Neko Case totally had me, way before I saw her cry on Youtube as the late, great Jesse Winchester sang beside her on Elvis Costello’s TV show.
This reminded me, again, that every musician starts as a music fan and the good ones stay that way; and that some of the musicians other musicians most admire don’t get the admiration of the general public.
Certainly true of Winchester, it’s less true of Case, whose last album, “Middle Cyclone,” and new Grammy-nominated “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight the More I Love You,” both topped the indie album charts.
She returns to The Egg on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. when the Dodos (Meric Long and Logan Kroeber) open.
I think she had me the first time I heard her voice onstage; She’s a velvet trumpet. At The Egg in February 2008, Case was road-testing tunes she’d soon record for “Middle Cyclone,” songs so new they hadn’t settled into names yet.
Her own name had only gradually emerged from her early gigs in Pacific Northwest bands the Del Logs, the Propanes, Cub, Maow and most famously the New Pornographers. Leaving Seattle for Chicago, and collaborations for the independence of making her own music, under her own name, Case seems to have learned rich secrets from every experience, every style she sampled, making music with others.
You can hear in her music everything from pedal-to-the-metal punk, to country for real (a la Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Hazel Dickens, Dolly Parton) to folk purity (a la prime Judy Collins or Joni Mitchell.)
Case’s powerful, clear voice has carried her through all these explorations, with never a false step melodically or insincere lyric delivery. In short, she is a musical instrument of compelling force and a first-class artistic mind of fearless expressiveness.
The secret of her voice, though — and the uniqueness of her style — is that she can address pain, fear, confusion, loneliness and desperation without ever sounding a bit less than beautiful.
Admission for Neko Case, and the Dodos, on Wednesday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) is $35. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.
Pianist Lincoln Mayorga returns tonight to Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady) with singer-wife Sheri Bauer-Mayorga in “American Snapshots: Two Hundred Years of American Song.”
In January, they performed a compelling Gershwin tribute here; their new performance spans a wider range of musical flavors; what Tony Bennett calls “the great American songbook.” Bassist Otto Gardner and drummer Ted MacKenzie will play expert accompaniment. Their retrospective shows have been likened to a Ken Burns documentary. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $25. 346-6204 www.proctors.org.
Also tonight and just a few steps away in Proctors Underground, the Eighth Step presents satirical singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman, a sharp-eyed, sharp-witted observational musical comic whose Blue Dot Tour might feature such topical songs as “The Faucet’s On Fire!” and “I Want a Marriage Like They Had in the Bible.”
A sort of Californian Kinky Friedman, Zimmerman has said, “as long as there's poverty, war, bigotry, ignorance, greed, lust and paranoia, I've got a career.” Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $24, $30 front and center.
On Friday, a few blocks from Proctors, the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) presents the Tom Wopat Trio. Yep, THAT Tom Wopat, from Dukes of Hazard — but more recently from Broadway and cabaret stages, with Tony nominations to his credit. Wopat’s new album, “I’ve Got Your Number,” displays sincere musical ambition and accomplished interpretive and vocal skills. Show times are 7 and 9:30 p.m. Admission is $30, advance; $35 on Friday. 348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com.
On Saturday, A Place For Folk (Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.) presents a special added show: the Pete Seeger Birthday Party Sing-Along Concert.
Staged extra-early — 7 p.m. to 8:30, so families can attend, the show is hosted by Wanda Fischer, singer and host of WAMC-FM’s “Hudson River Sampler.” Performers include George Ward, Addie & Olin Unleashed, Mark Smith & Sybil Allyson of Roots of Change, and Randy Jennings of Thirteen Feet of Bluegrass.
They’ll sing Pete’s songs, from folk antiques that inspired him early on to Weavers songs to ones he sang while blacklisted and songs from later when his career resumed.
Admission is free, but this birthday celebration is a benefit for the Environmental Clearing House — perfect tribute to Pete the environmentalist — so donations are welcome. So is singing along: Long before he stopped performing, Pete told me he couldn’t sing anymore but he kept going onstage because he could still make others sing. How fine to keep that going. 372-0002 www.aplaceforfolk.com.
MISSING JAZZ FEST
OK, who would I go see if I were magically whisked off to Jazz Fest in New Orleans?
Today: Rosie Ledet, Marcia Ball and Lyle Lovett because they’re always great; and Chegadao, the Forgotten Souls Brass Band and Tizumba because I’ve never heard of them.
Tomorrow: Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Alejandro Escovedo, Irma Thomas, the Hot 8 Brass Band and Nicholas Payton for the first reason; the Wave, Governor Reiss and Collage 3 for the second.
Saturday: consistent stars Tommy Malone, Allen Toussaint, Jon Batiste and Bruce Springsteen; also unknowns-to-me Nick Sanders, Cha Wa, Micah McKee, and Alexis and the Samurai.
Sunday: Trombone Shorty, Aaron Neville, Glen David Andrews, Dumpstaphunk and George Porter Jr. in the Always Great bracket; Bobby Womack, Feufollet and Harmonouche because I’ve never seen them — and Los Po-Boy-Citos, because I’d just have to see what Mexican musicians make of New Orleans music.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]