In photo: Jim Hoke with his Floating Zone band at the Five Spot in East Nashville last Wednesday. From left, Kirby Shelstad, percussion; Hoke at the mic; Austin Hoke (obscured), cello; David Francis, bass; and Chris Cottros, guitar. Obscured, behind, are singers Daniel Charlton, Grace Wagener and Sari Hoke; flute player Randy Leago; and drummer Paul Scholten.
NASHVILLE — The set list read: “Surfin; Bird (If Eddie).” Jim Hoke and his Floating Zone band would play “Surfin’ Bird” only if Eddie Angel came into the Five Spot in East Nashville last Wednesday. Perfect timing: Eddie came in right when the set list said he should; Jim and band hit hard, loud and funny — a raucous, rude blast. “Papa-OOO-Mow-Mow!” indeed.
They agreed that show was the best of their every-Wednesday January residency, projecting more joyous assurance than in the two I caught last year after Jim’s “The Floating Zone” album hit. Hats off to Jim’s artist-pianist-singer wife Lisa for persuading him to build a band and play live the music he recorded mostly by himself. Last Wednesday’s show featured the same band, plus Randy Leago on break from the Beach Boys’ tour playing flutes and dancer-daughter Sari singing. Son and Floating Zone band stalwart Austin played cello, harmonica, piano, zither and, briefly in “Surfin’ Bird, alto sax. They introduced new songs written since “The Floating Zone”; pop jewels of rocking push and jazzy zip, sometimes echoing bands we grew up loving, and citing people and places of our childhood. Jim sang lead, played guitar, sax, harmonica and piano; bassist David Francis came to the mic for a song, too.
Their “Stump the Band on the Beatles” request set as usual resurrected Fab Four obscurities, sometimes summoning fans onstage to sing. It closed in a joyous everybody-sing “Hey Jude” that rocked the house.
It was all Hoke songs after that, including Austin singing “If Things Don’t Ever Work Out” (an eloquent co-write with Bill DeMain), the jaunty “Sunny Clinton St.” and — especially! — “Mitzi Gaynor,” a propulsive poly-rhythmic rocker.
Also as usual, music filled my Music City week, including a sax overdub session on a J.J. Cale-style shuffle for gracious laid-back singer Sam Hunt and a production meeting for a horn section Jim will lead on a new Joe Robinson album. Surprisingly, Joe recognized me from backstage at the Cohoes Music Hall, where he opened for and played with Rodney Crowell last spring, a nice re-meet-up. Producer Brent Maher — he engineered “Proud Mary” for Ike and Tina Turner, discovered the Judds and produced all their albums — meanwhile directed percussionist Nir Z (Zidkyaju), overdubbing congas on the song Jim and fellow horn players will spice this week.
The last music I caught in Nashville was a musicians’ wake for recently deceased songwriter David Olney at Brown’s Diner, where Don Everly goes for burgers and bands play stuffed into one narrow end of the original railroad car. It was sweet: Even calls of “Down in front!” felt friendly, by name. Keepers of Olney’s distinctively wry flame took the front mic in turn to sing his songs.
Early contributors celebrated Olney’s wit. Noting that Olney had recorded it, Tommy Womack sang his own development-apocalypse lament “The Highway’s Coming,” then “Vickie Smith,” honoring fast girls.
Joe Bagwell and Annie McCue set a more somber mood with “If I Were You” and “Things You Left in the Rain,” respectively. Sometime Olney co-writer McCue continued, rolling strong with “Devil in the Middle” and “This Side or the Other.”
Another guest singer noted Robert Parker had also died recently, lighting up Parker’s “Barefootin’,” while the night’s house band guitarist Brent Moyer sang Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and bassist Daniel Seymour sang Olney’s “Titanic.” Pat McInerney pumped low-pressure, in-the-pocket congas. Each guest paused to console Jack Irwin, standing front-most in the crowd. Producer of two Olney albums, Jack told Jim and me how Olney had died onstage, mid-song, saying “I’m sorry” and dropping his chin to his chest, but kept hold of his guitar.
The night felt like a highlight reel, an Olney greatest hits show by his friends.
Noting Olney named his only son Redding after Otis Redding, house-band guitarist/host Tony Lialo wrapped the show by noting “it helps” to gather in Olney’s memory before leading everybody in Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” And that’s how strong the memory of David Olney is, in his town among his playing, singing friends.
You can see a live performance of Olneyon youtube.com.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo keeps singing, high-step dancing and touring, 33 years after Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album made the South African harmony group international stars. They return tonight to Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.) with four of founder Joseph Shabala’s sons leading this force-of-nature ensemble. 7:30 p.m. $36.50, $29.50. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
Also tonight, Keith Pray switches from sax to organ to lead his Ortet at the Van Dyck: Mike Newman, sax; Mike Novakowski, guitar; and Chad Ploss, drums. 7 p.m. No cover; tip jar. 518-348-7999 www.vandycklounge.com
The hyperactive Pray also leads a trio at the Cock ’n Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway) Friday, playing sax with Dave Payette, piano; and Pat Perkinson, bass. 7 p.m. No cover; tip jar. 518-882-6962 www.thecocknbull.com
Caffe Lena presents familiar and fast-rising acts. First, the new: Maya DeVitry and Courtney Hartman play the Caffe (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) tonight. DeVitry took a year off after her band the Stray Birds broke up in 2018.
Then she went into overdrive, releasing two albums of new songs and touring with guitarist Hartman, a member of Della Mae and solo artist in her own right. Go early: Before their 7 p.m. show, Kelly McCartney will interview DeVitry and Hartman for the Hangin’ & Sangin’ podcast. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Familiar face and voice Livingston Taylor — brother of music-makers James, Kate and the late Alex — sings both Friday and Saturday. 8 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday. $48, $55, $27.50
On Friday, Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) presents “Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries” (see opposite page). Best known for TV and film roles, Patinkin reigns as one of Broadway’s brightest stars, a master in linking songs into a compelling personal story. In this presentation, he sings tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Stephen Sondheim, Randy Newman, Harry Chapin and others from his recent “Diary” albums in an intimate evening. 8 p.m. $80-$30. 518-346-6204 www.proctors.org
Grace Potter is sold out tonight at The Egg.