Posts Tagged ‘Fred Rudofsky’

LIVE: Experience Hendrix @ the Palace Theatre, 3/28/14

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Review by Fred Rudofsky

It was the best of concerts and the worst of concerts. Yes, I’m celebrating and exploiting the genius of Charles Dickens in my lead, but that is far less egregious than what too often took place during a sold-out Friday night concert at Albany’s Palace Theatre that paid tribute to the genius of Jimi Hendrix. Call it a paradoxical experience.

NOTE: I make these observations as a fervent admirer of Hendrix’s music and the inspiration he derived from a variety sources such as the blues, soul, folk and Native American culture. I have always viewed him as complete musician, not a wild, hedonistic guitarist like so many still do.

The Experience Hendrix show was the best concert in the sense that it was uplifting to see local support for the music and memory of one of the greatest musicians the world has known – and the song selections were also far more eclectic than what had been the case six years before when the tour touched down in Albany. Yet it was also felt like the worst given that the celebratory nature of the night felt contrived, even exploitative. I even found myself drawing up a wish list of musicians, not just guitarists, that I thought should have been included on the bill (Joanne Shaw Taylor, Cassandra Wilson, Buddy Miller, Trombone Shorty, Michael Hill, Cindy Blackman Santana, Gary Clark, Jr., Steve Winwood, Hamell on Trial – who saw Hendrix play Syracuse in 1968 – to name a few). At times throughout the nearly 3 1/2 hour event, I thought of one of Hendrix’s most prophetic lyrics: “But as far as I know, they may even try to wrap me up in cellophane and try and sell me…” How can anybody celebrate properly a musician, who casts such a long shadow?



LIVE: Rocky Velvet @ the Ale House, 1/18/14

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014


Review and photographs by Fred Rudofsky

Allegedly, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays in his career; compellingly, Rocky Velvet performed 37 songs in a night with – by their own admission – largely beer-induced rehearsals. The Bard remains a man of mystery; in contrast, the reunited quartet was as open as a slide guitar tuning, sharing jokes, exercising a hilarious feng shui moment and thanking their friends, literally, by name at a packed Ale House in Troy on a recent Saturday night.

Rockabilly, early blues and garage-rock informed two sets that left a throng of Ale House dancers sweating and thirsty and the local live music scene’s ultimate fan, Dick Quinn (name-checked by singer Ian Carlton to great applause) smiling and ecstatic. Ike Turner’s “You’ve Got to Lose” (performed as “You’ve Got to Move”), the Elvis Presley hit “Wear My Ring around Your Neck,” and “King Kong”, a primo cut from the band’s classic album It Came from Cropseyville, established that this was not going to be a sit-and-drink-a-beer kind of night. It made sense that the band dipped heavily into the Presley cannon – after all, his visage overlooks the small stage. “Just Because” got a light polka treatment, but it soon took off with two scorching solos from Graham Tichy, who was sporting a pink Fender Jazz Master. “Trouble,” full of Memphis swagger, got the crowd hooting and hollering. Todd Bradley, guest bassist on loan from the Hi-Risers, stepped to the microphone for an angsty “It’s Now or Never”; in the second set, he put a serious Fender bass groove to “One Night with You” and “King Creole.”


BEST OF 2013: Fred Rudofsky’s Best Albums of 2013

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Reviews by Fred Rudofsky

In 2013, I saw a lot of music and I bought a lot of music – yes, I’m that 21st century Luddite who still believes in owning a physical copy of an album, on CD or LP. There are a few albums that I’m sure would have made my list that I just haven’t picked up yet, but here’s a baker’s dozen of where it stands as of today… and a list of other noteworthy titles to consider as well. (Note: archival, box set and/ or reissue albums will appear on another list):

