Johnny A. leverages his recent tour with the Yardbirds to celebrate the ’60s British Invasion tonight at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). Forceful riffing, gorgeous tone and ingenious looping fill the air with fast-flying notes from the former Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band) accompanist and solo powerhouse. 8 p.m. $25 advance, $28 door, $14 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Unfortunately for guitar fans, Scott Sharrard also returns tonight to the Cock ’n Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway). He’s led bands of varying size here since Gregg Allman’s death canceled his longtime main gig; this time he teams up with Bruce Katz in what Sharrard says will be “kick-ass piano and guitar blues.” 7:30 p.m., dinner seating from 5. $30. 518-882-6962 www.thecockandbull.com
On Saturday, multifaceted bluesman Duke Robillard plays the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady). Even more impressive than his resume (Roomful of Blues, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bob Dylan) are the guitarist’s ambitious explorations of blues styles from aggressive small bands to big ensembles, swinging hot. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $22. 518-348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com
Back at Caffe Lena, former Saratoga rockers The Figgs celebrate a new (triple!) album in a comeback show Friday. Now our longest-running area band (32 years), the trio’s “Shady Grove” release is their 14th studio album. Inventive, passionate and punchy, it follows their major label debut “Low-Fi at Society High” by 25 years. All The Figgs — Mike Gent, guitar; Pete Donnelly, bass; Pete Hayes, drums — do periodic solo projects, but this is home.
Before a January jazz gig at the Caffe, bassist Pete Donnelly told me, “The Caffe is … where much of it all began for me.” He said, “The smoky open mic nights were a routine in my early teens. The stage there is a familiar place, and I’m honored to be returning to it.” 8 p.m. $22, $25, $12.50
Mississippi-to-Greenwich Village troubadour Steve Forbert plays the Caffe Sunday in a sold-out show celebrating the vinyl rerelease of his 1979 album “Jackrabbit Slim” that unleashed “Romeo’s Tune,” still his best-known song. Shut out? Check WEXT 97.7 for a “Hangin’ & Sangin’ ” podcast of a preshow interview with Forbert.
With Crosby, Stills & Nash on hiatus, all have played smaller venues than their arena-rock days together; Stills with the Rides at Ulster Performing Arts Center and Crosby with the Lighthouse band at The Egg — where Nash plays Saturday in full-band performances of his first two solo albums “Songs for Beginners” and “Wild Tales.” The two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer (with the Hollies and CS&N) wrote songs in both bands. But his first two solo albums, spanning hopeful and sad love songs and political broadsides, collect his most personal statements. His band will feature guitarist Shane Fontayne and keyboardist/singer Todd, plus drums, bass, pedal steel and harmony singers. 8 p.m. $79.50, $59.50, $49.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
On Saturday, singer-pianist Kandace Springs plays the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose (1002 Madison Ave., Albany), launching a tour. At Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in June, Springs (as I reported then) “ … played [piano] well and sang better. She sang Sade and Roberta Flack songs beautifully, caressed ‘In My Solitude,’ pumped up ‘The World is a Ghetto,’ conjured sweet menace in ‘I Put a Spell on You.’ ” Springs combines the best of Nina Simone, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Billie and Ella in her singing, which balances power and nuance through unerring taste. A new album, “The Women Who Raised Me,” hits next year. She’ll sing and play piano with Caylen Bryant, bass; and Taylor Moore, drums. 8 p.m. $35, Students $15, College of Saint Rose students $10. 518-274-7804 www.massrycenter.org
Alt-folk/country troubadour Robbie Fulks sings Friday at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany), returning with opener Matthew Fowler rather than Linda Gail Lewis, his duet partner there last year. After admiring his albums for years, I first caught Fulks live in late 2017 at Caffe Lena. Declaring “modern country stinks,” he dove past it into tuneful hard-country echoing Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.
