In honor of Bob Dylan — he turned 71 a week ago today and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday — let’s call this Jukebox “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Time was, The Egg and the Palace Theatre basically closed for the summer, Saratoga Performing Arts Center started up in mid-June or later and festivals were scarce. Also, many now-familiar venues hadn’t opened yet and Ernie Williams hadn’t become the most beloved performer on our scene.
Now, The Egg has Leon Redbone and the Psychedelic Furs this week (Click here for Redbone and here for Pysch Furs stories by Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney), Bonnie Raitt rolls into the Palace for her umpteenth show here, SPAC starts up on Friday with the Zac Brown Band, Gov’t Mule’s eighth Mountain Jam starts today at Hunter Mountain, shows are popping up everywhere else (including Caffe Lena, where Dylan played in 1962), and Ernie’s musician friends pay tribute Friday at Revolution Hall.
Let’s start there: The Ernie Williams Band, Bluz House Rockers, Captain Squeeze & the Zydeco Moshers and many special guests will jam Revolution Hall (425 River St., Troy) to honor Ernie, whose recent death surprised many, even at 87, as he had long since proved to be literally bullet-proof: I know, he showed me the scars. Doors open at 7 p.m. for what promises to be a loose but touching show, with a screening of “Park Bench Called Home,” Ernie’s last video. Phone 505-6541 or visit www.ErnieWilliamsRemembered.com.
Blueswoman Bonnie Raitt has built a high-quality, long-haul career her predecessors could only dream of, with albums, tours, awards and acclaim spanning decades. She returns to the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave. at North Pearl St., Albany) on Saturday with piano-powered troubadour Marc Cohn opening at 8 p.m. Raitt’s new album “Slipstream” is her bluesiest in years, and onstage she also dives deep into a rich songbook whose earliest entries date from the 1970s (her versions) and the 1920s (the originals). Tickets are $62 and $52. Phone 465-3334 or visit www.palacealbany.com.
Like Raitt, the generation-younger Zac Brown (born in 1978 between her sixth and seventh albums, “Sweet Forgiveness” and “The Glow” respectively) has won boatloads of awards, including the Best New Artist Grammy in 2010 though the burly, big-voiced Brown had actually been recording since 2004. Their first single, “Southern Fried,” describes the everything-from-Dixie style of this most modern (i.e., voraciously versatile) of current country bands. The Zac Brown Band kicks open the SPAC season Friday with Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan opening at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $59.50 and $29.50. Phone 584-9330 or visit www.livenation.com.
One of the biggest festivals in the east, Mountain Jam (Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl) rocks the Catskills starting today with music on two stages from 5:30 p.m. to past 2 a.m. Mountain Jam hits high gear Friday with music on four stages from late morning to early morning on Saturday and headline sets by Gov’t Mule (Mountain Jam’s house band), the Roots, and too many more to list here. It’s even busier on Saturday, sparked by a special tribute to the late, great Levon Helm; and Steve Winwood headlines on Sunday, wrapping up around 10:30 p.m.
Mountain Jam offers many ticket options, but some are sold out. Visit mountainjam.com.
New and old
Caffe Lena offers its usual blend of new and older this weekend. Young Canadian blues singer-pianist Treasa Levasseur brings in her trio tomorrow with the Sarah Blacker Duo opening at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. Veteran Texas troubadour Tish Hinojosa — multilingual and multifaceted — returns on Saturday for an 8 p.m. show. Admission is $18 in advance, $20 at the door. The Honeycutters from North Carolina take over on Sunday at 7 p.m. This highly touted band is a swirl of stringed instruments around core singer-songwriters Amanda Jane Platt and Peter James. Admission is $14 in advance, $16 at the door. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
Every international-class folksinger has played Caffe Lena since Bob Dylan played his first shows outside Greenwich Village there in 1962. Back then, The Sanctuary for Independent Media, WAMC’s The Linda, Bootlegger’s and Club Helsinki hadn’t opened yet — but they’re all active this week.
Guitarist in town
Coltrane-inspired jazz guitarist Tisziji Muñoz plays Friday at The Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 Sixth Ave. at 101st Street, Troy) with keyboardist John Medeski guesting in his quartet. (Medeski plays Mountain Jam tonight as part of the all-star combo Bustle in Your Hedgerow.) Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $10. Phone 272-2390 or visit www.mediasanctuary.org.
Women roots musicians rule at WAMC’s The Linda (a few years older than the Sanctuary, many years newer than Caffe Lena) this weekend; the bluegrass quintet Della Mae performing tonight in a show hosted by Dan Johnson and his Expert Sidemen, and Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem taking over on Saturday. Both shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 for Della Mae and $15 for Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 or visit www.wamcarts.org.
Even newer is Bootlegger’s on Broadway, the former Tosca Grille space (200 Broadway in Troy) where Rustic Overtones play on Saturday. These Maine rockers survived what they claim is one of the most contentious record label battles ever to release a new album, “Let’s Start a Cult.” Admission is $12 in advance, $15 on Saturday. Phone 874-4475 or visit www.bootleggersonbroadway.com.
Club Helsinki moved to Hudson (405 Columbia St.) from western Massachusetts only a few years ago. But such great performers as bassist Victor Wooten, playing there on Wednesday, have made it one of the Hudson Valley’s hottest venues. A founding member of Bela Fleck’s unprecedented Flecktones and guest with many other bands, Wooten — a bassist since age 5 — really comes into his own on his own.
His first local show outside the Flecktones was a thundering duo with drummer JD Blair, who is still with Wooten in a new band also featuring fellow bassists Anthony Wellington, Steve Bailey and Dave Welsh, plus drummer Derico Watson and singer Krystal Peterson. The Victor Wooten Band brings the funk to Club Helsinki on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
Mourning Doc, Dillard
I wish Jukebox could be all fun, all the time; but I have to mourn two late greats: flat-picking guitar genius Doc Watson and banjoist Doug Dillard. Playing until nearly 90, Doc cast a bigger, longer shadow, helping to popularize bluegrass by grounding tremendous technical skill in equally tremendous conviction and achieving a disarming simplicity even with exhilarating fast flurries of notes.
Last time I saw him play, at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall — a great place to hear him — he came on stage with just one guitar and not even so much as a glass of water. Then he sat and played and sang just so beautifully that he took us all home with him, to where music lived on porches and in pastures.
Doug Dillard died last week at 75. He played bluegrass with his brothers, and the group portrayed a bluegrass band called the Darlings on the Andy Griffith Show.
Dillard then teamed up with Gene Clark, the singer-songwriter who’d recently left the Byrds, and they formed a crisp, swinging band that recorded the first two completely great country-rock albums: “The Fantastic Adventures of Dillard and Clark” and “Through the Morning, Through the Night.”
I don’t know of any better music to play while cruising the western plains and mountains, and recommend that you try it. Both albums were re-issued a few years ago on one CD by Collector’s Choice, and it’s certainly one of mine.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.