Illness has shuffled lineups and locations, but concert action remains rootsy, mostly.
Facing back surgery, Phil Lesh bowed out of both the Dirt Farmer Festival on Friday in Accord and the Outlaw Music Festival at SPAC on Saturday.
Instead, the Dirt Farmer artists have split into two shows at Levon Helm Studios (160 Plochmann Lane, Woodstock). The Midnight Ramble Band (the late, great Levon’s crew) plays both days. Friday: Mercury Rev, Anders Osborne, Birds of Chicago and Grahame Lesh. Saturday: Steve Earle, Phil Cook, and Elizabeth and the Catapult. Both days, gates 4 p.m., doors 5, show 6. $100 seats, $75 standing room. 845-679-2744 www.levonhelm.com
On Saturday, the Outlaw Music Festival presents Willie Nelson & Family, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Brothers Osborne and more at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center, routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs). I think I saw all those acts but the Brothers Osborne in just a single Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Willie missed some shows last winter and in August but seems ready to rock now. Phil’s absence presents a question mark. Who’s the “and more”?
The remaining acts make first-class cowboy country and honky-tonk (Willie), bluegrass (Alison Krauss) and blues (Raitt), plus the southern-fried country rock of the Brothers Osborne. Yes, they’re brothers: John Thomas and TJ (Thomas John) Osborne. 2:30 p.m. Inside seats from resellers, lawn $35. 800-745-3000 www.livenation.com
Not far away, the Eastbound Throwdown (Irwin Family Farm, 33 Irwin Road, Salem) presents regional jam faves Friday and Saturday on two stages, until late, in this order.
Friday Main Stage 3 p.m.: C.K. & the Rising Tide, Zan & the Winter Folk, the Ghost of Paul Revere, Eastbound Jesus, Bella’s Bartok.
Friday Pond Stage 4 p.m.: Rebel Darling, Saints & Liars, Turf n Turf.
Saturday Main Stage noon: Green, Girl Blue, Eastbound Jesus, Yarn, Driftwood, the Mallett Brothers Band, Eastbound Jesus.
Saturday Pond Stage 11:30 a.m.: Dan Johnson, Union Grits, J. Floyd, Band of Rustlers, the Blind Owl Band.
Presale full festival (includes camping) $65; door $75. Saturday only $40. www.eastboundthrowdown.com
Also, Band of Rustlers fans can get an early taste in a backyard barbecue tonight at the Cock ’N’ Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway). 6 p.m. barbecue (brisket, ribs, sides, dessert) on the patio; 7:30 show. $50. 518-882-6962 www.thecockandbull.com
JAZZ REVS UP
A Place for Jazz (Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.) blasts off Friday when trombonist Steve Turre leads his band onstage.
Only slightly less precocious than Trombone Shorty, who played with Bo Diddley at Jazz Fest in New Orleans at 4, Turre began playing the slide horn at 10. Since training at the University of North Texas, he’s made more than 20 albums as leader and played uncountable sessions. He plays conch shell as well as trombone, in both senses.
If he looks familiar, you’re right: Turre has played with the Saturday Night Live Band since 1984. His ballad-heavy new album “The Very Thought Of You” features Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, Willie Jones III and strings. 7:30 p.m. $20 adults, $10 students. 518-393-4011 www.aplaceforjazz.org
The Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival (Jennings Landing, Corning Preserve, Albany) presents a free-admission parade of national, regional and local stars Saturday, with fireworks musically and literally, in this order. Noon: Guitarist Charlie Apicella & Iron City; traditional jazz veterans (since 1956!) the Skip Parsons Riverboat Jazz Band; the funky Black Tie Brass; hard-bopping Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars; and the recently reshuffled Bad Plus. Fireworks follow the music. Rain site: Corning Preserve Boat Launch under I-787. www.albanyevents.org
Borrowing this term from Steve Earle (1986 debut album title and song; he plays Saturday at Levon Helm Studios), let’s talk two top guitarists playing here this week.
