Jukebox: Singer-songwriters in spotlight

Crowell, Shindell, Hammond Jr. set to perform
Rodney Crowell performs at the Cohoes Music Hall Friday night.
Rodney Crowell performs at the Cohoes Music Hall Friday night.

Rodney Crowell must have more mojo than any other singer-songwriter around, as you can see and hear Friday at Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.).

Even after divorcing Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne, Crowell not only got Johnny to sing “I Walk the Line” inside one of his own songs, he also persuaded the Man in Black to change keys to do it. Across decades of mainstream country hits — 20 albums of his own (“Christmas Everywhere” hit last gift-shopping season) plus stints in Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band and the all-star Cherry Bombs — Crowell is most compelling in autobiography mode. His “The Houston Kid” masterpiece album (2001) collects songs steeped in childhood wonders and woes, while a new autobiography “Chinaberry Sidewalks” goes just as deep and candid.

Shows here at the Van Dyck and The Egg proved Crowell packs even more power onstage than in the studio. Guitarist/singer-songwriter Joe Robinson opens. 8 p.m. $62 floor, $52 parquet, $42 balcony. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org

Singer-songwriter Richard Shindell lives in Buenos Aires but is touring here these days. He plays Friday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs), solo this time rather than in the all-star trio Cry Cry Cry (with Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplansky, who’ve both played solo here recently). On more than a dozen albums since 1992 (“Careless” hit in 2016), Shindell often writes in compelling, first-person immediacy, and his voice has power and depth like John Gorka and Sean Rowe. Danielle Miraglia opens. 8 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

John Hammond Jr. is as shrewd a talent scout as his record-exec father. Hammond Sr. discovered Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and multitudes more. Hammond Jr. recorded with The Band before they were The Band (1965), but his most important talent discovery is himself.

He first played Caffe Lena in 1963 and returns Saturday in a sold-out show as a leading exponent of solo acoustic blues, boasting unmatched durability (34 albums) and undiminished power. He plays dazzling slide guitar and zippy harmonica, singing in a fierce, throaty wail. Quentin Callewaert opens, a young guitarist as quietly precise as Hammond is fiery. Check out the show on Concert Window.

On Sunday, another veteran follows Hammond onto the Caffe stage: troubadour Eric Andersen, with violinist Scarlet Rivera and percussionist Cheryl Prashker. All three sing, Anderson’s age-sandpapered rasp sounding vulnerably poignant. From the 1960s Greenwich Village “folk scare” through the 1970s Festival Express across Canada with the Grateful Dead and others, a 1980s hiatus, and a trio with Rick Danko and Jonas Fjeld, Anderson has crafted and sung sturdy songs of integrity, punch and poetry. 7 p.m. $32, $35, $17.50

Tonight, the Super Dark Collective presents unusual instrumental artists Boneshaker and Timothee Quost at Desperate Annie’s (12-14 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs). Boneshaker is Mars Williams (saxes; Psychedelic Furs, Billy Idol and more), Kent Kessler (bass; NRG Ensemble, Chicago tentet) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Quost plays trumpet, with electronics. 9:30 p.m. Free. 518-587-2455 www.desperateannies.com

Friday, singer-songwriter Dan Navarro plays familiar folk-rock in an unfamiliar place: The Depot Argyle Brewing (6 Broad St., Cambridge). Navarro made 12 albums in a duo with Eric Lowen and played everywhere. He went solo when Lowen retired and just released his first solo studio album: “Shed My Skin.” 8 p.m. $15. 518-692-2585 www.arglebrewing.com

On Wednesday, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn — two banjos, one voice, sometimes in Chinese — play the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). 7:30 p.m. $44, $34. 518-273-0022 www.troymusichall.org

Also Wednesday, also in Troy, Los Straitjackets plays the Hangar (675 River St.) Not even his relatives in the crowd can tell which of those guys in leather wrestlers’ masks and matching suits is once-local hero Eddie Angel, now a Nashville cat. But everybody knows the sheer fun and musical force of their guitar-powered surf rock.

As the buzz around their Nick Lowe projects keeps humming, Los Straitjackets just notched another big win: Their cover of the “Game of Thrones” theme will be featured in the binge-worthy series’ final season. It’s on their new “Channel Surfing” album, along with other TV-intensive tunes including a medley of “Dancing with the Stars” and “Sex and the City” numbers, “The Fishing Hole” (“Andy Griffith Show” theme), even “Ashokan Farewell,” the theme to Ken Burns’ PBS series “The Civil War” by our Hudson Valley neighbors Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Can “Leave it to Beaver” or “The Jetsons” be far behind? 8 p.m. $20. 518-272-9740www.thehangaronthehudson.com

Scottish singer-songwriter Jim Malcolm plays Old Songs (37 S. Main, Voorheesville) Friday. A respected interpreter of poet Robert Burns and more modern fare, Malcolm plays guitar and harmonica. $25 adults, $12 ages 13-18, $5 children 12 and under. 518-765-2815 www.oldsongs.org

Canadian J.P. Cormier sings and plays many instruments Saturday at the Eighth Step at Proctors’ The Addy (432 State St., Schenectady, third floor). Much honored at home, Cormier has collaborated mostly with country artists here. $26 advance, $45 front and center. 518-434-1703 www.8thstep.org

PEM Tiny Band debuted last Thursday at the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs, a cozy, impressionistic display of hypersensitivity honed through close mutual listening.

Phil Allen fingered staccato rushes or graceful, long-line melodies from his valve trombone over Ed Green’s pizzicato cello working like a bass and Mark Kleinhaut’s guitar; flat-picked in solos, mostly, finger-picked or palm-struck in support.

Songs formed from pure sound, abstract to specific, exploring together. Kleinhaut’s “Western Ways” felt country, through a Pat Metheny lens; Allen’s “Barbara” to his wife was pure love song; then “49,” a reverie about coastal Maine, went moody and mysterious as Allen conjured a foghorn and the melody faded into mist or emerged in sunny clarity.

They flew to Cuba in the second set and riffed through tunes of Gerry Mulligan, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Noting the band had just started, Allen stressed how well the trio listens, making a rapid leap from brand-new to confidently accomplished by closing the gap from ears to brain to hands.

Saturday at the Van Dyck, drummer Bobby Previte’s Quintet also sped up the synapses in high-speed shared inspiration. The leader’s city-name shout-outs in their kaleidoscopic 12-minute opening blitz cued the band to quick-change — I mean right NOW! — from the stop-and-go jolt of “Cleveland!” for example, to the factory-floor funk of “Detroit!”

Seven or eight city-names cued particular riffs and the band followed Previte as if on rails, intrepidly responsive and agile.

“The band sounds good,” Previte mused about an hour in, after he’d challenged them in all directions in a jittery Headhunters vamp throwing funk sparks, a slow one that let us catch our breath, a hard-bop cacophony-tornado and a cheerfully relentless extended drums-and-percussion outburst.

The local crew assembled for the gig dug deep: Rob Lundquist, piano; Bobby Kendall, bass; Alex Slomka, trombone and new Mohawk; and Keith Pray, tenor and alto sax.

After just one practice together, they locked tight or surged in happy anarchy, soloing out past the fences.

They had to listen hard, fast and deep to stay level with Previte’s forceful push; and so did we. Songs showed up at the door, burst into the party, shared a drink or two, then taxied away into the night. Bringing back the highway energy of their opener, while soaring at full altitude, Previte yelled “Niagara Falls!” to cue the boys back onto the passing lane on the interstate of his mind, then reprised all the city-name riffs from nearly two hours before.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment

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