Jukebox: Near, Eighth Step to visit Cap Rep; things heat up at the Egg

Remember when the Eighth Step was nomadic between leaving its downtown Albany home and landing at Pr

Remember when the Eighth Step was nomadic between leaving its downtown Albany home and landing at Proctors?

Singer/activist Holly Near sings on Friday at Capital Rep (111 N. Pearl St., Albany) in an Eighth Step show co-sponsored by Women Against War and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.

An actor (“Slaughterhouse Five” on the big screen; “All in the Family,” “The Mod Squad,” “The Partridge Family” on the small; “Hair” on Broadway) and activist, Near has been a favorite for decades on area music stages, particularly the Eighth Step. She’s touring with longtime pianist John Bucchino and guitarist Laura Love.

Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $28. Phone 434-1703 or visit www.eighthstep.org.

“Rustic Overtones” suggests something simple, rural and plain. But the story of the band with that name is more complex. They formed as a cover band playing Portland, Maine, bars in the mid-1990s. They cite Earth, Wind & Fire and Tom Waits as main influences, and they survived the demise of two record labels, though they broke up for a few years after the second and some members formed Paranoid Social Club.

On their six albums — “Shish Boom Bam” (1994) was their debut, “The Way Out” (2009) their latest — they’ve become one of few bands blending rock and hip-hop. In other hands, that often sounds more like a collision than a blend, but they make it work through real soulfulness.

Rustic Overtones plays Jillian’s (59 N. Pearl St., Albany) on Friday at 9 p.m. The Ameros open (Click here to read Brian McElhiney’s “Live in the Clubs” story about The Ameros). Admission is $13 in advance, $18 at the door. Call 432-1997 or visit www.jilliansofalbany.com.

Underrated and fabulous

Ask a jazz head about David Sanborn and you may hear “underrated.” At least, that’s what colleague Matt Maguire said when I asked his take on the saxophonist many jazz heads hated before Kenny G showed up. Maligned for watering down jazz into pop-ish “smooth jazz” — a term I’ve never understood because his attack and tone are pretty rough — Sanborn has played through the criticism to blur the boundaries between jazz invention and rock muscle.

Matt said “fabulous!” when I asked about Joey DeFrancesco, citing the organist’s formidable technical skill and unpretentious delivery of swinging musical fun. Sanborn and DeFrancesco team up with drummer Byron Landham at The Egg on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.

Too bad for jazz heads, pianist Marco Benevento plays at Red Square at the same time as Sanborn and company: Saturday at 8 p.m. at the venue at 388 Broadway, Albany. Pungee opens.

Benevento seems determined to play with as many bands as possible: a longtime duo with Joe Russo, Garage A Trois, the Coalition of the Willing, Bustle in Your Hedgerow, Surprise Me Mr. Davis and others. His latest album “Between the Needles and Nightfall” features his trio with drummer Andrew Barr and bassist Reed Mathis. But onstage on Saturday, he’ll play with bassist Dave Dreiwitz (of Ween) and drummer Andy Borger (of Ani DiFranco’s band). Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Phone 465-0444 or visit www.redsquarealbany.com.

Red Square features electronically aided killer keyboardists all weekend, with Jeff Bujak headlining on Friday. Mentally Ill opens at 8 p.m. Based in Northampton, Mass., Bujak makes what he calls “intelligent dance music” through keyboard-fired electronics. His latest studio album, his third, is “Alive as the Spine.” Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 on Friday.

Big nights at The Egg

Amos Lee sang songs from “Mission Bell” at The Egg last November even before he released it. Since then, “Mission Bell” (his fourth album) has topped the Billboard album charts, so Lee returns to The Egg on Monday as an official Very Big Deal.

Steeped in hometown Philly soul but also inspired by folk songwriters, Lee studied English, taught second grade, tended bar and toured with Bob Dylan before he’d even released his debut album. Not much later, he was opening shows for Norah Jones, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Merle Haggard or John Prine — probably Lee’s main songwriting inspiration.

He plays Monday at The Egg with keyboardist Jaron Olevsky, guitarist Zach Djanikian, drummer Fred Berman, bassist Vincente Archer, pedal steel and banjo player Andy Keenan and singers Mutlu Onaral (who opened for him last November) and Katherine Byrne. Tickets are $42.50 and $38.50.

Lee boasts a sweet-strong voice that would sound great singing a software manual, so he stands tall even alongside such dazzling duet partners on “Mission Bell” as Jones, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and Pieta Brown. It’s hard to choose which is the bonus talent: his writing or his singing. Actually, don’t bother: They work very well together.

So do the voices and songs of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, the Indigo Girls, who harmonize together on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at The Egg.

Over their 30-year, 14-album career — “Beauty Queen Sister” is their latest — they have played almost everywhere, including the Union College hockey rink and Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Seeing them up close at The Egg promises an intimate and tasty treat. Tickets are $55, $38.50 and $32.50.

Road trips

A frequent visitor to WAMC’s The Linda on past tours, the great country-rock singer-songwriter Tift Merritt plays Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) on Friday this time around. Since her debut album “Bramble Rose” landed on the 2003 Top 10 lists of Time magazine and the New Yorker, Merritt has written and recorded three more studio projects, each surpassing the last in craft and conviction, in beauty and boldness; plus a solo live set “Buckingham Solo.”

Show time for Tift Merritt on Friday at Club Helsinki is 9 p.m. Admission is $18 in advance, $20 on Friday. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.

The North Mississippi Allstars rock the blues on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Bearsville Theater (291 Tinker St., Woodstock). Reunited last year after a two-year hiatus (which followed 10 years on the road), they have a new album in the works, so expect new tunes. Tickets are $35 in the (reserved seats) balcony, $20 on the (general admission) floor. Phone 845-679-4406 or visit www.bearsvilletheater.com.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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