After 15 Alejandro Escovedo shows, all at least good, I only saw the Texas rocker lead the same band twice by catching him with his Sensitive Boys within a few weeks last year at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, Mass., and at The Egg in Albany. The Sensitive Boys were unusually stable for Escovedo, who is restless and all about context and has led bands ranging from cozy duos to raucous big bands with strings.
On Friday at The Egg, he’ll lead some new Sensitive Boys with only bassist Bobby Daniel from last year’s tour, plus new guitarist Billy White (ex-Watchtower and Dokken) and new drummer Chris Searles (Joe Ely, Shawn Colvin, David Garza, Eliza Gilkyson, many more), replacing longtime stalwarts David Pulkingham and Hector Munoz, respectively.
The new Sensitive Boys debut on Escovedo’s new album “Big Station,” his 11th and maybe most stylistically diverse. Escovedo came up through punk rock but never completely lost track of his folkloric, bilingual Texas borderland roots, while wandering through British Invasion pop, various country and blues flavors through stints with the True Believers, Rank and File, Buick McKane and his own Orchestra.
It’s all in “Big Station” (except the real grandeur of the Orchestra), and it’s blended with typical confidence, conviction and force. It’s also united by a consistent songwriting vision (Escovedo with Chuck Prophet) and sound (by producer Tony Visconti).
The Ghost Wolves open for Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys at 8 p.m. This Austin duo of drummer Jonny Wolf and guitarist Carley Wolf has the same sparse format as the White Stripes or Black Keys, and a similar bluesy fierceness on their debut release “In Ya Neck.” Tickets are $29.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
It’s Bootsy, baby!
If saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins looks more like a jazz musician than anybody, Bootsy Collins looks more like a funk master of the bass than anybody.
Check Bootsy out at Alive at Five today and you’ll see everything about him is star-shaped: his bass, his sunglasses, his ego, his talent for the groove. And that’s all good. He’s entitled: He’s one of 16 members of Parliament-Funkadelic inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Before joining George Clinton’s many-ringed P-Funk circus, Bootsy had played in James Brown’s J.B.’s, his own sonic ambitions — to play bass like Jimi Hendrix played guitar — bumping up against Brown’s insistence on keeping it simple. Bootsy and the original J.B.s played on Brown’s hits “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” “Soul Power” and “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing.”
Things were way looser and more to Bootsy’s liking when he joined P-Funk in 1972, but Bootsy also almost simultaneously launched Bootsy’s Rubber Band, a groove machine deluxe. When Bootsy branches out, he branches way out: His collaborators include Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Deee-Lite, Buddy Miles, Buckethead, many rappers, Victor Wooten — even bluegrassers Del McCoury, Doc Watson and Mac Wiseman. He has released 23 albums as a leader since 1976; his most recent, “The Funk Capital of the World,” hit last year.
Garland Nelson’s muscular, locally based Soul Session opens for Bootsy Collins today at Alive at Five, playing in Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater in the Corning Preserve, or the Quackenbush Square parking lot behind the Albany Visitors Center on Broadway if it’s wet. Alive at Five shows are free.
Honoring Levon Helm
Rob Beaulieu leads his Stone Revival Band (featuring moe. drummer Vinnie Amico) and an all-star — really! — crew of top local performers in “Across the Great Divide: A Tribute to Levon Helm and The Band on Friday at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany).
“Across the Great Divide” also features Brian Mangini (Ominous Seapods and Raisinhead, another of Beaulieu’s bands), Chris Fisher (Conehead Buddha), Joe Daly (Super 400), Gene Sennes (the Decadent Royals), Jeff Nania and Phil Chow of the Chronicles, MotherJudge, Kim Buckley, Dan Johnson (Dan Johnson & the Expert Sidemen), Michael Eck, Eric Margan and too many more to list here.
Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $10 and proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.
Kinky at WAMC
Kinky Friedman grabbed the spotlight in a big way a few years ago by running for governor of Texas and more recently by publishing “The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts,” an off-center memoir co-authored by actor Billy Bob Thornton with a forward by Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob’s ex. Those fun-facts shouldn’t distract anyone from what he’s really about. Let me put it this way: His performance on “Austin City Limits” is the only one in the show’s history that was not broadcast because the content was so inflammatory.
Let’s see what happens — will he make it onto the air? — when he plays WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany) on Monday.
Kinky called his 1970s band the Texas Jewboys, wrote and sang such out-of-the-box songs as “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,” “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You,” “Sold American” and others that branded the Kinkster an equal opportunity offender.
The Tequila Mockingbirds open for Kinky Friedman on Monday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 or visit www.wamcarts.org.
Kinky will complete a run of Texas shows hereabouts: Alejandro Escovedo on Friday at The Egg, Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros at WAMC’s The Linda on Sunday, then the Kinkster there on Monday. Fellow Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard recommended Wilkins in his own show at the Linda recently, and I think we can believe him. Area omni-troubadour Michael Eck opens for Wilkins and company at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $15.
New Orleans update
If you thought I was done writing about Jazz Fest and New Orleans, so did I. But we were wrong. Remember that guy dressed like Satan outside Buffa’s Lounge? If you thought I was making it up, check the photo. David Roe, who leads the Royal Rounders, saw my story and emailed the photo. He said the car was a Pontiac, not an Olds, and the photo with my story on bars and sousaphones showed a prior version of his band.
Meanwhile, a former Rotterdam resident emailed me that the violinist in that photo is her son Thomas Neundel, who grew up in Schenectady and now makes his living playing street music in New Orleans.
There, now I think I’m done.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]