Does Maria Muldaur live here now?
I can imagine her singing blues duets with Rory Block in Chatham, or cooking something up in Saratoga with Tony Markellis, who plays with everybody, like she does.
She sang as one of the Sisters in Soul at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall with Bettye LaVette and Marcia Ball, and with both her Red Hot Louisiana Band and her Garden of Joy Jug Band several times at the Van Dyck. And I’m probably missing other shows with other bands that she’s played here.
Well, it’s happening again: On Sunday, Muldaur teams up with the sacred-steel-playing Campbell Brothers at Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) in a free show.
You know her, kind of — even if you only know “Midnight at the Oasis,” which she doesn’t have to sing any more to knock us out. Jazz saxophone great Benny Carter said after touring with her in the 1970s: “That woman can sing anything she wants to.”
So let’s talk about the Campbell Brothers, who play gospel-based energetic, bluesy music on instruments more closely associated with country. Robert Randolph may be the best known sacred steel virtuoso, but the Campbell Brothers aren’t far behind. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle rated them at No. 9 in its “Twenty Cool Things About Rochester” list, but I’d suggest an upgrade.
The band is somewhat elastic, but generally Chuck Campbell plays pedal steel, Darick Campbell plays lap steel, Philip Campbell plays electric guitar and bass and Carlton Campbell (Phil’s son) plays drums. Malcolm Kirby Jr. sometimes plays bass with the Campbells, who love playing with women singers including Denise Brown and Katie Jackson. Muldaur doesn’t need any help, but she likes to harmonize, so there may be some duets in Sunday’s free 7 p.m. show.
The show may be somewhat elastic, too. Here’s what I expect: The Campbell Brothers will start the show, invite Maria Muldaur to join them; then they’ll perform together, with some fluidity — solo spots, comings and goings — for the rest of the show.
And there’s more: Muldaur also sings on Aug. 3 with the late and very great Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band at his Woodstock barn/studio. On Aug. 28, she swings back around here with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band 50th Anniversary Reunion (co-starring ex-husband Geoff Muldaur) to play The Egg.
Five (5!) Banjos
When the banjo player realized he’d left his car unlocked, he panicked and ran back. But it was too late: Somebody had opened the door and — oh, NO! — left another banjo in there.
OK, no more cruel banjokes. The “Five Strings, Five Pickers: Banjo Masters in the Round” show on Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). is serious business. It’s Bob Altschuler (13 Feet of Bluegrass and Dyer Switch), Hilary Kostanoski-Hawke (M Shanghai Stringband and other Brooklyn groups), David Kiphuth (Saratoga clawhammer and bluegrass specialist), Lorraine Lee Hammond (with bonus banjoist husband Bennett Hammond — disregard the two-banjos joke, above) and Jerry Oland (elder statesman of this all-star crew). Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $18, $16 for members, $9 for children. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
Helping WEXT celebrate six years on the air, Valentine’s presents Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned on Friday and Pete Donnelly (ex-NRBQ, forever with the Figgs — 25 years, so far) on Saturday. Ray Murray and the Bomb Squad open for Sgt. Dunbar while Bear Grass and Olivia Quillio open for Donnelly. (See Brian McElhiney’s story on the Bomb Squad on D4)
Playing with his solo band the Wise Easy — drummer Fred Berman (Amos Lee’s band) or James Ball (the Excerpts), bassist Tony Reyes (Cee-Lo Green) and Donnelly playing guitar — Donnelly has plenty of tunes.
Apart from playing powerful bass and singing like a deep angel, sometimes with issues, Donnelly contributed numerous cool songs to NRBQ in his five years there. He released the fine solo albums “When You Come Home” last year and “Face the Bird” more recently — along with some Figgs projects. Both WEXT celebration shows this weekend at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) are at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for each. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.
Road trips & shortcuts
Fill your tank, take your pick. Superb singer-songwriters Mary Chapin Carpenter and Marc Cohn play the Mahaiwe (14 Castle St., Great Barrington, Mass.) tonight at 8. Tickets: $83-45. Doo-wop reconstructionists the Manhattan Transfer sing there on Saturday, same time. Tickets: $75-35. 413-528-0100 or www.mahaiwe.org.
The wonderfully eccentric Andrew Bird — draw a musical map and he’s played everywhere on it — plays both tonight and Friday at 9 p.m. at the Bearsville Theater (291 Tinker St., Woodstock). The simply wonderful Tift Merritt opens. Tickets: $40. 845-679-4406 or www.bearsvilletheater.com.
The Steve Miller Band plays Tanglewood (297 West St., Lenox, Mass.) on Monday at 7 p.m. Yeah, he’s the space cowboy, the gangster of love … a smoker and a midnight toker. Miller leads one of the most solid and durable bands around, and his hits stand up even after being classic-rock-radio’ed to death. Tickets: $79.50-$25.50. 888-266-1200 or www.bso.org.
What does it mean that SoundScan reported that mid-2013 sales of CDs dropped 14.2 percent from last year, digital albums jumped 6.3 percent but individual digital tracks dropped 2.3 percent — and vinyl albums jumped 33.5 percent?!?
Well, in Mark Twain’s reliability hierarchy of lies, damn lies and statistics — in descending order of credibility — the baseline for vinyl is obviously way below that of CDs. But something is happening here that any vinyl fan might salute. By cranking it up.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.