What’s in a name?
Well, two things, actually.
The name of a band may be no more than a franchise, like a fast-food place, where you know what’s on the menu but the players (on the grill or at the counter — or playing drums or keyboards) may be interchangeable and anonymous. Or it can signify a dynasty, like the Neville Brothers or the Marsalises of New Orleans — multigenerational musical families where heredity and shared experience combine in sometimes mysterious ways to carry talent through the gene pool.
Case in point: Justin Townes Earle at MASS MoCA and the Royal Southern Brotherhood at Club Helsinki, both on Saturday.
Earle is the 30-year-old singer-songwriter son of Steve Earle and is named for the elder Earle’s mentor, the late, great Townes Van Zandt. (Earle is also the brother of the gifted singer-songwriter Stacey Earle, and he is married to Allison Moorer, the sister of Shelby Lynne, but I digress.)
Justin Townes Earle has followed his father’s career path — that’s the good news — and emulated his troubles with various substances — and that particular bad news now seems behind both of them. How bad was it? Steve fired Justin from his own infamously hard-living touring band, the Dukes, for erratic drug-damaged performances.
Since getting his act together, Justin has recorded four albums of original songs and has often performed with his father. He’s a terrific guitarist and singer, where his dad is just OK at both; and he has inherited a good deal of his dad’s songwriting talent. Justin has a new album due later this month: “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now”; and his show should feature new songs a-plenty.
Show time for Justin Townes Earle at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center (1040 MASS MoCA Way) is 8 p.m. on Saturday when fellow troubadour Richard Buckner opens. Tickets are $22 in advance, $26 on Saturday. Phone 413-662-2111 or visit www.massmoca.org.
OK, who’s the Royal Southern Brotherhood?
With a name so grandiose, it better be somebody good, and it is. This all-star crew features singer-percussionist Cyril Neville, the youngest of the Neville Brothers; guitarist-singer Devon Allman, son of keyboardist-singer Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers; drummer Yonrico Scott of the Derek Trucks Band; guitarist-singer Mike Zito, with two solo albums (the latest is the award-winning “Pearl River”); and bassist Charlie Wooton of the Woods Brothers. Show time for the Royal Southern Brotherhood is 9 p.m. on Saturday at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson). Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
More family-related music happens here in coming weeks: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, son of jazz saxophone giant John Coltrane, on March 15 at the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose; the Jason Marsalis Vibes Band on March 16 at the Van Dyck; and The Egg just announced that Dweezil Zappa plays the music of his father, the late, great guitarist, composer and agent provocateur Frank Zappa on July 20.
Sounds o’ the Irish
Irish music happens here year-round, but the approach of St. Patrick’s Day brings more. A shamrock parade started with Celtic Crossroads last night at the Troy Saving Bank Music Hall, and now it speeds up.
Susan McKeown sings on Saturday at the Eighth Step Underground at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) with fellow troubadour Michael Brunnock opening at 7:30 p.m. A super-expressive vocalist with an exceptional presence onstage, McKeown has sung songs from her own dozen albums here in many area shows, plus collaborating with the late great Scots fiddler Johnny Cunningham in “Peter & Wendy,” his Celtic-folk re-imagining of Peter Pan. Tickets are $23 in advance, $25 at the door. Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204, or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
On Sunday, Irish rockers the Saw Doctors play the Calvin Theatre (19 King St., Northampton, Mass.) in a road-trip-worthy show that starts at 8 p.m. when the Lonesome Brothers open. Opening for the Waterboys’ 1988 tour made them stars and they’ve toured and recorded nonstop since. Tickets are $28.50. Phone 413-586-8686 or visit www.iheg.com.
On Wednesday, the Celtic Woman extravaganza visits Albany’s Palace Theater (19 Clinton Ave.), introducing new member Susan McFadden, a West End (London) musical theater vet. McFadden replaces Lisa Kelly who is expecting her fourth child. She joins Chloe Agnew, Mairead Nesbitt and Lisa Lambe in the new production “Believe” — also available on CD and DVD. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $63 and $33. Phone 465-3334 or visit www.palacealbany.com. Hats off to the Palace, by the way, for presenting three sold-out shows last week: Big Time Rush, Jane’s Addiction and moe.
Not surprisingly, there’s more Irish music coming up: Enter the Haggis on March 16 at The Egg, Susan McKeown and Michael Brunnock at MASS MoCA on March 16, and Gaelic Storm on March 22 at The Egg and March 23 at the Calvin Theatre.
Grainbelt claims to be the world’s laziest band, but they’re obviously exaggerating: They will introduce a new album, guest on another and play an acoustic show on Saturday at Caffe Lena.
Their own “A Distant Sound,” their second album, arrives this week; and so does “Chorus Vs. Solos,” an all-star benefit-tribute to Charlie Chesterman, of Scruffy the Cat, who’s battling cancer. Grainbelt contributes a cover of Chesterman’s “My Friend Ringo” to the album, and they may play it at the Caffe (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) on Saturday along with their own material. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
People who died
Thanks for that subhead to the late rocker/poet Jim Carroll who penned a song of that name.
-- Joe Thompson, 93, who kept the flame of Piedmont black string-band music alive and inspired the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are now doing that.
-- Davy Jones, 66, the Monkees singer, and before and after that, an actor and musician in his own right.
-- Red Holloway, 84, a durable, versatile but little-known saxophonist.
-- Ronnie Montrose, 64, a rock guitarist — mainly a sideman with Van Morrison, Edgar Winter and others, but sometime leader of his own band.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.