Odetta pioneered bluesy folk while Dionne Warwick made polished pop of equal impact and influence. Both sing here in the coming week, along with younger-generation singers they inspired: Nanci Griffith and MotherJudge.
Odetta and MotherJudge sing on Monday at the Lakehouse Theatre (Washington Park, Albany) in a “Monday Nights in the Park” free show. Odetta was one of those “doing it for real,” as Dylan said in Martin Scorsese’s bio-film, describing those who inspired him in his early Greenwich Village days. Arguably every folk singer of either gender has aspired to her musical grace, conviction and authority, but no one can match the monumental gravity of her voice and her world-shaking laugh. She sings these days with pianist Seth Farber.
“At my age, it’s a pleasure not to heft a guitar around,” said the now 78-year-old singer in an interview several years ago.
She sings with such power, playfulness and moral force that she could scare most opening acts. Don’t worry about MotherJudge, though. A homegrown star, she’s fearless and forceful and will play with bassist Bob Buckley, guitarist Bryan Thomas, mandolinist (and her husband) Sten Isaachsen, and multi-instrumentalist Mitch Elrod.
MotherJudge rightly calls Odetta “an American treasure,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called her “the queen of American folk music.” And Harry Belafonte said: “Few possess that fine understanding of a song’s meaning which transforms it from melody into a dramatic experience.”
Odetta said of her performing power: “We have the help of energy we can’t see or prove.” She explained: “On the best nights I become part of the audience and use their energy to go to places I didn’t know I knew. On those nights, I have a visitation.”
Check out her NPR interview at www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5074594.
“Monday Nights in the Park” evenings start with “A Taste of Lark” food at 5 p.m.; show time is 6 p.m.
In one of pop’s mightiest and most magical matches of singer and songs, Dionne Warwick made the compositions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David into deceptively smooth-flowing hits. Only a masterful singer could negotiate the tricky rhythmic changes and daunting melodic leaps of these complex tunes with such unshakable emotional cool. “Don’t Make Me Over,” Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk On By,” “You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” “A House Is Not A Home,” “Reach Out For Me,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and my personal favorite, “Message To Michael” — there are too many too list.
Expect her to sing many of them on Saturday at Proctors main stage (432 State St., Schenectady). Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $65, $55 and $40. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
“Nanci Who?” most asked when Nanci Griffith was introduced as the Everly Brothers’ opening act at the now-defunct Starlight Music Theatre in Latham. Less than an hour later, new fans lined up for autographs. Since then, Griffith has returned many times, released some 20 albums and won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for her “Other Voices, Other Rooms” album. Her new effort, “Ruby’s Torch,” mostly of well-chosen covers assembled for a reflective mood, is even better.
Tonight, Griffith returns to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) for an 8 p.m. show. Admission is $29.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
The greatest singer in zydeco history, a musical visionary, a dazzling accordionist and a hyper-engaging performer, Terrance Simien brings his Zydeco Experience band to Alive at Five (Riverfront Amphitheater, Albany) next Thursday.
This could be the best show in this free series. Simien has Sam Cooke’s sensuous soulfulness, Aaron Neville’s ethereal fervor and Clifton Chenier’s gruff good-time vibe. He can sing anything, and his band follows him anywhere. Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers open. The rain site for Alive at Five is the Corning Preserve boat launch under I-787. Phone 434-2032 or visit www.albanyevents.org.
songs and lessons
British soulman Graham Parker focuses on songwriting tonight at the Linda Norris Auditorium of the WAMC Performing Arts Studio (339 Central Ave., Albany) in a special “Meet the Composers” night with a 5 p.m. songwriting workshop and an 8 p.m. concert. Both are with Mike Gent and both are without a band.
Since making his mark with his pub-rocking band the Rumour, placing two albums in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of All Time list, then suffering music-biz travails that he mourned in the acidic “Mercury Poisoning” album — he recorded for Mercury Records originally — Parker has worked solo for the most part or with temporary bands. But he recorded “Songs of No Consequence” with Gent’s band the Figgs, a good match that showed how good both are.
Formed in Saratoga Springs in 1987, the Figgs have made mighty, and mighty smart, pop music ever since, and its members sparkle in side projects, too. (Figgs’ bassist Pete Doherty plays with the Terry Adams Rock ‘n’ Roll Quartet on Aug. 15 in Amsterdam.)
The 5 p.m. songwriting workshop is free and admission for the 8 p.m. concert is $20. Phone 518-465-5233 ext. 4 for tickets, or visit www.wamc.org.
The Green River Festival fires up all weekend at Greenfield Community College (I-91, Exit 26, Greenfield, Mass.) and the Bang On A Can All-Stars play on Saturday at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.) Both are worth the gas because both offer more than can be listed here.
Tonight’s Green River Festival performers include Jimmie Vaughan with Lou Ann Barton; Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and more. Gates open at 5 p.m., show time is 6 p.m. Saturday’s lineup features Lucinda Williams, Mavis Staples, Los Straitjackets and more. Show time is 2 p.m. Food, drinks, crafts and hot-air balloons are the nonmusical parts of this festival. Tickets are $25 tonight, $40 on Saturday and $60 for both. Phone 413-773-5463 or visit www.greenriverfestival.com.
Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo guests with the Bang On a Can All-Stars tonight at MASS MoCa’s Hunter Center, playing his music, that of Ornette Coleman, All-Star members and others. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $24, and a $40 combination ticket includes the Bang on a Can Marathon on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, as part of the two-week Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival, Christine Southworth leads a Balinese gamelan performance at 4:30 p.m.
Phone 413-MOCA-111 or visit www.massmoca.org or www.bangonacan.org for more information.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]
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Categories: Life and Arts