Jukebox: Roots will run deep this weekend at the Egg

All music is folk music, since folks make all music; so nearly all music is roots music because it a

All music is folk music, since folks make all music; so nearly all music is roots music because it all has roots somewhere. Well, apart from the music of Charlie Parker, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk or Elvis Presley — the artists that seem to come from somewhere else and make music that relies on wings more than roots.

Circular reasoning aside, this may be the rootsiest music weekend here in many months, and not just because The Egg has proclaimed this “American Roots Music Weekend” by staging five shows that fit that wide and wandering category from Friday to Sunday. Let’s look at those shows first.

Asleep at the Wheel starts this rootsy run on Friday. (Click here to read Brian McElhiney’s profile of the Wheel.)

On Saturday, Crooked Still updates bluegrass in one of The Egg’s theaters while Bettye LaVette sings soul music in the other. Last heard here with the Sisters of Soul (co-starring Marcia Ball and Maria Muldaur) at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, LaVette’s big Detroit rasp sounds spectacular on last year’s knockout album of British Invasion tunes, “Interpretations” (Too bad there are no Kinks songs on it for comparison with top Kink Ray Davies’ own interpretations on Tuesday).

Pianist and singer Les McCann opens with a compact jazz band featuring saxophonist Javon Jackson. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.

Like the subdudes and the Derek Trucks Band, Crooked Still will say farewell to fans at The Egg before a hiatus for solo projects, performing their goodbyes on Saturday at 8 p.m. Adding a cello to bluegrass is about as innovative as how LaVette attacks British Invasion pop with her flamethrower voice. “Some Strange Country” is their latest. Tickets for Crooked Still on Saturday are $28.

The Dan Zanes & Friends show on Sunday at 3 p.m. is for family audiences, but their music is utterly noncondescending, sharp and smart enough for anybody to appreciate. Their latest release is “Little Nut Tree.” Tickets are $15.

Also Sunday, the Sam Bush Band takes over The Egg for a 7:30 p.m. show. Bush is explosive, and not just because of how fast and fiery he plays. He busted out decades ago from his bluegrass roots into Newgrass, a highly combustible hybrid that has proved as durable as it is elastic. Bush, as noted, plays great and he leads an exceptional band. He also sings well and chooses his material with singular fearlessness, including songs by the subdudes and Jeff Black, one of Nashville’s hidden treasures. His latest album is “Circle Around Me.” Tickets are $29.50.

Bluegrass options

How far can we stretch this roots-and-wings idea into other venues?

Well, Bearfoot spread its wings in their native Alaska and sank roots in Nashville. After their “Doors and Windows” album topped the bluegrass charts, they shuffled members and arrive at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) on Saturday with a new album, “American Story.”

They’re proud of how the new lineup has jelled and how the new album rocks. Show time is 8 p.m., when Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman open. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.

Unfortunately for fans of that flavor, the similar Red Molly fires up that same night, at the Eighth Step at the Underground at Proctors (432 State St. Schenectady). Like Bearfoot, Red Molly plays a tight mesh on acoustic instruments and weaves their voices tightly, too. They also have a new album, “Light in the Sky,” plus first-class opener slide guitarist Pat Wictor. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 434-2703 or 346-6204 or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org. Click here to read Brian McElhiney’s preview of this show.

American songs

As if to widen folk fans’ options, Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville) presents “Four Seasons, Four Years” on both Friday at Saturday nights at 8 p.m. This all-star production has roots both wide and deep: It collects American songs of all sorts, made from 1850 to 1865. The singers are (alphabetically) Greg Artzner, Dan Berggren. Betsy Fry, Stephen Fry, Reggie Harris, Terry Leonino, John Roberts, Bill Spence, Toby Stover, Susan Trump and George Wilson. Tickets are $25. Phone 765-2815 or visit www.oldsongs.org.

The roots of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic are planted firmly in midair, but they reach a long way down: to traditional jazz, novelty pop, serious love songs and issue songs. They are as earthy as they are spacey, as musically commanding as they are utterly ridiculous — and I don’t know which of those dichotomy resolutions is the more remarkable achievement. They return to play whatever the hell they want to — in every which way you can imagine and some you haven’t seen before — on Saturday at WAMC’s The Linda at 8 p.m. Singer-songwriter Pete LaBonne, auteur of the wonderful audio movie “Meditation Garden,” opens. Tickets are $17. Phone 465-5233 or visit www.wamcarts.org.

Based in Boston, the Either/Orchestra found its musical roots in Ethiopia — source point for the new suite “The Collected Unconscious” that the 10-piece crew plays on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 Sixth Ave., Troy). Jazz journal Downbeat.com calls them “the best little big-band ever,” and they are famed for versatility, sonic force and precision. Tickets are $10. Phone 272-2390 or visit www.MediaSanctuary.org.

Root-maker Davies

Now, how about an artist whose music is so influential it has itself become the roots of other musicians? Led by Ray Davies and brother Dave Davies, the Kinks arguably invented heavy metal and hard rock before Led Zeppelin or anybody else was playing it. (Can you believe Black Sabbath is reuniting to record and tour?) After playing every theater and arena here during the Kinks’ heyday, and never delivering a less-than-stellar show, Ray Davies has scaled down his presentation to The Egg, returning on Tuesday in a 7:30 p.m. show. As in his last visit, he’s playing both Kinks klassics and solo-album highlights on this tour, with a band. The David Wax Museum opens, playing music whose roots in rural Mexico remain strong despite hyper-education of its principals. David Wax (Harvard) plays the guitar-like jarana and Suz Slezak (Wellesley) plays fiddle and quijada — a percussion instrument made from the jawbone of a donkey. Really. Tickets are $49.50, $44.50 and $39.50.

And what about an artist whose roots are in another band he leads? Bradford Cox of Deerhunter brings his band Atlas Sound to Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center on Saturday for a 7 p.m. show with Laura Stevenson and the Cans opening. As Atlas Sound, Cox has released six albums and the latest, “Parallax,” is reportedly the best of them. Tickets are $12. Visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/209135.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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