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Jukebox: World-music quintet at GE Theatre

Jukebox: World-music quintet at GE Theatre

Boston singer-songwriter Will Dailey is at Caffe Lena tonight
Jukebox: World-music quintet at GE Theatre
Will Dailey, a three-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter, returns to perform in the Spa City.
Photographer: Courtesy Caffe Lena

Music comes to us this week from compass/cultural points far and wide: Sudan via Brooklyn (Alsarah & the Nubatones); Boston via Farm Aid at SPAC (Will Dailey), Brit-folk guitar heaven via Scotland Yard (Richard Thompson); Saratoga Springs via, well, Saratoga Springs (the Figgs); Ireland via Britain and New England (John Whelan with Low Lily and (Katy McNally); Nashville via a Coen Brothers film (David Rawlings & Gillian Welch); outer space via a suitcase of junk (the Suitcase Junket); and the Mississippi Delta via DC and psychedelic California (Hot Tuna).

Musical migrations start tonight with Alsarah and the Nubatones, a world-music powerhouse quintet, in Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). The second of four Passport Series shows presented with Music Haven, this is advocacy music of heart, soul and beats. Alsarah and Nahid were born in Khartoum to human rights activist parents; the family arrived here, via Yemen, seeking political asylum, landing first in Boston then moving to Brooklyn.

Alsarah studied ethnomusicology and sang with various bands before forming the Nubatones with Nahid; their band is Mawuena Kodjovi, bass; Rami el Aaser, percussion; and Brandon Terzic, oud. Alsarah’s three albums with the Nubatones — the newest “Manara” (2016) means “lighthouse” — and her solo album “Aljawal” (2013) means “Eternal Traveler” — reflect the inspiration of timeless folkloric heroes Hamza El Din and Abd El Gadir Salim, plus 70s Sudanese pop and Brooklyn multi-cultural openness, with complex, long-line melodies, often in minor keys, and busy beats. 7:30 p.m. $25. 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org

Boston singer-songwriter Will Dailey returns to Saratoga Springs tonight, but playing cozy Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) rather than SPAC, where he played Farm Aid with Willie Nelson, Neil Young and others on his last visit here. A three-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter, Dailey just released “National Throat,” an album whose achievement matches its ambitious title. 7 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children

Friday, guitarist-singer-songwriter Richard Thompson — who works at the top of all three categories — returns to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Son of a Scotland Yard detective, Thompson nonetheless broke many musical rules, inventing a guitar style with bluesy depth and rocking force but with purely original elements. Three of his four most recent albums (of 30-plus, including Fairport Convention releases and one-off collaborations) are acoustic efforts, and so is this show. 8 p.m. $45. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org


It’s hard to believe the Figgs have played together for 30 years, especially since bassist Pete Donnelly still looks about 20. But the once-Saratoga Springs-based trio (none lives there now) returns in a homecoming show Friday at the Newberry Music Hall (388 Broadway, Saratoga Springs).

Formed in high school in 1987, they started playing Saratoga Springs and Albany bar gigs as the Sonic Undertones. They started recording soon thereafter; I have their earliest releases on cassettes. They have excelled in both quantity and quality ever since; like fellow former area club faves moe., they made some music on major labels.

The wonderfully named “Low-Fi at Society High” and “Hi-Fi Dropouts” (both 1994) were on Imago and “Banda Macho” (1996) was on Capitol. Also, their collaborations with Graham Parker hit on Bloodshot Records. In 2013, their song “Je T’Adore” sound-tracked a Lexus TV spot.

Diversity may be key to their longevity: The three Figgs – Donnelly, bass; Pete Hayes, drums; Mike Gent, guitar — have all done solo projects, and Donnelly played with NRBQ for six years, while the Figgs backed Graham Parker together. They’ve thrived over time with only one lineup change: Original drummer Guy Lyons left in 1989 when Pete Hayes replaced him; only to return in 1992, this time playing guitar, completing the four-piece Figgs.

Lyons left again in 1993, but sometimes rejoins for hometown shows. (Some have hit Albany’s Low Beat, operated by Howe Glassman; the Figgs played Valentines, Glassman’s previous music bar, dozens of times.)
Fortunately for power-pop fans, Donnelly, Hayes and Gent always come back together as the Figgs, with 30-plus albums and a proudly loud, relentlessly tuneful fundamental rock sound. 9 p.m. $12 advance, $15 on Friday. 518-275-6897 www.newberrymusichall.com


The Eighth Step presents an early seasonal show Saturday in Proctors Underground: its Celtic Holiday Turning of the Year revue.

Like Alsarah and the Nubatones, headliner John Whelan makes music asserting the power of roots despite displacement. Born in England to Irish parents, Whelan has won the All-Ireland Accordion championship seven times. No rude accordion jokes, please! 

Saturday Whelan performs with Low Lily, a Vermont Americana band: Liz Simmons, guitar; Flynn Cohen, guitar and mandolin; Lissa Schneckenburger, fiddle; Corey DiMario, bass; plus guest Katie McNally, fiddle.

Putting a dancey Celtic spin on traditional reels and jigs and seasonal themes, they can also do carols and holiday favorites since they all sing. 7:30 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. $24 advance, $26 door, $40 front and center section), 518-434-1703 www.8thstep.org

Also Saturday, Americana heroes David Rawlings and Gillian Welch play The Egg. Welch speaks one line in the Coen Brothers’ film “O Brother Where Art Thou,” breathlessly requesting a record by the Foggy Mountain Boys. She plays and sings alongside life/musical partner Rawlings like Emmylou and Gram, like Johnny and June. They’re nice, too: At Bob Dylan’s Americana Music Festival at SPAC, I saw them climb out of a van loaded down with too many instruments to carry. So I helped, looking, briefly, like a roadie or mandolin and guitar player. They invited me to share their dressing room buffet, but I digress ...

Rawlings is the top-billed partner on this gig. Americana Music Association 2012 “Instrumentalist of the Year” and 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winner for Songwriting, he’ll showcase his new album “Poor David’s Almanack,” plus earlier releases “A Friend of A Friend” and “Nashville Obsolete” with Welch and band. Their band is aces: guitarist/banjo-man Willie Watson; bassist Paul Kowert; and fiddler Brittany Haas. 8 p.m. $36
One-man band the Suitcase Junket (Matt Lorenz) also plays Saturday, at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St. Saratoga Springs) after starring in the Caffe’s gala anniversary. In addition to the guitar he grabbed from a dumpster (really!), he totes a suitcase whose contents seem strange as he unpacks rusty saw-blades, random bones, dented musical toys; but when he starts to rattle them, jingle them and generally muscle them about, out come the most marvelous sounds. But here’s the thing: His songs are so cool you instantly forget any gimmickry. 8 p.m.  $18 advance, $20, $10 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Hot Tuna was plugged-in-powerful with the Tedeschi Trucks Band in July at SPAC. It’s core — Jorma Kaukonen, guitar; Jack Casady, bass — returns Sunday to the Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.) as an acoustic duo. A team formed in DC before joining Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco, they’re Tuna’s Lennon & McCartney, its Mick and Keith; and the years since psychedelic glory haven’t dented Kaukonen’s speedy-but-bluesy melodic explorations or, conversely, sped up Casady’s seismic simplicity. 8 p.m. $67, $58, $52, 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org


R.I.P. to soul/R&B/Broadway singer/actor Della Reese, teen-pop star/tormented adult/nice guy David Cassidy, pompadoured R&B shouter Wayne Cochran and mostly-jazz record producer George Avakian.

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