8:30 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $20.
Just weeks before he embarks on the Mayercraft Carrier II cruise (that'd be John Mayer's concert cruise from L.A. to Cabo), Martin Sexton comes to town for an intimate solo gig. In more than a decade of touring and releasing albums, the Boston-born singer/songwriter's carved out an impressive resume. He won the National Academy of Songwriters' Artist of the Year Award. He's recorded for Atlantic and on his own. His song “Diner” recently got prominent time on “Scrubs,” and two years ago, another song, “Happy,” landed on number one in the adult alternative charts. Perhaps most impressively, lover of fine music and avid concertgoer John Mayer calls him “the best live performer I've ever seen.” Should be packed. LM.
9 p.m., White Water Tavern.
Back in 2001, when he was still writing his own articles, Rick Bragg joked in the New York Times that T-Model Ford “did not sell his soul, as legend says Robert Johnson did, to master the blues. The Devil, people say, would run from Mr. Ford.” That article, written when Ford was 79, mourned the last days of the Delta bluesmen. Eight years later, Ford's still kickin'; in fact, in a recently recorded video of a radio session, he looks downright spry. I don't know what happened to Spam, the bluesman's longtime drummer, who favored nothing more than a snare and a bass drum; Ford comes to White Water with Seattle-based blues-rockers Gravelroad backing him. By the sound of live sessions on the band's website, they're keeping it spare enough. That's what fans of Ford's live shows and four albums with Fat Possum expect — blues that's raw, rhythmic and full of lyrics traditional and bizarre (for a taste of the latter, stream my favorite “Chicken Head Man” on Rock Candy). Jim Mize opens. LM.
SMOKE ON THE
WATER BBQ FEST
5 p.m., Clinton Presidential Center. Free.
Give it up to the Clinton Library for opening itself up to the people. First the motorcycle show, now a salute to something else all red-blooded Arkansans hold on high — sweet, delicious barbecue. This two-day, $50,000-purse event, billed as one of the richest sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, is sure to bring in the grillers in droves. But also regular folks, like me, who just want to nose through all that sizzling and smoking and maybe beg off a taste or two. Then, there's those who'll be excited about cover band Crisis! (6 p.m.), Southern arena rockers .38 Special (7 p.m.) on Friday, and hillbilly family band Big Smith (2:30 p.m.), party band Tragikly White (5:35 p.m.) and Bon Jovi tribute act Bad Medicine (7:30 p.m.) on Saturday. The gates open at noon on Saturday. LM
HANK III AND
THE DAMN BAND
7 p.m., Downtown Music, $25.
Here's a bill you'll probably never have the opportunity to experience again. Ever. Hank III, famed son of Hank Williams Jr., returns to Little Rock to cap off Downtown Music's seven-year “I Can't Believe We're Not In Jail Yet” celebration with the Damn Band, a rotating side project called Assjack and local rockers Runaway Planet, on what appears to be the final night of his current tour. From the aptly-titled “Smoke and Wine,” here's a taste of what the mood should be come Friday: “I'm drinking, I'm drugging, I'm having lots of fun, I always carry ‘round my loaded side gun. If I think I'm gonna have a bad time, I got a little bit of smoke and a whole lotta wine.” Need I say more? PP