Jukebox: ‘Folkzinger’ Lavin to put many talents to work

It’s going to be confusing: Any fan who hears in advance about all the details comprising the perfor
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Categories: Life & Arts

It’s going to be confusing: Any fan who hears in advance about all the details comprising the performances on Saturday at the Shaker Meeting House will be astonished that just one person, Christine Lavin, can come out alone and do all that — and do it twice, at 6:30 and 9 p.m.

Lavin is almost too much, all by herself. She has so much talent, and so many talents, that she’s just about redundant. Who else on the folk circuit includes baton twirling in their act — sometimes with pyrotechnics? Who else can write both such dangerously wry ditties as “Happy Divorce Day” and a memoir “Cold Pizza for Breakfast: A Mem-wha?” and heart-rending songs as sincere as “The Kind of Love You Never Recover From”?

Before she started performing at Caffe Lena’s open mikes, she waited on tables there.

In addition to fearless onstage comedy and songwriting from all ends and corners of the emotional spectrum, Lavin is also a knockout singer who can can the comedy at will for seriously serious effects.

On Saturday, she’ll even host a knitting circle at 4:30 p.m. in the Shaker Barn near the Shaker Meeting House (25 Meeting House Road, Albany — near the Albany International Airport). It’s free to any knitters, quilters, needle workers or crochet artists among the ticket holders for her 6:30 and 9 p.m. shows. Tickets are $30 (credit card), $25 (cash or check) at www.shakerheritage.org or by phone at 456-7890 ext. 25.

Lavin calls this show “My 25th Anniversary Concert: What Was I (EVER!) Thinking?” — a career retrospective by this self-styled “folkzinger.” This show benefits the Shaker Heritage Society, working to preserve and celebrate the site of America’s first Shaker community.

The 1848 Meeting House was designed specifically for singing, and it works. When Natalie Merchant sang there last year, we could hear her no matter where she stood to sing, and she enjoyed moving from place to place to sample the room’s sound from different locations. It’s a very, very sweet space.

Rickie Lee Jones at Egg

Acclaimed as Best New Artist Grammy winner in 1979, Rickie Lee Jones may have become famous before she was ready. But she has clearly grown into her talent and ranks among our finest and most all-around fascinating singer-songwriters.

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For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney’s review of this show, click here.

When guitarist Lee Ritenour played J.B. Scott’s — you know right there this isn’t a recent story — he had just finished recording a project with her, and he said she had more talent than any singer-songwriter he’d ever met but no clue what to do with it. We were fans anyway: My wife, Ellie, had a T-shirt made for me, printed with the words “DOYT DOYT” — quoting Jones’ “Danny’s All-Star Joint” and its instantly inviting opening line: “Downstairs at Danny’s All-Star Joint, they got a jukebox that goes ‘doyt-doyt.’ ” Jones soon found her artistic direction and has followed her own creative compass ever since, making irresistible songs that mix the full-on muscle of rock with the oblique strategies of jazz and soul’s sweet abandon perhaps better than anyone.

She returns to the area on Friday to sing at The Egg, near where she fought through audience indifference to triumph at a free Empire State Plaza show in her last visit a few years ago.

Show time for Rickie Lee Jones is 8 p.m. on Friday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Tickets are $34.50. Phone 473-1845.

Where else?

The second and last weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — JazzFest to anyone who’s ever been there — begins today. It’s music all day on 11 stages and the coolest musico-cultural experience I’ve had since the Monterey Pop Festival.

Just to give you a taste, the bands closing things down today, for example — and all playing at once! — are Wilco, Cyndi Lauper, Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis, (Albany’s own) Stefon Harris & Blackout, Ruthie Foster, Banu Gibson & the Allstars, the Iguanas, Stooges Brass Band, the McDonough #35 High School Gospel Choir, and Spencer Bohren.

Tomorrow night’s closers are Arcade Fire, Willie Nelson, Lupe Fiasco, the Mingus Big Band, Gregg Allman, Bob Wilber & the Crescent City Cats, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Djalout #1 of Haiti, Irma Thomas’ tribute to Mahalia Jackson, and the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars.

Saturday, it’s Jimmy Buffet, the Strokes, Ms Lauryn Hill, Fourplay, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ruby Wilson, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, the New Birth Brass Band, Aaron Neville’s Gospel Experience and Jeff & Vida.

And on Sunday, closing out JazzFest 2011 are the Neville Brothers, the Radiators, Maze, Sonny Rollins, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Band, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, RAM of Haiti, Glen David Andrews, and Bobby Lounge. Oh, yeah, and there are hundreds of bands playing in clubs everywhere and all night long.

I’m here and not there because I want to work on getting really healthy to enjoy next year’s JazzFest to the maximum. Even for a music hog like me, it’s pretty intense. When I come back from JazzFest next year, I’ll tell you all about it.

Grainbelt is not dead!

Howe Glassman, who leads Grainbelt, sounds as surprised as anyone, by his own email. “I thought the Grainbelt broke up years ago!” He goes on to say he apparently was wrong, because the band is playing on Saturday at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany), along with the Catbirds (featuring Chandler Travis and Rikki Bates of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Incredible Casuals and maybe 10 other bands) and the Mysteios. Show time is 9 p.m. at Valentine’s downstairs. Admission is $5. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

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