Alex Williams: In small town Pendleton, Ind., he grew up on hair metal and Willie and Waylon. So it’s no surprise that on “Better Than Myself” the country upstart comes across like the next Chris Stapleton, with a tip of the stoner hat to Willie and Merle. Williams is also old fashioned enough to salute his grandpa in “Old Tattoo,” one of the cuts on this debut album. It’s easy to admire his attitude on “Hellbent Hallelujah” in which he prays for good news with the killer couplet “I’m hellbent for one more hallelujah/Yeah, there’s just so many ways that life can screw ya.” A comer. A curiosity. (7 p.m. Fri. Pourhouse, Mpls., $12)

SZA: She’s signed to Kendrick Lamar’s label and has co-written tracks with Rhianna and Nicki Minaj, and now this New Jersey neo-soul singer seems poised to make a name for herself. Fresh off a best new artist nomination at the VMAs following her Travis Scott-accompanied single “Love Galore,” the real-life Solana Spear is on her first headlining tour supporting her debut album for Top Dawg, “Ctrl,” widely praised for its soulfulness and innovative production. (7 p.m. Fri., First Avenue, sold out.)

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley: The liveliest live performer among Bob Marley’s offspring, the one-time “Jam Rock” hitmaker is helping inaugurate a live music space that many had left for dead, the former of home of Mill City Nights nightclub. Damian is still combining hip-hop and reggae in fierce and clever ways on his new album, “Stony Hill.” (9 p.m. Fri., Minneapolis Music Hall, 111 N. 5th St., Mpls., $32.50.)

Strange Relations: Singer/drummer Casey Sowa comes into her own on her melodic, mood-shifting Minneapolis rock band’s second album, “Editorial You.” She addresses women’s rights and body-image issues with sometimes snarky and snarling lines and sometimes tender ways, while the record ranges sonically from slow-burning Beach House beauty to incendiary post-punk. Psychedelic haze-rocker Loud Sun also supports his new “Sea Grave” LP at the release party. (9 p.m. Sat., 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls., $8-$10,

JD McPherson: The best bang for your buck at the fair this weekend is this vintage-styled but innovative Oklahoma roots-rocker, who has enjoyed radio play with “North Side Gal” and “Let the Good Times Roll” and lit up local audiences at First Ave and Rock the Garden with his high-energy ramble-tamble. He’s out previewing “Undivided Heart & Soul,” a new album produced by Lucius’s Dan Molad. (3:30 & 4:45 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Leinie’s Bandshell, free with State Fair admission.)

Sam Hunt: The former college quarterback combined small-town sensibilities with his love for country music and R&B and took it to Nashville. His 2014 debut album led to three No. 1 country songs, including “Leave the Night On,” and he’s scored a fourth, with “Body Like a Back Road,” from his forthcoming sophomore CD. That song has also become a Top 10 pop hit, which helps explain why hunky Hunt is the hottest grandstand attraction at this year’s State Fair. Opening are Lanco and Ryan Follese. (7 p.m. Mon. State Fair grandstand, only obstructed seats available)

Taj Mahal and Keb Mo: With all the troubles from natural and man-made disasters in the world right now, we could use a dose of the blues. Mo is the happiest bluesman around, always smiling, always delivering uplift. A well-traveled musicologist, Mahal is liable to take listeners to the islands or fishin’ in a Minnesota lake. They’ve just released their first album together, “TajMo,” featuring plenty of Mo-penned blues, cool covers (the Who, John Mayer) and great guests (Bonnie Raitt, Sheila E., Lizz Wright, Joe Walsh). (7:30 p.m. Wed. State, Mpls. $48.50-$58.50.)

Middle Kids: Our favorite new band from the fray of the South by Southwest fest in March, these young Aussie rockers recently hit Lollapalooza and are finally making it to our town in support of their debut EP. Singer Hannah Joy’s charmingly aloof yet dramatic-sounding voice anchors the coolly crescendoing single “Edge of Town” and other Pretenders-meets-Breeders-style tunes. Nothing too innovative, just really good. (8 p.m. Thu., 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls., $15,

Conor Oberst: Another First Ave vet trying out the club’s new sister venue, the Omaha indie-folk hero will have the Felice Brothers for his backing band touting the new album they made together, “Salutations,” featuring songs he released last year on the solo-acoustic effort “Ruminations.” Ample buzz surrounds opener Phoebe Bridgers, a Los Angeles rocker who released her first EP via Ryan Adams’ label and drops her debut LP on Sept. 22. (8 p.m. Thu., Palace Theatre, 17 7th Place, St. Paul, $30,