After Little Brother's 2003 debut, The Listening, the North Carolina trio were widely hailed as the latest incarnation of the playful, feel-good spirit of the old Native Tongues posse. Since then Phonte, one of the group's two rappers, has put out a well-received album with Dutch producer Nicolay (last year's Connected), and Little Brother's own beatsmith, 9th Wonder, has produced discs for Murs and Buckshot as well as a track on Jay-Z's swan song, The Black Album. Phonte and his fellow MC, Big Pooh, have the rare ability to be themselves on the mike, with no tough-guy posturing or conscious-rapper preaching. They're straightforward and funny when they talk about hypocrites at coffeehouse open mikes, the hectic pace of modern life, or the little things they love. (Pooh's a fan of Macho Man Randy Savage and open fire hydrants that make "street lakes," Phonte gives props to pork chops and cell phones with free service.) But the standout feature of Little Brother's music is 9th Wonder's production--his warm, scintillating grooves get your head nodding and help work some of that tension out of your shoulders. The title cut on The Listening pays homage to Pete Rock and CL Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You" by unobtrusively sampling its signature horn lick, and the beat, loping and melancholy, stands up just fine next to that classic track's. Little Brother's second album, The Minstrel Show, is due later this month on ABB/Atlantic, and from what little I've been able to hear it's got all the same strengths as their debut: down-to-earth humor, refreshing sincerity, and those infectious, easygoing grooves. The Away Team, Legacy, Darien Brockington, Joe Scudda, and Chaundon open. Thu 9/8, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15 in advance, $18 at the door, 18+.