Joe Nichols’ voice is melted country chocolate, whether he’s delivering amusing barroom odes (“Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”) or heart-stopping ballads (“I’ll Wait for You”). His music feels uncommonly real where the “down-home” pronouncements of many of Nashville’s big stars ring false. He doesn’t feel any need to prove his country credentials. They’re right there in his voice. He’s just a low-key hit-maker who keeps making better and better albums — such as last year’s terrific “Real Things” — amid very little hype. He’ll kick off the concert series at the North Georgia State Fair. The rest of the shows are Sept. 25: Diamond Rio; Sept. 29: Jake Owen; Sept. 30: Charlie Daniels Band; Oct. 1: Hawk Nelson; and Oct. 2: Mark Wills.
Concerts at 8 p.m. Free with admission: $5; $2 ages 7-18; 6 and under free. Parking is $3. Jim R. Miller Park, 2245 Callaway Road S.W., Marietta. 770-423-1330.
The criminally under-appreciated Crenshaw wrote some of jangly power-pop’s most gorgeous hooks in his early-’80s heyday, including “Whenever You’re on My Mind” and “Someday, Someway.”
6 p.m. Sept. 25. $18; $15 in advance. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Road, Atlanta. 404-875-1522.
This Atlanta quartet’s debut album, “Anti-Anti,” is a cyclonic swirl of guitars approximating jet-engine drones, brackish cascades of water emanating from the bottom of a dank cave and shards of tuned barbed-wire. The propulsive rhythm section keeps things moving while the vocals meander melodically in the mix. The album was released in 2006, and as the band notes on its MySpace page, “It’s been a while since the last release. We know. Thanks to everyone for being patient and supporting us. Here’s a little something until the new record arrives.” That little something is a new EP called “Slow Soft Syrup,” and it’s free to download for the small price of an e-mail address via the band’s website. With Bad Rabbits, Sealions.
9 p.m. Sept. 25. $10; $8 advance. The EARL, 488 Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta. 404-522-3950.
Alabama native Johnson broke big in 2005 when he had two songs in the Top 20 on the country singles chart. He only performed one of them, “The Dollar.” The other tune was “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” a Top 10 hit for Trace Adkins, which Johnson co-wrote with Dallas Davidson and Randy Houser. In 2006, he co-wrote two No. 1 country hits, George Strait’s “Give It Away” and Adkins’ “Ladies Love Country Boys.” Johnson finally cracked the Top 10 on his own in 2008 with “In Color,” from his second major label album, “That Lonesome Song.” Though he hasn’t landed in the Top 10 again, his new two-disc, 25-track “The Guitar Song” seems to be the consensus choice for best country album of 2010. It’s a collection of bone-deep country that provides a jarring and welcome contrast to the bloodless, antiseptic stuff that passes for country music these days.
9:30 p.m. Sept. 25. $15-$100. Wild Bill’s, 2075 Market St., Duluth. 678-473-1000.
The lo-fi aesthetic and ramshackle melodicism of Pavement influenced an entire generation of indie rockers. It seemed that everything the band recorded was greeted with near universal acclaim, but the albums “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” are the most lauded. For many, the band defined the ’90s, which makes it appropriate that Pavement first called it quits in 1999. In March, the band played its first gigs in more than 10 years, coinciding with the release of a new compilation, “Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement.”
8 p.m. Sept. 26. $35; $32 advance. The Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-659-9022.
Alice In Chains, Deftones and Mastodon
Alice in Chains crafted some of the ’90s most muscular riffage and gave us one of the grunge era’s finest voices in the late Layne Staley. Following Staley’s death in 2002, the band has worked on other projects (including guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s solo career and bassist Mike Inez’s stint with fellow Seattle band Heart). William DuVall, an Atlantan who got his start in our city’s hardcore punk scene in the early 1980s, is now the band’s vocalist. After a 14 year recording hiatus, AIC finally released a new album, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” in 2009. Put Metallica, Radiohead and Fugazi in a blender with a dash of Smashing Pumpkins, garnish with a twist of trip-hop, and you have the Deftones cocktail. The Grammy-winning California quintet is one of the few ’90s vintage alt-metal bands with a distinctive personality. Already one of the most thoughtful, complex heavy rock bands ever, Mastodon took things even further with 2009’s monumentally metallic “Crack the Skye.” It makes this Atlanta quartet’s progressive rock inclinations clear, but most prog-rockers never rocked this hard.
7 p.m. Sept. 28. $20-$75. Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, 2002 Lakewood Way, Atlanta. 404-443-5000.
Geddy Lee’s cat-in-heat voice has mellowed a bit, but this Canadian trio has plenty of power left in it more than 36 years after releasing its debut album. There’s just something about these old-school progressive metal purveyors that brings out the teenage music geek in the snobbiest indie-rock aficionado. “Snakes & Arrows,” the trio’s 2007 album, is still the most recent Rush release, but they’ve been in the studio working on album No. 19, tentatively titled “Clockwork Angels” and scheduled for release in Spring 2011.
8 p.m. Sept. 29. $40-$89. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 404-733-5010.