Local Licks 

This week, we review Little Muddy, Beth Custer Ensemble, Fresh and Onlys, and Derek Smith.

Little Muddy, Door 15. The name Little Muddy evokes images of Southern bluesmen picking steel guitars. Rich Goldstein, the band's mastermind and primary musician, hails from rural Illinois and was raised on classic country music. Both landscapes inform his gritty guitar instrumentals, which seem to serve as a soundtrack for some unseen film noir set in open plains and inner cities. (self-released)

At Jupiter (2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on October 17. 8 p.m., free

Beth Custer Ensemble, Roam. Many independent artists claim to shun precedent, as if that alone makes them worth hearing. When they're not wrong, they're usually unlistenable. San Francisco musician Custer, meanwhile, lets her experimentalism speak for itself by crafting appealing songs just beyond the realm of expectation that employ jazz, folk, avant-garde, and her distinctive bass clarinet. (BC Records)

At Yoshi's San Francisco (1330 Fillmore St.) on October 19. 8 p.m. & 10 p.m., $10-$14

Fresh and Onlys, Grey-Eyed Girls. The title track's celestial guitar melody, modulated like starlight through the atmosphere, serves as a fine introduction to this San Francisco psych-garage act's improved second full-length. That the album evolves as an homage to the record collections of Tim Cohen and Shayde Sartin doesn't matter; the songs are more than strong enough to support their nostalgia. (Woodist)

At the Stork Club (2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on October 20. 9 p.m., $5

Derek Smith, Latin Expression. Here's one for the sun; Latin Expression is a Caribbean vacation on a shiny disc, and with a grey sky overhead it just doesn't feel right. Smith, adept on steel drum and vibraphone, is like a subtler, more sophisticated Jimmy Buffet: his ten covers of Latin jazz classics and two originals get their message across without vocals or artifice. (self-released)

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