Plenty of choices for folk music fans this weekend
Another folkie Saturday is headed our way, delivering tough choices to fans of acoustic music, troubadour or old-timey style.
We could simplistically frame Saturday at the Eighth Step along purely gender lines: the all-women Red Molly and the all-men Steel Wheels. But seeing this show in more synergistic terms — old and new blending — makes more sense and acknowledges the deep fun to be had on this night of zippy riffing and high-lonesome singing.
Red Molly is guitarist Molly Venter with Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner playing bass, banjo, dobro, guitar and lap steel between them.
And Steel Wheels comprises four singers who also play guitars, mandolin, banjo, bass and fiddle: Trent Wegler, Jay Lapp, Brian Dickel and Eric Brubaker. They’re all experienced enough to have mastered the technique of telling stories together, in song; yet young enough to weave surprising plot twists, riffs and ripples among tunes that may feel familiar but also fresh.
Red Molly and Steel Wheels play Saturday at 7:30 at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Tickets are $24 in advance, $26 at the door. Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204 or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
The Egg also presents a folk-flavored double-header on Saturday night: young artists who respect antique styles by reaching forward to them, not back. The Wiyos headline, and Mike and Ruthy open at 7:30 p.m.
The Wiyos — guitarist Teddy Weber, harmonica player Michael Farkas, bassist Sauerkraut Seth Travins and variable guest players — evolved from playing old-timey tunes rapidly when Bob Dylan tapped them to open his 2009 tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp.
Building on that buzz ever since, and growing ambition to match, they’ve recorded and toured steadily, playing here often and releasing “Twist” last year, this new album, their sixth, earning comparisons to the Beatles, The Band and even Pink Floyd.
When Mike and Ruthy opened for David Bromberg at The Egg in November, David Singer wrote here that the husband-and-wife duo (Michael Merenda and Ruthy Ungar, daughter of Jay Ungar and Lyn Hardy) surprised “the mostly filled house with an inspirational set highlighted by a Woody Guthrie song they were given by Guthrie’s estate — unfinished. . . . The two performed a set of songs with equally strong, but soft, folk tunes and one powerful, but understated, blues tune sung by Ruth, who can whisper and belt out with equal intimacy. She seemed to freeze the room with her impeccable control.”
Tickets for The Wiyos and Mike and Ruthy are $24. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
But wait, there’s more.
Caffe Lena Flurry oasis
The Flurry Festival hits Saratoga Springs in a big way this weekend, and Caffe Lena chimes in with a full slate of acoustic performers.
Admission is free with a Flurry wristband, and the schedule is busy: Mike Agranoff at 11 a.m., Terpsichore at 12:15 p.m., Low and Lonesome at 1:30, the Lost Radio Rounders at 2:45, Atwater-Donnelly at 4, the Swamp Ward Orchestra at 5:15, Jeremiah McLane & Annemieke Spoelstra at 6:30, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason at 7:45 and Mist Covered Mountains at 8:45.
A lot of music — and remember, it’s free with a Flurry wristband.
“What is this world’s music coming to?” No, that’s not me grumbling about the Grammys from the graying boomer’s “music-was-WAY-cooler-back-in-the-day” perspective. That’s my 22-year-old daughter Pisie (who perhaps inherited/learned good taste from someone around here).
She was pleased with Robert Glasper’s win for Best R&B Album but complained: “The other winners were . . . let’s just say, not so impressive. Kind of depressing that the most intense/talented set was the Levon Helm tribute with older musicians.”
She watched the Grammys all the way through, and I arguably should have. I tuned in at the start, gaped at that steam-punk tricycle-from-space guy, grew even more incredulous as that gaudy marshmallow-costumed Alice in Wonderland circus formed around Taylor Swift singing a song that should never have escaped from her high-school locker. And I bailed right quick for “Downton Abbey.”
When I read reports of despair and dismay over the next few days from those who stayed with it, I knew I’d made the right choice.
The Grammys once meant something, mostly. It was big, for example, when Terrance Simien won the 2008 Grammy for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album, the first and nearly the last in a now-defunct category. When he played Alive at Five that summer, he took me aboard the tour bus, grabbed a miniature Anvil case, impatiently popped it open, pulled out the Grammy and proudly handed to me. He carried it with him, everywhere.
Many of the Grammys awarded Sunday night have no more value than those awarded to Milli Vanilli or A Taste of Honey.
Just a few words here about Albert Lee; click here to read Brian McElhiney's interview.
I’ve seen Lee play here with the Everly Brothers, ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and probably many more. Lee would be absolutely revered by musicians and fans alike even if he just played; hot licks, as “clean as country waters,” as John Sebastian described the Nashville cats Lee first emulated then surpassed. But he also sings, really well.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.