Buffy Sainte-Marie remains powerful talent

Since folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie played the first great singer-songwriter show I ever saw, near
Legendary folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie will be at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre on Saturday.
Legendary folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie will be at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre on Saturday.

Categories: Entertainment

Since folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie played the first great singer-songwriter show I ever saw, near Buffalo in 1965, she’s learned and grown.

Then, she had a piercing sound and sharp message, demanding justice for everyone. Experience has added depth and range as a writer and command as a performer. Her experience includes five years on “Sesame Street,” which magnified her presence on stage.

Musically she has developed a jazz-blues feel in songs with bounce or swing; she can lead a band and fit her voice and songs within one.

She brings those strengths and more on Saturday to the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady), demonstrating a “new math” of talent multiplying itself.

Her new (21st) album “Power in the Blood” is a band record, and she brings a full first-nations band to the Eighth Step on Saturday: guitarist Jesse Greer (Lakota/Ojibwe), drummer Michel Bruyere (Ojibwe) and bassist Leroy Constant (Cree).

Cree-born in Saskatchewan, adopted to Massachusetts, a graduate of UMass, longtime Hawaii resident, Buffy Sainte-Marie is an artist of mighty moral and musical power.

Samantha Crain opens. 7:30 p.m. $35 general admission, $25 side sections, $60 front and center. 434-1703 www.8thstep.org

Isbell at The Egg

Singer-songwriter and ex-Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell arrives at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Friday bearing the biggest buzz among roots-rock artists.

After his tremendous “Southeastern” album owned 2013’s Top 10 lists (including mine), he won the Americana Music Association awards for Artist, Song and Album of the Year.

He told WAMC’s (very good) interviewer that he writes about Southern, rural, working-class lives; but he brings such insight and poetry to these lives that they feel like our own. Expect new songs from “Something More than Free,” due in July, his 6th since leaving the Drive-By Truckers and 5th with the 400 Unit.

And he continues to play songs from the three Truckers albums he helped write: “Decoration Day,” “The Dirty South” and “Blessing and a Curse” — arguably their best.

He told WAMC he’s having a good time singing sad songs on this tour with the 400 Unit, named for a hometown psychiatric ward: guitarist Sadler Vaden (also in Drivin’ N Cryin’), bassist Jimbo Hart, keyboardist Derry DeBorja (ex-Wilco) and drummer Chad Gamble.

This somewhat elastic band also may include Isbell’s fiddler/singer wife, Amanda Shires; they played a tremendous duet on “The Late Show with David Letterman” recently.

Craig Finn, frontman of The Hold Steady, opens. 8 p.m. $39.50, $34.50. 473-1845 www.theegg.org

Nile rocks WAMC

Willie Nile made me glad his show last Saturday at WAMC’s the Linda was my first since Jazz Fest, rocking the place for nearly two hours.

Big, anthemic blasts opened: “Hear You Breathe,” “The Innocent Ones” and “Heaven Help the Lonely,” and he closed with Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” and his own mission statement on the joyous power of “One Guitar.”

In between came softer piano songs from a new album, but mostly he steered his band fast and hard; tight, crisp and right at the speed limit. Boasting the best hair in rock ’n’ roll, lean and compact, he jumped up and down, he slammed his guitar strings or teased melody from the piano and he sang great, with the same sort of bone-deep conviction as Bruce Springsteen, Alejandro Escovedo or Hamell on Trial. He was sensational, electric.

Afterward, as Nile signed CDs and greeted fans (like me) who’ve followed him since he played the University at Albany MayFest freebie in 1980, I complimented his guitarist Matt Hogan on his beautiful tones.

Hogan said he tries to choose the best sound for each song; then said he’d realized every great guitar solo he studied while learning to play was in a great song. “I try to bring what I can to the songs, but you’ve got to have a great song to play a great solo,” he said, pointing to Nile.

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

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