On Saturday, the band celebrates the release of its fourth album and first on Max Recordings, “Brand New Reason.” It's full of hot guitar licks, organ workouts and clever lyrics. The lead track, “Rock and Roll Will Never Stay,” offers a sly rejoinder to a preacher who's condemned rock 'n' roll. It goes like this: “We're living in one accord/we're living by the spirit and we're dying by the sooouul.” Stream it at Rock Candy. And get the CD at the reduced price of $8 at the concert. LM.
THE FIERY FURNACES
8:30 p.m., Revolution. $10.
Back in the early part of the decade, when the Fiery Furnaces first unleashed their brand of pop experimentation on a hugely receptive indie scene, I caught them in Nashville. They were touring behind “My Blueberry Boat,” a woozy album marked by equal parts experimentation and catchy hooks. They played everything at double time. It could've been a punk show. But defying expectations has always been the Fiery Furnaces' m.o. Anchored by siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, the group has, over the course of the last decade, cut an album with the Friedbergers' grandmother, spliced dozens of live versions of the same song into collage-style tracks and recorded a covers album of its own material. Lately, the Friedbergers have talked of a “silent record” and launched a new initiative, “Democ-Rock,” which encourages “Citizen-Fan-Audiences” to help out with the songwriting process by passing the siblings the sort of old scraps of paper you might find in the bottom of your purse. That we're still listening no matter what the crackpot concept or instrumental adventure surely says something about the power of those hooks. Drug Rug from Cambridge, Mass., opens. LM.
8 p.m., Revolution. $12 adv., $15 d.o.s.
Paul Thorn has lived a storied life. After learning guitar as a child, he went on to a brief pro boxing career that eventually landed him a televised fight with three-time world champ Roberto Duran. His first cousin, then the keyboardist for Parliament-Funkadelic, turned him on to master songsmith Billy Maddox, who recognized the untapped potential of Thorn's voice (which sounds a lot like Timbuk 3's Pat MacDonald). His career gained further steam when entertainment executive Miles Copeland, I.R.S. Records founder and brother of Police drummer Stewart, signed him to A&M for his 1997 debut. He's recorded seven more since then, performed on late night TV shows and toured with Sting, Mark Knopfler, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt and Jeff Beck. And how's this for a co-sign? Kris Kristofferson calls Thorn “the best-kept secret in the music business.” PP.