Tonight, the cozy Ale House expands its reputation for extra-cool shows, raising the ante by presenting Texas troubadour Joe Ely and expanding into the Hangar, an annex across the street. The Ale House is a classic corner bar with a rock ’n’ roll back room, and a better kitchen than most such places boast. The Hangar (675 River St., Troy) has more space and, being relatively new, an untested vibe.
Ely, a classic rocker who covers Texas tunesmithing from border to border, is exactly who you want to christen your venue. In shows at every rocking bar around here, Ely has aimed between the ditches with over-the-speed-limit rockers or mused in quieter, poetic, around-the-campfire moods on thoughts dark and deep or sweet and low. He has, and he is, the whole package. But we haven’t really seen the full dimension of his talent onstage lately, as he’s appeared here as one-third of the Flatlanders and one-quarter of a “guitar-pull” songwriter package co-starring Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and Guy Clarke.
Tonight at the Hangar, it’s Joe Ely, full strength.
Scalewise, by the way, this reverses Ely’s Albany visit on May 9, 1981. First he played one of the best shows I ever saw at JB Scott’s — the large, late, lamented Central Avenue bar — with a burly band featuring future Dixie Chicks producer Lloyd Maines (also father of Natalie), accordionist Ponty Bone, saxophonist Smokey Joe Miller, guitarist Jesse Taylor, bassist Michael Robberson and drummer Robert Marquam. Hot from opening shows for the Clash, they smoked the place. Hours later, night-capping fans found Joe drinking with fans in a booth at Pauly’s Hotel a few doors away — like the Ale House, a corner bar with a rock ‘n’ roll back room.
Now Ely helps the Ale House crew widen its horizon, into a bigger venue. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $25. 272-9740 alehousetroy.com.
Jazz and more jazz
Guitarist Michael-Louis Smith wraps up the season on Friday at A Place for Jazz (First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.), leading his quintet. A star of the area jazz scene, Smith earned his master’s degree in music at SUNY Purchase, then moved to New York City, where he leads several combos.
On Friday, he plays with saxophonist Stacy Dillard, pianist Victor Gould, bassist Diallo House and drummer Ismail Lawal.
A trained virtuoso with a wide vocabulary and technique to burn, Smith is also one of the most supportive accompanists among current bandleader/composers. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15. 393-4011 www.aplaceforjazz.org.
Tonight, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa brings his Afri-Lectric Sextet to Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) for a tribute to Miles Davis’ landmark “Kind of Blue” album. A musical United Nations, Sosa’s band is German trumpeter Joo Kraus, Cuban saxophonist and flute player Leandro Saint-Hill, bassist Childo Thomas from Mozambique and Americans Peter Apfelbaum (saxophones) and Marque Gilmore (drums). Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $30. 828-4800 www.helsinkihudson.com.
On Saturday, saxophonist Jeff Nania leads his quintet — singer Kevin Green, bassist Lou Smaldone, pianist Nick Lue and drummer Dave Berger — into the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady). Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is just $5. 348-7999, www.vandycklounge.com.
Blues and more blues
On Friday, Mulebone returns to the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady) where they played a sold-out, super show last year. Like banjoist Otis Taylor, but few others, Mulebone shakes up the blues with ingenious instrumentation and arrangements without diluting the depth and desperation of this venerable form.
Mulebone is guitarist and singer Hugh Pool and John Ragusa playing flute, conch shell, Jew’s harp, cornet and tin whistle, and singing, too. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $28; $50 for front and center. 473-1703 or 346-6204, www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
On Saturday, Caffe Lena favorite Roy Book Binder returns with his patented take on blues of all vintages, territories and flavors — all delivered with as much invention as authenticity. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $18 advance, $20 at the door. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org.
As I do every Veterans Day, I dug out my Navy dog-tags on Monday morning, to carry them with me, to remember. As I pocketed them, I thought again of John Fogerty’s show at the Times Union Center on Sunday night.
He had saved “Fortunate Son” for late in his perfectly played, smartly paced and spectacular greatest-hits retrospective. He performed everything skillfully, but “Fortunate Son” meant something special to him. He sang it fiercely, its anger still fresh. The song has come to be as misunderstood as Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” a populist broadside that jingoists claimed as a flag-waver.
At first the fans around me on Sunday seemed to be responding to the sonic bravado of “Fortunate Son,” missing its underdog outrage. The video behind Fogerty soon clarified his meaning. Protesters against the Vietnam War marched and waved signs, including one that Fogerty held onscreen longer than the others: “No More Rich Men’s Wars.” This made people uncomfortable: cheers died away, fists came down.
Like me, Fogerty is a veteran of the Vietnam era. Like me, he probably lost friends to that war. And, like Fogerty, I hate that we’ve been in two wasteful, mistaken rich men’s wars this century.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.