Diego Garcia: Does the guy live here now?
The love-song singer-songwriter headlined LarkFEST last September, returned to play WAMC’s The Linda this January and comes back around to play Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) in a free show on Sunday.
Diego Garcia may be the biggest name since Esperanza Spalding, Alejandro Escovedo, NRBQ or King Sunny Ade to play this world-music-focused series. He qualifies — born in Detroit to Argentinian parents. As it happens, he shares his name with both another musician and with what Wikipedia calls “a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean; it is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).”
He joked to the Philadelphia Daily News that he plans to record with the other Diego Garcia; he and the atoll were a clue on “Jeopardy!”; and his music sounds at times subequatorial.
Inspired by the young Julio Iglesias (who he compares to the young Neil Diamond), then by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, Garcia sings with unerring tightrope balance between candor and grace. And he writes from an obsessive lover’s torment and joy, naming his album and its keystone song “Laura” for his on-and-off girlfriend while he fronted New York rockers Elefant.
That Laura is now his wife and the mother of his young daughter suggests the power of this mostly sweet music in courtship scenarios.
Garcia told the Philadelphia newspaper: “Besides inspiring the songs, she’s the one who inspired me to grow up — it took me four or five years to get to that place emotionally — she’s everything: why I wrote the music, why I made the record, who I am.” The record’s played-everywhere single “You Were Never There” was his second encore at WAMC in January, after Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” He covered a Kinks’ obscurity midset.
Brian McElhiney reported in these pages that: “Throughout, Garcia would strut between band members, holding his acoustic [guitar], occasionally kneeling before one of the soloists in awe. He had plenty of opportunities, especially from [Spanish guitarist Zeke] Zima, whose crisp playing in ‘Separate Lives’ made the song one of the evening’s early highlights. [Daniel] Bensi fired back with a great cello lead to close out ‘Rose and Wine,’ receiving thunderous applause from the nearly full crowd.”
Greg Haymes reported in Nippertown and the Times Union that Garcia claimed at WAMC that this was his first show in Albany — “the first one you’ll remember, anyway: You guys were sooooooo drunk at LarkFEST.” Haymes also noted that Garcia’s band — “an excellent quartet of musicians who supplied a fluid but firm foundation” — included drummer Zeke Hutchins, Tift Merritt’s husband. Garcia’s publicist said the band on Sunday will feature those same players plus a bassist and an electric guitarist.
All this by way of saying that here comes a giant pop star in the making, playing our hometown freebie series in a beautiful park. He reportedly plays “Late Show With David Letterman” shortly after playing Music Haven.
The compatibly Latin-influenced area favorites singer Taina Asili and guitarist Gaetano Vaccaro open the 7 p.m. show. Remember, as Music Haven chief Mona Golub says, all the seats are free.
Words and Music
Loudon Wainwright III sings tonight at 8 p.m. at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson).
He’ll sample songs from his nearly two dozen albums — he calls his new four-CD, one-DVD retrospective “40 Odd Years” — but he’s likely to concentrate on new tunes on aging and mortality from his new album “Older Than My Old Man Now.”
The most durable, and least sentimental of the 1970s “new Dylans,” Wainwright wrote the album on recognizing he had lived longer than his father, magazine columnist Loudon Wainwright Jr. Google this Wainwright (III) and he pops up far down the list, after his more-famous son Rufus, who sings along on “The Days That We Die.” The song follows an essay by Wainwright Jr., read by III, so it collects all three generations.
Wainwright III is unflinchingly honest about himself, musically unadventurous but solid, and ambush-hilarious so the saddest observations bring big punch lines, and vice versa. He’s a wise — and wise-ass — WASP-y Woody Allen, with a guitar.
Tickets are $30. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
Master of Slide Guitar
Going to see Wainwright tonight? Might as well get a room: Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth plays Club Helsinki Friday at 9 p.m. The Jim Keller Band opens.
Eric Clapton calls Landreth “probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and also one of the most advanced.” Landreth’s roots are in the blues and Cajun, but his musical wings spread wide through jazz, pop and world music. His 11th album “Elemental Journey” is an ambitious all-instrumental collection featuring a string orchestra and fellow guitarists Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson and Vince Gill. Onstage — usually with a fleet and muscular trio — Landreth doesn’t need any help from any other guitar players: He plays enough for about three guys.
Tickets are $25 advance, $30 on Friday.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.