The sad news of longtime NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino’s way-too-early death hit many of us hard, and some fellow fans kindly reached out to me.
A Schenectady fan named Mike, a guy I always see with his wife, Deb, at all the cool shows, wrote me: “Tommy was gentle and kind and would never refuse a ‘Meow’ (Tom’s favored greeting). Being a fan, I had the opportunity to talk to Tom on numerous occasions and he was always gracious, always approachable and willing to spend a few minutes.” Mike also wrote, “I still have the sticks that he gave me after a set at the old Metro in Saratoga. I asked for them for my son but they were really for me!”
Meanwhile, NRBQ is on a road trip, led by founder/pianist Terry Adams, with Conrad Choucron on the drum throne, bassist Pete Donnelly and guitarist Scott Ligon. They played in Virginia and in New York City last week; and they’re in Annapolis tonight at the Ram’s Head; at the Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore, New York, tomorrow; at FTC Stage One in Fairfield, Conn., on Saturday; and at the Sellersville Theater in Pennsylvania on Sunday.
Now, didn’t this happen years ago? Rolling Stone recently reported that digital music sales topped hardware music sales for the first time in 2011. I thought that must have happened years ago. Quoting Neilsen SoundScan, the Stone reported that digital sales were up by 8.4 percent last year to 50.3 percent of total sales, while physical album sales dropped by 5 percent.
Adele sold 1.8 million digital copies of her “21” album out of 5.8 million copies, total. Digital album buyers favored — in this order — rock, alternative, R&B, rap, metal, and country. However, single song digital sales broke down differently by genre: 24 percent pop, 23.9 rock and R&B/hip-hop 20.6 percent.
Apart from the awkward, apples-to-oranges category comparisons in the breakdown of album sales and singles by genres, other questions occur to me: Wouldn’t you think country would chart stronger among the albums? Wouldn’t you want to know how or if vinyl albums compare these days?
And why not, in this odd non-winter? Even without following NRBQ around — which I recommend, actually — some fine shows are just a snow-free (for now) road trip away.
Cruise to Northampton, Mass., and, as usual, interesting music awaits.
First, to the Iron Horse (20 Center St.), which hosts a double-header on Friday: Steve Forbert at 7 p.m. and the Grateful Dread at 10.
Forbert is prolific these days, releasing a new studio album of fresh tunes last year and a two-CD live set recently. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 413-586-8686 or visit www.iheg.com.
The Grateful Dread play Dead songs, reggae style. I love Dred Zeppelin — and so does Robert Plant, by the way — which does the same thing to Led Zeppelin songs and employs a fat-Elvis impersonator to sing lead. But I had big doubts when the Grateful Dead Hour radio show introduced the Grateful Dread on a recent road trip: How good could this be? Really damn good, I quickly discovered as they tore into “Franklin’s Tower” with as much muscle as the Dead laid on it in the 1970s and some Caribbean sunshine rhythm to boot. Grateful Dread tickets at the Iron Horse are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
The Tierney Sutton Band takes over on Saturday for a 7 p.m. show, probably determined to prove they’ve earned their third consecutive Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album for “American Road.” The band is both unusually good and unusual: It boasts two bassists, drums and piano, and makes all musical and business decisions together. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 at the door.
At the Calvin Theater around the corner (19 King St.), Big Head Todd and the Monsters play on Friday at 8 p.m. The versatile Colorado-based quartet exploded from a hiatus with “Rocksteady” in 2010 and “100 Years of Robert Johnson” last year. Zach Heckendorf opens. Tickets are $35 and $25; available at the same number and website as the Iron Horse.
At Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson), troubadour Teddy Thompson — he of the famous parents (Richard Thompson and Linda Peters Thompson) and friends (Rufus Wainwright, Jenni Muldaur) — introduces his new album “Bella” on Friday. Recorded with his touring band, it advances his avowed favorite style: “a pretty melody with a twist.” Show time is 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 on Friday. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
Only a few general admission seats ($25) remain at the Bearsville Theater (291 Tinker St., Woodstock) for rock singer-songwriter Aimee Mann’s show on Saturday. A star since she led ’Til Tuesday in the 1980s, Mann has a new album “Smilers” and lots of songs from previous ones. Show time is 9 p.m. when Ivan & Ilyosha open. But doors open at 8 p.m. and this one will be crowded. Phone 845-679-4406 or visit www.bearsvilletheater.com.
Mighty Mavis Staples sings at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (14 Castle St., Great Barrington, Mass.) on Sunday at 7 p.m. One of the great voices in soul, gospel, R&B — well, in music — Staples never stopped singing even when the spotlight left her. Now that the attention is back, she is earning it every night. Tickets are $70 and $45, $40 for members. Phone 413-528-0100 or visit www.mahaiwe.org.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.