Homecomings, opening acts and sidemen headlining, and family-connected artists — all this the week after I hit four shows.
Once Saratoga-based rockers The Figgs return to the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany) on Friday in “More Trash for McGrath,” follow-up to a March fundraiser for McGrath, a major music fan and longtime bartender in music clubs. Musicians are typically pitching in to help him through recovery from pancreatitis.
Since 1992 (as Sonic Undertones), the prolific, persistent Figgs have made pure, powerful rock through nearly 20 albums, plus solo and side-band projects. Bassist Pete Donnelly played with NRBQ for six years while also playing with The Figgs and on solo projects; “Phases of the Moon,” his sixth release, just hit. The Figgs have recorded and toured with Graham Parker (who says they’re “always good, but now they’re gooder”), Tommy Stinson (Replacements, Guns N’ Roses), Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) and others. The three of them, rocking a club, for a friend: That’s home. 8 p.m. $10. 518-432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com
Guitarist Scott Sharrard led the late Gregg Allman’s band until Allman died; leading his own Brickyard band, he’s made blues-rocking records compared to Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. When Allman canceled a show, Sharrard played three gigs of his own that week. Tonight, Sharrard returns to the Cock ’n Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway), playing their “That Muscle Shoals Sound” tribute to the studio band on ’60s hits by Aretha Franklin and many more. Buffet 5:30-6:45 p.m., showtime 7:30. $60 show and southern-style buffet, $30 show only. 8 p.m. 518-882-6962 www.thecockandbull.com
Guitarist-singer Vilray accompanied singer Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive at Caffe Lena recently and plays the Caffe Friday on his own, singing old pop songs — really old. 8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
The Cohoes Music Hall was last week’s hot spot; now it’s Caffe Lena, where ticket buyers can add $5.80 to support renovations.
Maine-to-Austin troubadour Slaid Cleaves plays the Caffe tonight. 8 p.m. $22 advance, $24 door, $12 students and children
Chatham-based world-class talent Rory Block plays and sings the blues on Saturday at the Caffe. She seldom plays locally and is always worth the trip. 8 p.m. $30 advance, $35, door, $17.50 students and children
Blackberry Smoke opened for Gov’t Mule recently at the Palace; they headline Saturday at Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Rt. 146, Clifton Park). Singer-songwriter Charlie Starr leads the Georgia quintet Rolling Stone calls “country-rock’s most ferocious live band.” 7:30 p.m. $29.50 advance, $32 on Saturday. 518-371-0012 www.upstateconcerthall.com
Super bluesman Geoff Muldaur (singer Maria’s ex, dad of singers Jenni and Clare Muldaur) returns to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) Sunday. 7 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children
Also Sunday, Justin Townes Earle (son of singer-songwriter Steve, nephew of another, Stacey Earle; and cousin of a third, Emily Earle) plays The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), where he once opened for his father. Lilly Hiatt (daughter of John Hiatt) opens. 7:30 p.m. $29.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Actor-musician Kiefer Sutherland (son of fellow actor Donald Sutherland) starts this family affair string tonight at The Egg. His debut “Down in a Hole” hit in 2016. Rick Brantley opens. 7:30 p.m. $34.50
At Bearsville Theater two Sundays back, NRBQ did what they always do, but differently, as always. Without setlist or net, they flew, shaking the earth and bouncing through musical history: rockabilly, free jazz, soul and their own Dali-esque time zone of melting clocks, blue notes and fun.
They went deep, and sideways, as well as up. Adams’ untitled torch-song blues nuzzled up against Monk’s eccentric piano romp “Well You Needn’t.” His new blues was as poignant as later rockabilly romps were buoyant. Soul songs and even Broadway classics got playful spins while Sun Ra’s “Rocket No. 9” and “Yes, I Have a Banana” went strange.
One of my faves drove in late: “Little Floater,” Adams’ open-road ode to the aqua-and-white Nash Metropolitan that sat at the corner of his Saugerties yard; he was once arrested for driving it inside a mall when no parking was available outside. This open-road rocker sent me floating home, happy but slow through deep fog.
Relaxed and confident after Jazz Fest triumphs in New Orleans, Davell Crawford played the most commanding of his Cock ’n Bull shows last Wednesday there. Was the Bull’s piano smoking after his most pulsating, parade-powerful R&B-kicking-est show? It was also his most spiritual, though he started all earthy in tributes to departed New Orleans pianists, including his grandfather’s (James Sugarboy Crawford) “Iko Iko.” This was a smash; so were classics of James Booker, Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint, whose spirits animate his flying, funkifizing fingers.
Guests sat in: Rob Aronstein (melodica); Crawford’s friend Durrell from New York; two other brave/good singers. But Crawford carried the show, transporting the capacity crowd back to New Orleans in all its buoyant funky and sanctified glory.
Alejandro Escovedo also played alone, Friday at the Cohoes Music Hall; an autobiography in talk and tunes telling a remarkable tale. He dedicated his most poignant song, “Rosalie,” about love bridging separation, to a granddaughter, present in the packed hall; and “Down on the Bowery” to a son whose one-man band kept breaking up. In “Chelsea Hotel” and “Velvet Guitar,” his electric guitar roared and soared. When a string broke, he grabbed and unplugged his acoustic guitar and left the mic for a quiet segment no less intense as his plaintive voice filled the place.
The next night, Terrance Simien and his Zydeco Experience filled the same room with joyous Louisiana party sounds. Newly-added horns gave Creole two-steps, waltzes and “Jolie Blon,” the Cajun national anthem, a bold brassy zap and powered uptempo tunes over the moon into fleet-footed jazz. Like Escovedo, Simien faced down technical trouble with easy aplomb: When his accordion pickup failed, the band requested he sing “Just Like a Woman” as he made repairs; he made it a triumph. “All My Lovin’ (And I Still Want More)” into War’s “Low Rider,” and “500 Miles,” a zyde-reggae jump-blues, and “Iko Iko” (my second in three days) were even better. In full carnival glee, he tossed miles of Mardi Gras beads into the dancing crowd.
Noting the hall is famously haunted, Simien said his music carried the spirits of Clifton Chenier, Rockin’ Dopsie and John Delafose; just as Davell Crawford evoked Sugarboy Crawford, James Booker, Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint. Crawford and Simien WERE my Jazz Fest this year.