There’s routes music — “Rt. 66,” “Highway 61,” “The Road to Ensenada” — but “roots music” reaches back in different ways. Musicians play new music in old styles, and vice versa; or they echo old music in original, traditional ways. Some echoes are specific tributes; for example, tonight acoustic guitarists Chris Brashear, Jim Henry and Paul Kochanski honor flat-pick wizard Doc Watson at the Cock ’n Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway). They’ll roll down a wide, long road: Watson wrote and scouted songs as well as he played and sang, leaving behind such classics as “Black Mountain Rag,” “Hesitation Blues,” “Shady Grove” and many more. 7:30 p.m. $20. 518-882-6962 www.thecocknbull.com
Also tonight, Americana singer-songwriter Nora Jane Struthers returns to WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). She made her debut album with her bluegrass banjoist father; another with Bearfoot; and a third with Party Line, her crew onstage and on her new album “Bright Lights, Long Drives, First Words.” Guitar great Tim O’Brien, who knows about such things and who played Caffe Lena last night, has said, “Old-time music continues to reinvent itself in the able hands of young artists like Nora Jane Struthers.” 8 p.m. $22. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org
On Friday, skilled retro-band the Dustbowl Revival reaches back to an adjacent musical neighborhood, making zippy dance music of folk songs at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Z. Lupetin and Liz Beebe sing over a bold brass-and-strings sound that sidesteps an obvious New Orleans approach. They second-line like a funk band but bring in Broadway, jazz and other flavors: Connor Vance, violin and guitar; Yosmel Montejo, bass; Matt Rubin, horns and keyboards; Ulf Bjorlin, trombone; and Josh Heffernan, drums. Their new album “Is It You, Is It Me” beefs up an already bulging songbook. 8 p.m. Smooth Hound Smith, life and musical partners Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle-Smith, open. 8 p.m. $25. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Also Friday, Texas blues-harmonica-playing singer Kim Wilson plays WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany), a few steps from the site of J.B. Scotts, where he played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Actually, the T-Birds played everywhere here, including Alive at Five in June 2013. This time, Wilson plays with Dean Shot, guitar; Mike Law, bass; and Chris Rivelli, drums. 8 p.m. $35
Georgia singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins pays tribute to his own best-known album Friday at the Skyloft (1 Crossgates Mall Road, Albany) with “Soul’s Core Revival,” remaking his original hit-making album “Soul’s Core” (1998). He’s also recording two reimaginings of the album, one solo acoustic and another with his band Soul Carnival. Margo Macero opens. 8 p.m. $25. 518-869-5638 www.skyloftny.com
Irish music arguably retains its melodic essence regardless of innovation more than other traditions, a specific sort of resiliency that the Jeremiahs demonstrate Friday at Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville). A young band, they reach back to sounds and styles that might have brought their fathers and grandfathers to their feet in the pub. The Jeremiahs are Joe Gibney, vocals and whistle; James Ryan, guitar and bouzouki; Jean Christophe Morel, fiddle and mandola; and Julien Brunetaeau, flute. 7:30 p.m. $25, $12 for fans 13-18, $5 for younger fans. 518-765-2815 www.oldsongs.org
Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) strays from their lane this weekend, presenting troubadour Josh Ritter tonight in a sold-out show at Bethesda Episcopal Church; also John Paul White Friday, Bettye LaVette Saturday and Jack Tempchin Sunday.
As half of Americana duo the Civil Wars, White reached back not quite as far as his band’s namesake conflict but still achieved a timeless durability. 8 p.m. $28 advance, $32 door, $16 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Lavette IS roots music. She signed to proto-soul label Motown as a teenager and played Motor City bars for decades before coming into her own in her 60s. Powerful, passionate, she can sing anything; Her “Love, Reign O’er Me” lit up The Who’s Kennedy Center Honors show, and her latest album “Things Have Changed” collects Dylan songs. 8 p.m. $60, $65
Tempchin is the unsung (not unsinging) hero of LA country-rock as writer of giant hits for the Eagles and others. Sunday, he sings and speaks of a mellow time of California soft-rock that his well-made tunes exemplified. 7 p.m. $27, $30, $15
The band’s name tells it all: Professor Cunningham and His Old School. They reach back to New Orleans Friday at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) for their inspiration, sound and songs. Cunningham plays clarinet, with a hot-funk rhythm section and additional horns. 8 p.m., doors 6:30. $20. 518-348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com
Wednesday brings new songs sung and played in old ways to Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.) as Postmodern Jukebox presents its Welcome to the Twenties 2.0 show. In short, they supercharge current pop tunes as 1920s chestnuts. This could be hilarious/campy, gimmicky/retro; but their skills and commitment to the music make this serious and strong in a good way. 7:30 p.m. $54.50-$29.50, VIP $94.50. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
What might have turned into an off-night by Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble last Tuesday at the Van Dyck went the other way as the subs got in the groove. That happened fast. The ending of “Sister Sadie” felt ragged, but in the next number, “Sam’s Tune,” a chaconne as boogaloo, they hit hard and very together, setting up Coltane’s serene ballad “After the Rain” beautifully. The first set closed strong with the tenor duel “Blues for P.G.” The second featured the fave “Upper Manhattan Medical Group,” leader Pray playing his first alto solo, maybe the best break of the night. For a band that gets scant rehearsal time and sight-reads its parts, they swung, as usual, with veteran swagger and punch, even when they changed things up. Alto-sax-man Awan Jenkins joined in “West Hill Shout,” summoned to the bandstand by his teacher Brian Patneaude, whose tenor playing shone all night. In this exuberant last number, late-arriving trumpeter Dylan Canterbury played off the crowded stage but fit right in.
The Van Dyck is where I saw McCoy Tyner play a thrilling early 2000s solo piano show, then encourage my pianist daughter Pisie in a backstage meet-up. Tyner, who died last Friday at 81 and was a stalwart of John Coltrane’s tremendous quartet from age 21, had studied with a conga player. So the jackhammer drive of his hyperactive left hand was as percussive as harmonic under darting, often circular right-hand riffs. Quiet in conversation, he was explosive at the keyboard, playing an unforgettable layered music of pulsating rhythms pushing melodic expressions of sweet delicacy. Another Coltrane quartet member, drummer Elvin Jones, who also played the Van Dyck, once told me ’Trane’s band never rehearsed; they improvised, impromptu, in every show. We won’t hear their like again.