The Holmes Brothers: Brotherhood1.) THE HOLMES BROTHERS: Brotherhood (Alligator Records)
Available in Europe, but oddly not in the USA til April 2014, this album is tremendous from start to finish, as all the albums in the Holmes Brothers’ catalog have been since 1989. Blues (“My Word is My Bond,” “Passing Through”), soul (“Soldier of Love,” “My Kind of Girl”), folk (a superb cover of Ted Hawkins’ “I Gave Up All I Had”) and gospel (“Amazing Grace”) – they can do it all, and their three-part harmonies have no rival. Wendell Holmes sings and plays guitar with swagger; Sherman Holmes sings with warmth and plays some of the coolest bass lines around; and Popsy Dixon hits falsetto notes as deftly as he plays the drums. Do what I did: buy the album online, and be sure to order a few copies for friends and family.

Candye Kane: Coming Out Swingin'2.) CANDYE KANE (FEATURING LAURA CHAVEZ): Coming Out Swingin’ (Vizztone)
The self-proclaimed “Toughest Girl Alive” (her five-year battle against pancreatic cancer is a profile in courage and an endorsement for the healing power of music) cuts a jubilant blues album live and direct to analog, with a fine group of musicians, most notably, Laura Chavez, a guitarist who deserves the press coverage that has been given lately to Gary Clark, Jr. and Joe Bonamassa. Kane’s vivacious and sanguine, delivering several originals (check out the title cut, “Rise Up!” and “Barbed Wire Mouth”) alongside choice covers of Benny Carter, Rick Estrin and Lala Guerrero. It’s a life-affirming album for any occasion.


LIVE: Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express @ Club Helsinki, 8/10/13

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Review by Fred Rudofsky

“It’s not like opening a can of Pringles,” quipped Chuck Prophet, toward the end of a high-octane, two-hour rock and roll set in Hudson on a recent Saturday night. “You never know what you’re going to get!” Indeed, it was a night of welcome surprises for the sell-out crowd, which got to see an inspired double-bill at Club Helsinki.

Sarah Borges, a Club Helsinki favorite dating back to the club’s original site in Great Barrington, opened with a well-received solo acoustic set. Decked out in a fetching red floral dress and her trademark cowboy boots, Borges dipped into several songs from her days fronting the Broken Singles, one of the best roots-rocking bands from Boston. She introduced “I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song” as “an honest look at the hangover blues.” Featured on Borges’s 2005 Silver City album, this classic gospel blues by Thomas Dorsey offered a candid rumination on sin and salvation. “The Day We Met” from 2007′s Diamonds in the Dark brimmed with images of love and lust, and ended with a curtsey by Borges. Placing the capo a third of the way up the fretboard, Borges put a distinct Latin beat into “Me and Your Ghost,” and sang the highest notes with ease.

“I expect your rapt attention,” Borges told the audience, who needed no instruction, given the smoldering, insistent “Symphony” (from 2009′s The Stars Are Out) that followed. Played at a slower tempo than usual, “Daniel Lee” sounded like a John Prine song, full of longing and images of driving at night. “Travelin’ Man” may have seemed like an out of left field choice, but Borges owned Ricky Nelson’s tender ode to wanderlust with her compelling soprano. “Here’s a song about a bunch of hookers,” announced Borges, who played an uptempo “On the Corner.” A sustained, heartbreaking “Oh!” for a half minute by Borges acted as its own chorus in the middle of the song, and earned her major applause.


LIVE: J.D. McPherson @ the Ale House, 7/24/13

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
J.D. McPherson and his band

J.D. McPherson and his band

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Richard Brody

On a mid-July Wednesday night in Troy, the music was as hot as the wings and as cool as the over dozen beers offered on the menu. J.D. McPherson – only a few days after playing a memorable set at Green River Festival – brought his band of roots-rocking brothers to the Ale House to entertain a sell-out crowd for over two hours.

Those who could not manage to procure a ticket had to content themselves with listening from the sidewalk on River Street. Inside, the cramped conditions made getting a cold beverage a bit difficult, but that was no matter. McPherson, a native of southeastern Oklahoma, was greeted like a hometown hero by fans who may have caught his appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” heard him on WEXT-FM or picked up a copy of his 2012 debut album Signs & Signifiers on Rounder Records.

