A California kind of Renaissance man — musician, actor, surfer, talk-show host — Chris Isaak has maintained a steady, if slightly sub-radar presence for 25 years now. ("Wicked Game" was on the charts in 1991, son.) You'd think a handsome guy with a pompadour and a retro-hip aesthetic wouldn't be built to last, but Isaak has an effortless, almost magical timelessness about him. His suave, crooning country-rock is reminiscent of the songs of Roy Orbison — to whom Isaak pays tribute, along with other Sun Studio recording artists Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, on his latest, Beyond the Sun. If you can't make it out for this one, Isaak is in Salina the following evening, which actually sounds like a pretty fun road trip.
Friday, November 18, at the Uptown Theater (3700 Broadway, 816-753-8665)
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka rose from Springfield, Missouri's Ozark muck, but Kansas City has seemingly been something of a second home for the band. Drummer Lennon Bone's startup label, Sharp County Records, and most of the acts on it, are based in or around Kansas City. And Ha Ha Tonka plays to sizable crowds around town on a regular basis. The band's latest, Death of a Decade, out on Bloodshot Records, is a collection of roots-rock with a pop sheen — the aural equivalent of a brand-new Ford F-150. Tommy and the High Pilots, also playing, share with Ha Ha Tonka an affinity for Mellencampisms but drive a little faster, like the Gaslight Anthem but without all the tattoos.
Wednesday, November 23, at RecordBar (1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)
Root and Stem
Among the more exciting Americana acts in a city full of Americana acts is Root and Stem. A few weeks ago, the spirited folk-rock band celebrated the release of its first full-length, Ruby, at the Brick. Now it's playing a fundraiser for K-ROO, UMKC's student-run radio station. Also on the bill is Fullbloods, a band that plays mostly straightforward rock music with a crisp, zippy jangle.
Thursday, November 17, at RecordBar (1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)