Hats off to The Eighth Step for presenting fine folk music for 45 seasons — and celebrating its durability and range with a weekend full of shows.
Opening with rockers Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams (AKA, the Grand Slambovians) on Oct. 13 underlined the Step’s range!
On Friday, its Homecoming Concert features local favorites: Addie & Olin-Unleashed!, Annie & the Hedonists, Betty & the Baby Boomers, Lui Collins, Dan Einbender, Jeff Gonzales, the Harmonious Hogchokers, Jay Mankita, Rick Nestler, Roger Mock, Glenn Weiser and Cathy Winter.
On Saturday, its Anniversary Concert presents higher-profile national and regional artists, including the renowned Cris Williamson, the up-and-coming David Jacobs-Strain, million-mile troubadour Bob Franke, and John Kirk & Trish Miller, locals by ZIP code but national in talent.
Both Friday’s Homecoming Concert and Saturday’s Anniversary Concert start at 7 p.m. Admission to each is $28. Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204 or visit eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
A (NEW) PLACE FOR FOLK
There’s a new kid in town: A Place for Folk opens its first season on Saturday with the Chicago trio Sons of the Never Wrong at the same location as A Place for Jazz: the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.
Formed in Chicago in 1992, the Sons of the Never Wrong are Sue Demel, Bruce Roper and Deb Lader. They’ve released nine albums; “King Fisher King” celebrates their 20th anniversary.
Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $16, students with ID $14. Phone 377-0002 or visit www.aplaceforfolk.org.
A Place for Folk continues with Everest Rising on Jan. 4, Good for Her (Kate McDonnell; Nancy Walker, founding ex-member of Sons of the Never Wrong; and Rosanne Raneri) on Feb. 1, Anne Hills & Michael Smith on March 8, Jim Scott on April 5, and Cindy Mangsen & Steve Gillette on May 3.
BUSY CAFFE LENA
Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs also presents a full folk slate.
Actually older than The Eighth Step — which migrated from an Albany church basement through several other church locations and the Cohoes Music Hall before settling in at Proctors in Schenectady — Caffe Lena has been at the top of narrow stairs at 47 Phila St. since Lena Spencer founded it in 1961.
On Friday, The Wiyos headline; Ana Egge opens at 7 p.m. The Wiyos look backward to the 1930s and beyond, but they play old-time music with right-now charisma and thematic sophistication. They built their new album “Twist” on themes from “The Wizard of Oz.” Featured in the BBC TV documentary “Folk America-Hollerers, Stompers and Old-Time Ramblers,” they also toured for seven weeks with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, at Dylan’s invitation.
Steve Earle produced Egge’s new album “Bad Blood” and says she “sings like she’s telling us her deepest, darkest secrets.”
Admission to The Wiyos and Ana Egge on Friday is $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
On Saturday, the Caffe presents “A Night of Murder Ballads” — an all-star Caffe benefit. This one combines the talents of troubadours Michael Eck, the evening’s host; Addie & Olin Unleashed!; the Lost Radio Rounders (celebrating their new album “Heaven’s Radio”); Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys; Greg Clarke; the Broken String Band; and Roland and Janet Vinyard. Songs of crime and craziness combine with special desserts and surprises. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $20.
On Sunday, the Sons of the Never Wrong head north after opening the season at A Place for Folk on Saturday, to headline at Caffe Lena with former member Nancy Walker opening at 7 p.m. Admission is $16 in advance and $18 at the door.
LOWE AND HEARTLESS
British troubadour Jez Lowe returns on Saturday at 8 p.m. for his annual visit to Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville). Lowe has released five solo albums and 11 with his band the Bad Pennies, and he’s a featured artist on BBC’s “The Radio Ballads.” Admission is $20, $5 for children 12 and under. Phone 765-2815 or visit www.oldsongs.org.
Not to be confused with James McMurty’s band of the same name, the Heartless Bastards (originally from Cincinnati but now based in Austin, Texas, like McMurtry’s Heartless Bastards: got it?) rock tonight at the Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Route 146, Clifton Park).
These Heartless Bastards’ new album, “Arrow,” elevates them into the exalted company of Wussy, the Drive-By Truckers, Visqueen and Niko Case’s crew — great female-featuring or female-fronted rock bands. The Heartless Bastards orbit around the songs and etch-steel-with-tenderness voice of Erika Wennerstrom, but adding second guitarist Mark Nathan fills out their sound beautifully.
In addition to releasing “Arrow,” the Heartless Bastards have played star-making spots on “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Conan” and at Rolling Stone magazine’s party at SXSW.
The Heartless Bastards play tonight at 8 p.m. at the Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Route. 146, Clifton Park). The Future Brides, and Northern Faces, open. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $17. Phone 371-0012 or visit www.upstateconcerthall.com.
Connecticut jam rockers Max Creek host a “Haunted Halloween Weekend Bash” at the Fort William Henry Hotel (48 Canada St., Lake George). Max Creek has jammed through more than 3,000 shows in 40 years, opening the door for such younger bands as Phish and moe. The recently reunited Conehead Buddha opens Friday’s show and Dr. Jah & the Love Prophets open on Saturday. Doors open both nights at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 either night, $40 for both, with lodging extra. Phone 668-3081 or visit www.fortwilliamhenry.com or www.maxcreek.com.
The Utica jam band Floodwood headlines a Halloween Party next Wednesday at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) with the Sunny Side of the Street Band opening at 9 p.m. This progressive string band — bluegrassers who rock, or rockers who can really pick — made its debut at moe.’s annual late-summer festivity moe.down, and it comprises moe. members drummer Vinnie Amico and guitarist Al Schnier, plus the versatile multi-instrumentalists Jason Barady, Nick Piccininni and Zachary Fleitz, from Woodenspoon. Tickets are $14. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.