Colorado-based singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov brought his band into The Egg in Albany recently for his Nippertown concert debut. With songs that told the story of miles, landscapes and the search for a sense of place, Isakov focused primarily on selections from his most recent album, The Weatherman. Americana favorite Jolie Holland opened the concert.
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Timothy Reidy
It goes without saying that when seven-piece Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds play your town, the energy levels surge so high that even the snow outside starts to melt. On this particular Saturday night, the Hollow Bar + Kitchen was sizzling and filled to capacity. It was nothing but a house party from start to finish – “Albany should always be this much fun!” as one woman in the audience exclaimed to me feverishly after the two-hour set.
The band, a self-described “hard soul collective” led by the immensely talented and beautiful singer Arleigh “Sister Sparrow” Kincheloe, was greeted with a roar from the crowd even before the first notes of long-time favorite “Freight Train.” The second-line rhythms of New Orleans and standout riffs of Phil Rodriguez (trumpet) and Brian Graham (saxophone) galvanized “Millie Mae” and had the patrons cutting a rug.
Several songs from the band’s upcoming album The Weather Below got a strong reception. “Don’t Be Jealous,” a strutting blues led by guitarist Sasha Brown and the deep groove of Dan Boyden (drums) and Josh Myers (bass), had Sister Sparrow testifying and flying around the stage, exhorting the crowd to dance its cares away. A soulful “We Need a Love,” “Sugar” (highlighted by a spontaneous, mid-song Bo Diddley-esque clap-along) and the current single, “Mama Knows,” a deep soul number that featured some poignant Hammond B-3 styled harp playing by Arleigh’s big brother Jackson Kincheloe, kept the crowd rapt. “Borderline” began with a multi-vocal introduction and hit some Sly Stone-worthy hooks; it would make a great second single release sometime this spring. “Prison Cells,” which was featured later in the set, percolated with Caribbean rhythms and inspired Sister Sparrow herself to pick up some sticks and join Boyden behind the kit while Rodriguez dropped some knowledge on the trumpet.
Singer-songwriter Dan Johnson – former Nippertonian, host of the late, much lamented Tuesday night Americana Music Club sessions at Valentine’s Music Hall and current Vermont troubadour – returns to town on Wednesday (April 22) for an early show at the Low Beat in Albany. The 6pm happy hour gig serves as the Local 518 CD release party for Johnson’s tasty new album, Suck It Up, Cupcake.
BUT WAIT… there’s more. We’re giving away a pair of FREE TICKETS for the concert to some lucky Nippertown reader! To enter the contest, just post a comment below. Please leave your email address, too. We won’t publish it, but we’ll use it to contact you if you win. Deadline to enter is 12noon on Friday (April 24). The winner will be selected at random and notified on Friday afternoon. Good luck! Congratulations to the winner, who has been notified by email.
When a singer-songwriter performs an entire album’s worth of musical meditations on death and loss, well, you expect the concert to be something of a downer. And alt-pop iconoclast Sufjan Stevens’ recent performance at Albany’s Palace Theatre certainly was no rock & roll dance party, as he played all of the songs from his brand new album, Carrie and Lowell, penned following the death of his estranged mother.
“What is that that song you sing for the dead?” he sang during “Death with Dignity,” the opening song of the show, following the wordless, largely instrumental intro, “Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou).” But there was no one single answer. In fact, songs for the dead filled the first half of the concert, as Stevens and his backing quartet of multi-instrumentalists examined grief and mourning in all its many facets. The intensely personal songs plumbed the depths of emotional turmoil from guilt to despair to anger, and yet ultimately the concert was a glorious, deeply spiritual affirmation of life and faith.
He dealt frankly and nakedly with death, and yet discovered an underlying hope. It was, in one word, majestic.
Yeah, we’ve been telling you about the annual MOVE Music Festival all along. But now, the complete schedule of who’s playing where and when has finally been revealed.
The fest takes place at a dozen different venues throughout Albany from Friday-Sunday (April 24-26) featuring more than 100 bands, solo musicians and DJs showcasing their musical talents.
In addition to all the music, the fest also features talks and interactive roundtable discussions from 2-6pm on Saturday (April 25) at the Albany Hilton featuring music industry movers and shakers Tony Skimkin, Steve Theo, David Bourgeois, Karla McDonald, Joe Blaney, Alicia Gelernt, Ariana Purro, Timothy Pattison, Mike Blatt, Adam Epstein and Peter Iselin.
Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Early in her knockout performance at The Egg Sunday night Joan Armatrading mentioned that this was the 125th date on what’s billed as her “last major worldwide tour.” She joked about being weary and promised to try something new: a very short set. Then Armatrading proceeded to take a rapt audience through what was essentially a guided tour (complete with slideshow) of her marvelous 43-year career, betraying absolutely no hint of road fatigue.
For this tour Armatrading performed solo but with a couple of technical enhancements. A mid-sized video screen hung center-stage, and while she sang “City Girl” from her 1972 debut, stock footage of highways and skyscrapers were projected, later overlaid with new-agey washes of colors and patterns. To my mind the videos were neither compelling nor distracting, but if you ask a contemporary audience to put away their damn cellphones it’s probably wise to provide a substitute pacifier of some sort. The other enhancement was musical: on a few songs, Armatrading deployed pre-recorded backing tapes of synth chords. While the tapes helped highlight Armatrading’s harmonic sophistication, like the videos they weren’t really needed.