His best tune, “Alabama at Night” painted pictures of poverty as poignant as the James Agee/Walker Evans Depression epic “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Fulks also tackled Geoff Muldaur’s “Got to Find Blind Lemon,” sang of fatherhood in “Needed” and went raunchy in “Aunt Peg’s New Old Man” about a banjo-playing, past-90 aunt and her younger accompanist-boyfriend. 8 p.m. $18. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org
TWO ABBEY ROADS
On Saturday, both Proctors and Caffe Lena present tributes to the Beatles’ brilliant “Abbey Road” album, honoring its 50th anniversary in
At Proctors, Beatles scholar Scott Freiman presents “Deconstructing the Beatles: Abbey Road” in two parts — side one at 3:30 and side two at 7:30 p.m. His song-by-song, multimedia lecture examines the origins and architecture of the songs and performances. $25 per side. 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org
Caffe Lena presents two shows of “Abbey Road,” at 4 and 8 p.m., an all-star revue starring and hosted by Addie and Olin, with Don Young’s Silver Beats (singer-multi-instrumentalist Young with guitarist-singer Graham Tichy and stand-up drummer Mike Lomaestro), plus singer-fiddler Kate Levine and other guests. The 8 p.m. show is sold out. 4 p.m. $25 advance, $27 door
Blues great Rory Block and her husband, Rob Davis, purchased the Old Methodist Church in their hometown of Chatham Center in 2015, renaming it ChurchLIVE and working to rehab it as a performance space. On Saturday, the veteran blues singer and guitarist — Blues Music Association Acoustic Artist of the Year — joins forces there (8 Church Lane, Chatham Center) with longtime musical friends the Heavenly Echoes in a benefit concert to continue repairs and renovations on the venerable building.
Block has often performed with church choirs, professional or amateur; also as a solo artist and in every area venue.
She’s in excellent, spirited company in this benefit show with the singers and players of the Heavenly Echoes, founded 50 years ago by the late Deacon James Edmonds of Albany’s Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church and still singing strong: nine members including guitar, bass and drums. 7:30 p.m. $20, additional donations welcome. 518-965-9624 paypal.me/churchlive
JAZZ AT THE SPRING RESUMES
Jazz at the Spring resumes Thursday after its summer hiatus, presenting Jazz Colleagues. Capital District Jazz, Ltd. — CDJ, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit volunteer organization — presents the fall-through spring series the last Thursday of the month at the Spring Street Gallery (110 Spring St., Saratoga Springs).
A collective band staffed with regional jazz stars, Jazz Colleagues comprises Patricia Dalton Fennell, piano and vocals; John Esposito, drums and piano; Ira Coleman, bass; Chris Pasin, trumpet; and Charles Frommer, reeds.
All are conservatory trained and active performers as accompanists or band leaders; several are active teachers, and all compose original music. 7:30 p.m. $15. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4322124. Fans under 17 admitted free by contacting [email protected]
Woman-led quartets played strong last week: southern country-rock singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams last Wednesday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall; and ingenious Chilean jazz saxophonist Melissa Aldana last Friday at A Place for Jazz.
Performing her 1998 classic album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” in order, plus hot encores, Williams delivered the best show I’ve seen her do: the strongest collection of her songs, in a wonderfully evocative format, on big beats from her most rocking band.
Bony as a Wood Brother, Stuart Mathis gave great guitar on everything; bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton laid it down and picked her up.
Williams didn’t even have to sing the place names “Opelousas” or “Ponchartrain” to take us there.
Her voice, cracking on the heartbreak, brassy when she belted, carried us south. Confessing shyness, she didn’t smile until the title track, second song on the album and the show.
Best of all, she explained she’d written this without knowing it was about herself until her poet father heard her sing it in a show and explained it to her.
Self-revelatory or self-reflective talk tuned us up for each song. Graffiti in a honky-tonk gave her the title and spirit of “2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten.” Drunken torments of Blaze Foley, who was shot dead in a senseless quarrel and who went crazy only once but decided to stay, set up “Drunken Angel.” She cited another such, Wreckx Bell, for the slow blues waltz “Concrete and Barbed Wire,” eased over the bar like a cold one on Mathis’ slide guitar.
If she leaned on the band early, she cut them loose later, stretching out “Joy” (about its opposite) into “Voodoo Chile” weirdness; “Are You Down” tumbled over the same edge. In turn, the band energized her, into Chrissie Hynde-like bop abandon in “Foolishess,” where she pulled no punches and indicted liars, fear-mongers, hate, walls and greed, then called for peace and love.
Aldana also edged past early challenges, adjusting her tenor sax to fix faulty intonation.
Her up tunes ran fast scales to resolve multiple themes into unified, strong statements. But she was at her best on ballads, soulfully expressive and beautiful. “Polkadots and Moonbeams” topped her first set; “After the Rain,” the (stronger) second run. “La Madrina” (to Frida Kahlo) split the difference: a soft samba that cruised light and sweet.
Her young band — everybody looked about 25 — played their tightest in this one; Lage Lund harmony-linking his guitar to her riffs in the chorus; solid in-the-pocket drummer Jimmy McBride and solid unobtrusive bassist Rick Rosato doing the Latin power-glide.
While “Elsewhere” bopped hard, she not surprisingly closed with another ballad: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” tiptoeing into the familiar melody and settling in, cool but resigned to a lonely fate.