Pop giants Elton John and Mumford & Sons roll away from the Times Union Center as smaller shows — blues, jazz, troubadour and acoustic roots fare — roll into cozier venues: WAMC’s the Linda; Caffe Lena; the Eighth Step at Proctors’ GE Theatre; The Egg; The College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center; and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Veteran folksinger John McCutcheon (at the Eighth Step Friday, see Bill Buell’s story) exemplifies homegrown grassroots music as his hero Pete Seeger devised it.
“I ‘met’ Pete Seeger the same way most people did, by hearing his music,” McCutcheon told me last week. “You felt connected to him, to others, to a wider world through his music,” McCutcheon explained. “He put new songs, new words, new languages in our mouths while putting new ideas in our heads. He was a friend, a mentor, a musical partner, the North Star of American folk music. He still guides me, as he did while he was still with us.”
Another prolific folk veteran, Joel Mabus (27 albums to McCutcheon’s 40!) sings at Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville) Friday. 7:30 p.m. $25 adults, 12 ages 13-18, $5 12 and under. 518-765-2815www.oldsongs.org
Two generations younger, but just as deeply-rooted in homemade musical tradition, singer-mandolinist Sierra Hull plays two shows Sunday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs).
A recording and touring star since age 11, first-ever bluegrass player to win the Presidential Scholarship at Berklee, and a fully formed artist whose new album was produced by Bela Fleck, Hull has amazed fans at WAMC’s The Linda and now needs two shows to welcome all her fans Sunday. 4 and 7 p.m. $35 advance, $38 door, $19 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Like the Beatles whom they Xeroxed at the start, only two of four Monkees survive: Davey Jones died in 2012, Peter Tork recently. Original Monkees Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz play the Palace (19 Clinton Ave. at N. Pearl St., Albany) Sunday, bringing sunny 60s Hollywood pop and more ambitious later material that never earned the same traction as what they played on TV. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $89.50, $69.50, 59.50, $44.50 and $34.50. Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.palacealbany.com.
Related news: “Head,” the film that put the Monkees on the big screen, shows at the Palace March 18, and the all-star Experience Hendrix tribute tour hits the Palace April 3.
The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra plays Friday at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). Like Duke Ellington and other big-band leader/composers, Schneider writes specifically for her 18 players, winning five Grammys, including one for her “Sue” collaboration with David Bowie (2016) and another that same year for her own “The Thompson Fields.” Her compositions beautifully balance mood and movement. 8 p.m. $35, $45, $55 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
Aaron Goldberg leads his trio Saturday at the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose (1008 Madison Ave., Albany). Like Schneider’s show, this is part of the Bridge Jazz Series. Presented with the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and in both venues, The Bridge began as just a single weekend but has expanded across the calendar. Goldberg’s “At the Edge of the World,” latest of his dozen-plus albums (most with trios) — and Saturday’s show — features the leader at the piano with Matt Penman, bass; and Leon Parker, drums. 8 p.m. $35. 518-274-7804 www.massrycenter.org
Pianist Chuck Lamb adds veteran tenor sax master Harry Allen to his trio Tuesday in the monthly JAZZ at Caffe Lena series. Longtime member of the Brubeck Brothers band and a keeper of Dave Brubeck’s imaginative piano flame, Lamb often brings in great guests: Allen is one. 7 p.m. $22, $25, $12.50
Blues hit The Egg this week in two all-star shows.
Pianist Marcia Ball and guitarist Sonny Landreth play Saturday, both leading veteran southern-fried bands. On 18 albums and decades on tour, Ball uncorks Gulf Coast keyboard blasts and gruff vocals over souped-up, feel-good gusts of swampy funk. My Northampton pal Dennis, leader of our Jazz Fest posse, said Ball had her mojo working recently at the Iron Horse, especially guitarist “Mighty Mike” Schermer.
Slide guitar wizard Landreth and his high-energy trio more than ably backed John Hiatt at The Egg last year and played their own terrific show at the Cohoes Music Hall. A veteran music fan I met there last Friday at Terrance Simien’s Mardi Gras blitz (see REARVIEW) told me that was the best show he’s ever seen, of many since the ’70s. 7:30 p.m. $36. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
On Wednesday, two top guitarists play The Egg: frequent visitor Robert Cray and seldom-seen star Joe Louis Walker. Since putting blues back on the charts after decades of radio silence, Cray has crafted a brilliantly consistent songbook confidently sampling big-city soul, strongly rhythmic R&B and flat-out rock. Walker also works all sides of the street and records regularly: more than two dozen albums. Many are live, confirming his performing power. 7:30 p.m. $38.50 and $34.50
Peter Case sings tonight at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). Buffalo-raised like Willie Nile and founder/star of the Nerves and the Plimsouls, Case is also a compelling solo performer, as his starkly powerful “Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John” proves with just voice and guitar. 8 p.m. $15 advance, $20 door. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org
The New York Times calls Gabriel Kahane “a one-man cultural Cuisinart.” He stirs together orchestral ambitions, folkie coziness and political messaging a la Pete Seeger and John McCutcheon on Wednesday at Caffe Lena. He wrote “Book of Travelers” after a cross-country train trip, talking with fellow passengers about the 2016 presidential election. 7 p.m. $25, $30, $15
Terrance Simien easily tossed miles of Mardi Gras beads to fans in the Cohoes Music Hall balcony last Friday, raising spirits with street-parade chants and zydeco waltzes and two-steps in French. Leading the same horn-powered, guitar-less Zydeco Experience band as in the Hall last May, he played a more party-pulsing show. Professor Louie and the Crowmatix, longtime friends from the road, opened — mostly with tunes by The Band — then joined the fun around “When the Saints Go Marching In” time.
Singing strong, pumping, hard-rocking, button-accordion licks, Simien was all life, lift and exuberance, setting the mood early with “Mardi Gras Mambo” and nailing it home late with “Iko Iko” hours later. He told of the boisterous rural “Mardi Gras runs … for drunken fools,” he acknowledged, from farm to farm by horse trailer in his teens, loading us all aboard his spirit and songs.
The best, deepest music tells us where an artist comes from and what sort of world vision provides inspiration: Simien showed us his map in both directions.
Seats sat empty well before 20 minutes of encore with Professor Louie strapping on an accordion to join in and singer Miss Marie grabbing a mic. The bolstered band launched from “Amazing Grace,” slow at first, then speeding up into a second-line funky rumba with “Down By the Riverside,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Amen” and “Shout” in party-time pandemonium.
Anybody who didn’t catch some beads wasn’t trying; anybody who didn’t dance and sing needed medical attention.