The word of mouth on McPherson has been growing exponentially. Before the show began at 8:30pm, several at the bar could be overheard exclaiming that they had come to the show because of recommendations by friends who had attended Bonnaroo in April.


LIVE: Green River Festival @ Greenfield Community College, 7/21/13 (Day Two)

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Review by Fred Rudofsky

The two-hour drive to Massachusetts for Day Two of the 27th annual Green River Festival, held at Greenfield Community College, goes by in a blur. Sunday’s crowd appears to be as large as the one the day before, and the temperature feels just as hot, too.

I missed Milton, the duo I had seen open for Chris Smither earlier in the month at Club Helsinki, so I head down to the Yonder Stage to catch a a few songs by the Sun Parade. A five-piece band, they mix acoustic and electric sounds, and it’s safe to assume they probably count Big Star as an influence. “I’m Still Here Till We Can Work It Out” and “Molly” sound decent, but I’m not feeling compelled to stick around – indifference, hunger and thirst are kicking in.

At the Main Stage is Heather Maloney, a singer-songwriter who appears to have some fans in the audience given the reception she and her band get. I try to give her a listen, but her voice has more ticks than a deer in summer. Unimpressed, I take a walk over to a hamburger stand to sate the growling in my gut and rejuvenate in the shade of some trees near the festival entrance.

The music of Louisiana, fortunately, is well represented in the Yonder Stage, so I slug down some water and head on over. Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole have a couple of hundred music lovers two-stepping and waltzing despite the mid-afternoon heat. Watson, age 29 but a seasoned musician, alternates between fiddle and accordion, and his sound draws inspiration from pioneers such as Dennis McGhee, Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavis. The band can boogie, too, and the crowd’s energy feeds right back to stage. Lyrics sung in English and Creole French blur together, and the thought of announcing the song titles seems secondary to Watson’s goal of keeping that hypnotic groove going…


LIVE: The Soul Rebels @ Club Helsinki, 7/12/13

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Review by Fred Rudofsky

The heat wave in upstate New York began with the arrival of the Soul Rebels, who brought their high-energy New Orleans mixture of funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz to Club Helsinki on a Friday night. Hell was reserved only for those hapless few who had no one to dance with while cool heavenly music played for over two hours – it was all good for the body, the mind and the soul out on the floor.

Founded over 20 years ago – only two members, Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc, remain from the original incarnation that rocked the gazebo at SPAC back in the mid-1990s – the eight piece band of virtuoso brothers played to the high standard (“the Rebel Zone,” as they put it) expected from those representing the 504.


LIVE: The Black Lillies @ the Ale House, 7/9/13

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Review by Fred Rudofsky

According to my source, the Black Lillies were the talk of Austin’s South by Southwest Festival back in March, and their well-attended show at the Ale House lived up to the hype. Based out of Knoxville, Tennessee and currently in the middle of a three-month tour, the young five-piece combo played two strong sets of country music and roots rock that drew largely upon two albums, Whiskey Angel and their recent Runaway Freeway Blues, incorporating diverse inspirational sources along the way.

Led by guitarist-keyboardist Cruz Contreras, the Black Lillies got a warm welcome as soon as they entered the intimate room, and they played like they felt at home. The opening song, “Gold and Roses,” established the motif of fine harmonies by Contreras and Trisha Gene Brady, and introduced the audience to the deft pedal steel work of Tom Pryor. “Catherine” paid tribute to Contreras’s grandmother, and the admiration expressed in the lyrics was punctuated by the snare fills and full bass notes of Bowman Townshend and Bobby Richards respectively. “Same Mistakes” brought to mind the vocal style of Vince Gill, while the bluesy “Good Morning Mama” let Contreras and Brady duet like Johnny and June over a series of crisp Telecaster riffs and solos by Pryor.


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