SINCE 2010, Portland's Soul'd Out Festival has showcased artists from genres that can all loosely be defined as "soul music." This year's no different—from the fingerpicking of modern rock 'n' roll's guitar prodigy Gary Clark Jr., to SZA's chillwave hip-hop, to the legendary Bonnie Raitt's rootsy blues-rock, you're sure to find something that speaks to your soul.
April 13-17, various venues
SZA, JOYYA MARIE, RISKY STAR
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 19.
THUNDERCAT, 1939 ENSEMBLE, MAT RANDOL
(Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark) Any mention of Thundercat will and should reference his contributions to Kendrick Lamar's dazzling To Pimp a Butterfly, but this amazing laurel shouldn't overshadow his own interstellar vibrations. He thoroughly celebrates deep funk, psychedelic prog, acid jazz, and sensual yacht rock in his compositions. While the bass guitar is his chosen instrument, Thundercat is able to grace his highly dexterous grooves with a feather-light tenor. He performs both bass and vocals simultaneously, almost like he's trying to hypothesize theoretical love physics with musical logic. Thundercat's live shows, which are performed as a power trio, are like the bubbling explosions of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters being caressed by the cool drool of Michael McDonald's most infectious workouts. Every note Thundercat utters sounds like a key to the center of the African American avant-garde, with locks as open as your mind. CHRIS SUTTON
GARY CLARK JR., BASKERY
(Roseland, 8 NW 6th) Singer/songwriter Gary Clark Jr. has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most prolific guitarists in modern rock 'n' roll. Following in the footsteps of country blues greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, and his mentor Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie's brother), Clark has expanded his distinct guitar tones into the realms of grunge-era distortion and intricate jazz scales. He's got a list of impressive collaborators, including the Rolling Stones, Dave Grohl, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, and Alicia Keys (to name a few). As if that's not enough evidence of the man's talent, one listen to "When My Train Pulls In" from his Jam in the Van session will surely suck you into some interdimensional vortex. CAMERON CROWELL
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS, TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE
(Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay) One could argue that the genesis of the worldwide millennial funk/soul renaissance can be traced back to the early '00s efforts of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Acclaimed acts like Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and even the Alabama Shakes have benefited from the emergence of this hardworking New York collective and their flagship songstress, either directly through collaboration or indirectly through influence. Nowadays the market is flooded with gospel-tinged voices and tasteful horns competing for your attention, but the Dap-Kings are the originators of modern funk execution and style. Their rollercoaster of hard R&B twists, turns, and stops on a dime while Queen Sharon operates the controls with a voice so strong it recalls the entire history of female soul. To see this in person is to witness elegance in its rawest form. CS
JAY ELECTRONICA, BJ THE CHICAGO KID, DAVE B, AHS, AHHHLU RARE, DJ VERBZ
(Dante's, 350 W Burnside) Man, myth, legend—Jay Electronica, the nomadic god emcee, went from homeless and living on the streets to courting a Rothschild heiress. Since signing to Jay Z's Roc Nation in 2010, Electronica only seems to do a handful of live shows a year. Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) may be his only "album," but it's a brilliant 15-minute sound collage over Jon Brion's score for the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Somehow Electronica has fostered one of the most devoted cult followings in all of hip-hop, despite the rarity of his releases and shows. His follow-up, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn), was initially slated to drop in 2007. Here we wait, nearly nine years later—but this anticipation is exactly what's kept fans talking! SKYLER WALRATH
ANDERSON .PAAK & THE FREE NATIONALS, BJ THE CHICAGO KID, DAVE B
(Roseland, 8 NW 6th) Anderson .Paak could write the book on paying dues: his mother served hard time, and his absentee father eventually died in a penitentiary. Later in life, .Paak lived on the streets with his wife and infant son, taking all kinds of inglorious employment—from session drumming to weed dealing. Salvation came in the form of Dr. Dre, who enlisted the relatively unknown singer/emcee/multi-instrumentalist to appear on last year's Compton. Not one to waste a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, .Paak emphatically stole the show. Malibu, his sophomore album, released in January, mixes neo-soul, jazz, boom-bap drums, Kendrick-like flows, and a voice that exists somewhere between D'Angelo and Danny Brown. Malibu will be a strong contender for numerous best-of-the-year lists, and no one can say .Paak hasn't earned it. Just don't forget the dot. SANTI ELIJAH HOLLEY
BONNIE RAITT, CALIFORNIA HONEYDROPS
(Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay) Rootsy and honest, Bonnie Raitt has made a career of writing and performing songs that stay true to what once made country great. Her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is well earned—the master guitarist has recorded 20 albums over more than four decades without getting lost in unnecessary drivel. While many of her contemporaries have stopped performing, Raitt has consistently produced stunning work, most recently on her latest release, Dig in Deep. It's sure to rack up awards for Raitt, who's undeniably one of the greatest musicians alive. JENI WREN STOTTRUP