Strummed or picked, plugged in or not, guitars rule.
Soft-spoken, loud-playing giants team up at The Egg tonight in Meeting of the Spirits; the 75-year-old John McLaughlin’s final U.S. tour. Explorer/virtuoso McLaughlin (Miles Davis’s pioneering fusion band, the explosive Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Indian raga-inspired Shakti and many one-off combos) and flexible team-player opener Jimmy Herring (a tasteful blues-based riffer and co-star of jam crews the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Allman Brothers Band, Dead survivors’ bands and Widespread Panic) will lead their own bands, then close the show together.
McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension band features Gary Husband, keyboards (sole holdover from McLaughlin’s band at The Egg in 2007); Etienne M’Bappe, bass; and Ranjit Barot, drums. Herring’s Invisible Whip crew is Jeff Sipe (aka Apt Q258), drums; Matt Slocum, keyboards; Kevin Scott, bass; and Jason Crosby, keyboards and violin. 7 p.m. $49, $39. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Also tonight, Scott Sharrard returns with his Brickyard Band to the Cock N’ Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Rd., Galway). Lead guitarist of the Gregg Allman Band, Sharrard started leading his own crew long before Allman died last May; he played a few shows hereabouts after Allman cancelled a Times Union Center show with ZZ Top. 7:30 p.m. $50, buffet and show. 518-882-6962 www.thecocknbull.com
Like Herring, guitarist Steve Kimock played with Dead survivors’ bands before starting his own: Steve Kimock & Friends, playing Friday at The Egg. Kimock also co-starred in the Psychedelic Guitar Circus with Henry Kaiser and Freddy Roulette, and on Bruce Hornsby albums and tours. He’s a versatile virtuoso, confidently riffing prog-rock, basic blues, pastoral country, busy funk and jazz. His “Friends” band includes son John Morgan Kimock, drums; Andy Hess (ex-Black Crowes, ex-Gov’t Mule), bass; and Leslie Mendelson, vocals and keyboards. Their “Satellite City” album is a wide-ranging knockout. 8 p.m. $29.50
On Saturday, veteran Canadian whisper-rockers Cowboy Junkies take over at the Egg. With the same Timmins-siblings-plus lineup (Margo, vocals; Michael, guitar; and Peter, drums; and bassist Alan Anton) as in their late 80s area debut at QE2, they’ve played every club and festival here, often with guest players. They always enchant with articulate, elegant songs, mostly quiet but sometimes jam-raucous. Their new four-CD box set “Notes Falling Slow,” an apt description, spiffs up and collects their best 2000’s albums, plus out-takes. 8 p.m. $38
Also Saturday, guitarist (what else?) John Primer brings his Real Deal Blues Band to the Upper Room (59 N. Pearl St., Albany). Primer honed his fiery south-side (of Chicago) style playing with giants Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Magic Slim & the Teardrops. He led the Theresa’s Lounge house band before hitting the road and the studio with his own crew, earning two Grammy nominations along the way. 7 p.m. $25 at tables, $15 standing, VIP booth $150. 518-694-3100 www.theupperroomalbany.com
Guitar is just part of what Canadian troubadour Bruce Cockburn brings to The Egg on Sunday. He’s mostly all about a low-pressure baritone and folk-pop songs of tuneful grace, mostly gentle as Cowboy Junkies’ fare. His wistful “Wonderin’ Where the Lions Are” and the cautionary “Lovers In a Dangerous Time” will likely stand out in this retrospective show with a full band, after some solo shows hereabouts. 7 p.m. $34.50, $29.50
If King Crimson were paid by the note at The Egg Wednesday and Thursday, tickets would cost way, way more.
This beloved ever-changing band came at fusion from the prog-rock side of the fence while Miles and McLaughlin got there from jazz-land. Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King” opened as many ears as Miles’ “Bitches Brew” and the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “The Inner Mounting Flame.” The original King Crimson imploded almost immediately, leaving leader guitarist (of course!) Robert Fripp to shuffle lineups like a manager in the World Series and to conduct such curious experiments as a tapedeck-assisted solo in-store gig at Albany’s late lamented Just a Song. We’re still scratching our heads over that show/lecture/whatever, but also marveling at Fripp’s rejuvenating capacity (like Miles) and inventiveness as uncompromising as McLaughlin’s.
Through it all, fans have loved King Crimson: Maybe the angriest fans I’ve ever met drove from Syracuse to see them in a H.O.R.D.E. show at SPAC. Disappointed that a schedule shuffle put King Crimson onstage hours earlier than announced, those fans didn’t stay and see ANYBODY else on that strong festival lineup. They left in a huff — or was it a Camaro? — but I digress.
This typically powerful King Crimson, ninth lineup since 1968, is Robert Fripp, guitar (of course!); Tony Levin, bass; Jakko Jakszyk, guitar and vocals; Mel Collins, reeds; and drummers/multi-instrumentalists Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Reiflin. If John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring stuck around to jam with King Crimson, there wouldn’t be any notes left on earth for other musicians to play. 8 p.m. $89.50, $59.50, $49.50
Old-school rock ‘n’ roll fundamentalist JD McPherson returns to the Hangar (675 River St., Troy) Wednesday. Armed with fresh but vintage-sounding tunes from his new Nashville-made “Undivided Heart & Soul” album, the guitarist/singer/songwriter always delivers at the Hangar and often welcomes local hotrods onstage with his band. 8 p.m. $20. 518-272-9740 www.alehousetroy.com
Tolstoy wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” but this doesn’t explain the wonderfully odd (and vice versa) show last Saturday at The Egg.
This family is fractured but musically together: tough-witted, famously errant troubadour Loudon Wainwright III; his ex Suzzy Roche and their daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche; singer-songwriters all. Suzzy proudly whipped a photo of then-infant Lucy from her shoe to show me backstage at the RPI McNeil Room after an early 80s Roches show; now Lucy is taller than her mom, and sweeter-voiced — but I digress.
Deadpan as her mom, Lucy did most of the talking, bemoaning house-concert debacles, soliciting audience questions (fans wanted to know about the Roches playing “Saturday Night Live”), announcing her under-construction album would be “incredible, believe me” and claiming “Mexico will pay for it.” Once as Lucy sang solo, Suzzy feigned a nap at her feet, but the mother-daughter duo harmonized with genetic closeness, warbling like theremins in “M-Ego.” Suzzy muffed her piano part in “Jill of All Trades,” a tribute to her late sister Maggie, but Lucy’s voice redeemed it, and she gave Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” deep poignancy. Often-acerbic Suzzy shone in the surprisingly sincere “There’s a Guy.”
Wainwright made good on Lucy’s promise “My dad will come out and blow your minds,” mixing songs of decay and death, mostly, with readings from “Liner Notes,” a memoir of confessional candor and the same wit that delight or dismay in his songs. Now 71, he hears The Reaper’s footsteps clearly. His songs tuned us in to doom, too. Hard-won insight, fluently stated, softened the sting, some.
He covered Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” but mostly paged through his own songbook. He reached back to his birth family in “The Picture” (and a reading about his father), mourned his own failed families in song, but also offered reassurance in “Middle of the Night.” Lucy and Suzzy sang with him at the end. His encore with Suzzy of Marty Robbins’ “At the End of a Long Lonely Day” offered enough grief and despair for a Tolstoy novel. But they sang it beautifully, together. All three harmonized on his “When I’m At Your House,” a cracked mirror of domestic…what? Bliss? Not even close.