Saturday, Jonny Lang plays The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). On eight studio albums — his debut “Smokin’ ” hit at age 15 — he’s displayed a deft flat-picking style and bluesy depth. Guitarist Zane Carney opens and plays in Lang’s band, along with Barry Alexander, drums; James Anton, bass; and Tyrus Sass, keyboards. 8 p.m. $39.50, $34.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Emily Wolfe plays WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany) on Tuesday. The guitarist/singer-songwriter released her debut “Director’s Notes” at 22 and played a hometown gig at Austin City Limits two years later. Her straight-ahead rock attack has earned opening slots with Heart, the Pretenders and others. Motorbike, from Saratoga Springs, opens. 8 p.m. $18. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org
On Wednesday, the night after Wolfe plays the Linda, WAMC welcomes pianist Holly Bowling, who leveraged award-winning-caliber conservatory training at San Francisco State University into precise but rocking solo piano mutations of jam classics of Phish, the Grateful Dead and other improvising rockers. Her series of Jam Teases (brief transcriptions of famous jams) includes “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” from Phish’s SPAC show June 19, 2004. She’s played with Grateful Dead survivors, members of Phish and other top jammers, plus her own combo Ghost Light. This is a solo show, though. 7:30 p.m. $20 advance, $25 door
NATIONAL RESERVE AT HANGAR
Brooklyn Americana rockers the National Reserve, not to be confused with the National, play the Hangar (675 River St., Troy) on Friday. Singer and main writer Sean Walsh fronts the quintet, whose country-ish rock packs a velvety punch that suggests they’ve listened a lot to The Band and the Byrds and honed what works — southern-fried guitar glides, burly vocals, in-the-groove keyboards and a loping beat — in late-night bars. 8 p.m. $10.
Marcia Ball’s voice cracked as she mourned “Louisiana 1927” last Friday at Caffe Lena, expressing deep emotion as much as her 70 years. This unforgettably sad moment balanced a mostly full-party blast of sizzling swamp pop.
I got lucky and heard her sing Dr. John’s “Such A Night” in sound-check, though she didn’t uncork this classic in the show I saw, the first of two. Otherwise, however, like a great jukebox in a jumping roadhouse, Ball pounded her piano like your pulse in overdrive and hot-rodded her veteran band across the Gulf Coast.
Pedal to the metal in “A Natural Ball” — a persuasive opening mission statement — and “Got My Red Beans Cookin’,” she went slow-bluesy in “Just Kiss Me Baby,” complete with lascivious lip-smack in the coda and in “What Would I Do” a few songs later.
She seldom downshifted for long, though she acknowledged even she can’t be “The Life of the Party” every night. She sure was last Friday, though, restlessly pumping keyboard, band and fans with party-hearty energy.
Conscious that she had another full show to do after the early one I caught, Ball swaggered fast from tune to tune. Her ace band gracefully carried the cargo of her soulfulness, and not just soloists Mighty Mike Schermer (devastating in his own “Bad Tattoo,” brilliant on slide in “He’s The One”) and sax-man Eric Bernhardt (he went WAY low in “He’s The One,” took wing everywhere). Drummer Corey Keller bounced the beat with the smart force of minimalist muscle, while bassist Don Bennett matched him boom for boom.
Ball seemed to go off-script when a fan called for “that hurricane song.” Ball replied, “Which one?” before launching a rollicking “That’s Enough of that Stuff.” Then she relented and gave “Louisiana 1927” a shaky start, but gathered strength in a sparse arrangement with her piano chiming like a church bell in mourning at the end. This took us just as far down as her closing party numbers carried us high up: “La Ti Da” and “Let Me Play with Your Poodle.”
Getting things wrong feels worse with artists I admire. Brian Patneaude first thanked me for a favorable mention in last week’s Jukebox for his quartet’s Jazz on Jay season wrapup gig.
He also pointed out, “For what it’s worth, ‘Double Trio’ is my original composition that was inspired by seeing Joshua Redman’s Double Trio group perform live at The Egg. It was the first jazz concert my wife and I attended together.”
I erroneously attributed the tune to Redman.