If you hear that there’s a band called the Guggenheim Grotto, you might imagine a post-modern ensemble of Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados, prog-rockers crazed with spatial relationships and strength-of-materials calculations.
The Guggenheim Grotto comprises Dubliners Mick Lynch and Kevin May, for three years now a duo much honored in their homeland for harmonic relationships and strength-of-melody folk-pop. As part of their drive to construct some similar acclaim here — they’ve toured the U.S. four times in those three years — they visit the Linda Norris Auditorium at WAMC (339 Central Ave., Albany) tonight with Tadhg (say “Tige” as in tiger) Cooke.
When compared to Simon & Garfunkel, Lynch and May bristle, since neither wants to be Garfunkel. They prefer to be thought of as Simon & Simon, since both write songs, catchy and cozy and cinematic enough for “One Tree Hill” and “Brothers and Sisters” to have featured them. They’ve recently followed their 2006 debut “Waltzing Alone,” which spun off the hit single “Told You So,” with the new “Happy The Man.”
Tadhg Cooke will open for the Guggenheim Grotto, then he’ll sit in with them. Collaborating seems natural to this hyperactive soul-folk troubadour: In addition to playing solo, he also sings with David Geraghty and on Bell X1’s album “Flock.”
Cooke’s second album, “Fingertips of the Silversmith,” hits later this year, studded with guest spots from literally all kinds of Irish musicians. But he’ll play solo tonight before Guggenheim Grotto.
Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $17. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 for tickets or visit www.wamcarts.org
IRISH, AND AMERICANA
There’s more in the way of musical Irish lads onstage here this week as the veteran troubadour Luka Bloom — 36 years into an honored career that shows no signs of slowing — plays Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) on Tuesday at 7 p.m., with Birdie Busch opening.
Bloom’s 11th album “11 Songs” is reaping the same sort of raves as the Guggenheim Grotto’s albums. Born Kevin Barry Moore to a musical Irish family (what other kind is there?), Bloom began touring with older brother Christy Moore at 14 and renamed himself — literally while flying from Ireland to his first American visit — to establish his own reputation: Luka from the Suzanne Vega song, Bloom after Leopold Bloom, the protagonist in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
Bloom has become a folk-pop protagonist in his own right, writing in various styles and covering a wide range of songs by others including LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” on his “Acoustic Motorbike” album” a handful of releases ago.
Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $30. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
The Caffe is busy all weekend with rock- and jazz-trained Americana multi-instrumentalist Rick Rourke and his five-piece band Lost Wages playing on Friday, Boston-based roots-music sextet Session Americana on Saturday, and rock troubadour Travis Gray on Sunday.
Rourke and the boys hit the downbeat on Friday at 7 p.m. Admission is $15, free with a $30 ArtsPass to Saratoga’s weekend-long, third annual ArtsFest (100 events in more than 50 Saratoga Springs venues). Visit www.saratogaartsfest.org for information.
The same deal applies to Session Americana on Saturday at 7 p.m.: $15, or free with an ArtsPass. The members of Session Americana have played with troubadours Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna, and the Boston cult-rock faves Treat Her Right.
Travis Gray fronted Albany rockers the Loyalty for a few years before going solo, and he’s still just 20. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $12, $10 for Caffe members.
RHYTHM ON THE RIDGE
Maple Ski Ridge (2725 Mariaville Rd., Rotterdam) hosts its “Rhythm on the Ridge” music festival on Saturday at 10 p.m. — rain date: Sunday — with a stellar cast of local acoustic performers plus food and crafts.
The performers: Flood Road, the Ramblin Jug Stompers, Three Quarter North, the Sweet Cider Trio, Cavanaugh & Kavanaugh, Tom Keller, Technicolor Trailer Park, The Stoddard Hollow String Band, Emerald Dawn, Happy Balky And The Good Livin’, the Hill Hollow Band, Fairview Avenue, the Bentwood Rockers, Kevin Wayne, Larry Meyerhoff & Bailey Quinn, and Roland “The Bard” Vinyard. Admission is $10, fans under 12 are free.
Click here to read Brian McElhiney’s story for more details
RANKIN & TAYLOR, R.I.P
Those shows are all good news, but the bad news is just awful: the deaths of pop-jazz singer Kenny Rankin and blues-shouter Koko Taylor.
Rankin died of lung cancer in Los Angeles on Sunday at 69, just as he began preparing a new album with producer Phil Ramone. The late, great jazz saxophonist Stan Getz once called Rankin “the horn with a heart,” and Rankin himself told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, “Above all, I’m a jazz singer who likes to mess with the melody.”
When the Beatles were inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, they asked Rankin to represent them. His versions of their songs are stunning fusions: sturdy melodic structures, liberated with soaring improvisational freedom. When he opened for Bonnie Raitt at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the early 1970s, she had no chance at all: He absolutely stole the show.
Taylor died in Chicago last Wednesday, June 3, of complications from recent surgery to repair a gastrointestinal bleed. She may be the most honored blueswoman of all time and deservedly so. A sharecropper’s daughter, she eased into the Chicago blues-club circuit first as a fan, then as a fire-throated vocalist of irresistible force.
She seemed weakened by illness when she played here last year on an all-women blues bill in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. The voice seemed weak, anyway; but her spirit shone, cutting the night like a lighthouse beam. She had reportedly recovered much of her sound by the time she sang recently in at the Cook Convention Center Memphis where she won her 29th Blues Music Award, more than any other artist.
Rankin sang like the soft whisper of a bird’s wing flying near by; Taylor howled like a blast furnace, right in your face — and we may never hear voices like theirs again.
A NICE CORRECTION
My friend and colleague Greg Haymes, formerly of the Times Union and now co-proprietor with wife Sara Ayers of the wonderful Web site www.nippertown.com on almost all things artistic, sent me a typically gentle correction to my June 4 column.
“Good column, as always,” he kindly wrote, “especially the Paul’s Mall memories — where I first saw the Persuasions.
“Regarding Pearl Jam at RPI’s Houston Field House,” he continued; “it was indeed a mind blowing performance with Mr. Vedder scrambling up the banks of PA speakers and singing with total abandon. One of my favorite rock performances ever.”
However, he pointed out, “It was not on Feb. 9, 1991 (as I stated erroneously), as the band was still known as Mookie Blaylock at that time. And it was not on a bill with Public Enemy and Neil Young, although I would certainly pay big bucks to see an ear-opening show like that. It was rather on Nov. 5, 1991 on a bill with Smashing Pumpkins and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, both of whom paled in comparison to Pearl Jam’s adrenalized performance.”
Sorry, readers. And thanks, Greg.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]