I was looking through some old newspapers before I converted them to packing materials recently, and I came across a letter written by a fairly successful local musician that outlined the financial pitfalls of being a musician who plays out locally, or anywhere. I don’t think too many non-musicians ever really thought about what goes into making live music happen, or how much time, effort, work, and money the artist puts into it before it’s displayed to the world, so I’m going to make this letter the whole of my column in a few weeks. Trust me, there’s a lot more to it then you think.
Conspicuous in it’s absence from my live music picks has been one of the best musical events in our area, or anywhere, for that matter. I’m talking about Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, and the reason I have not mentioned them is that the price is out of range for most locals, BUT – I must say that even though the ticket price is high, all music fans should experience a Midnight Ramble at least once. I know nobody has any extra money right now, but when you do, do yourself a favor and attend a Midnight Ramble. There’s always a great opening band or two, but the main attraction is The Levon Helm Band itself. Stellar musicians all, but special mention must be made of musical director, Larry Campbell, a 5 year veteran of Bob Dylan’s Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, and producer of the most recent album by Jorma Kaukonen, as well as the co-producer of the last two Grammy winning Levon Helm CD’s, “Dirt Farmer” and Electric Dirt”. Larry is also on board to produce the next Hot Tuna CD, and I haven’t even scratched the surface! Google him if you want more. One of the best all-around musicians anywhere, Larry plays just about every stringed instrument known to man: guitar, fiddle, mandolin, lap and pedal steel guitars, banjo, and probably a few that I don’t know about. Just to give you an idea, when Larry quit Bob Dylan’s Band, Bob had to replace him with 3 people! The amazing thing is that Larry plays each of those instruments better than most people who have devoted their lives to mastering only one of them, and, he’s completely self taught! Never had a lesson in his life! Add to Larry and Levon’s talents the soaring, angelic voices of Larry’s wife, Teresa Williams, and Levon’s daughter, Amy Helm, The scorching guitar of Jimmy Weider, who’s good enough to be the number one guitar player in any other band, the amazing horn section, the piano of Brian Mitchell (and sometime guest, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan), and you’ve got yourself one of the best bands on the planet! Plus the Rambles take place in Levon’s home, in his studio known as The Barn, so guests are in for an intimate treat that just can’t be found at any commercial concert for any price! Let’s put it this way – one of my friends paid $290.00 apiece for nosebleed seats for Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood at Madison Square Garden, and those weren’t scalper’s prices. That was the actual ticket price. In comparison, the Rambles are a bargain! And to anyone who offers the argument that Clapton is a bigger star than Levon, let me remind you that “Music From Big Pink” changed Clapton’s life, eventually bringing him to Woodstock, where he wanted to join The Band! So, think again, loyal readers. Do it at least once. A splendid time is guaranteed for all! More Ramble info at www.levonhelm.com.
This week’s live music picks –
Friday, Feb. 11 – NINA VIOLET at Market Market in Rosendale. Nina is a quirky, fun artist who usually performs by herself with electric guitar accompaniment, which is kind of unusual, and Nina is an unusual, but very talented musician, singer, and songwriter.
Friday, Feb. 11 – For those of you on the other side of the river, BIG JOE FITZ’S BLUES PARTY pulls into The Rhinecliff Hotel for the night. Big Joe is known for his blues radio show on WDST, 101.1 on the FM dial, every Sunday night at 10 o’clock, immediately following the only great radio show left on the planet, Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
Saturday, Feb. 12 – SYD STRAW at The Bearsville Theater. Syd has been around forever on the periphery of my musical vision, always playing with world class musicians. The only record I ever had of hers was The Golden Palominos, which was pretty good, and featured the talents of Michael Stipe, Richard Thompson, Jack Bruce, Matthew Sweet, and T-Bone Burnett. The band she’s bringing to The Bearsville Theater is no exception, featuring Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel (Del-Lords, Steve Earle, The Yayhoos), Francis X (Gang of Four, B-52’s), and the guitar player from Yo La Tengo.
Saturday, Feb.12 – GARLAND JEFFRIES at The Falcon in Marlboro. Listen, it’s a short drive, but worth it. I’ve heard the place is beautiful and they don’t even charge a cover. Instead, it’s by donation. The Falcon needs to be supported, and Garland Jeffries is a great way to do it. Best known for his anthemic hit, “Wild in the Streets”, Garland is an old school rocker who is making a rare appearance in our area. DON’T MISS IT!
Saturday, Feb, 12 – THE BALL AND CHAIN REVUE, featuring 3 great bands which all feature husbands and wives performing together, at one of my favorite venues, Club Helsinki in Hudson. The B&C Revue consists of The Jack Grace Band, Vicious Country, and The Five Points Band. Jack Grace fronts the rockinest drinkin’ and carousing country rock n roll band around, and The 5 Points Band are known as The Addams Family of Woodstock. I haven’t heard Vicious Country, but the band features Popa Chubby and his wife Galea, so it’s definitely gonna be rockin’.
Monday, Feb. 14 – ROBERT GORDON at The Turning Point in Piermont. Robert is the foremost proponent of authentic Rockabilly music on the East Coast. I used to see him every other week at the old Lone Star Café in Manhattan, and he never disappointed! His bands back then included Link Wray, Chris Spedding, Rob Stoner, Howie Wyeth, and the late, lamented, Danny Gatton. If you don’t know who those people are, Google them and you’ll see what kind of talent Robert brings to the stage. Worth the drive!
It’s hard to pick just one show for this week’s Pick of the Week, but if I had to, it would be the Ball and Chain Revue, which should just be a lot of fun, and has been described as “like juggling, while on fire and driving through a snowstorm, but funnier”. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Syd, Garland, or Robert, either, so, have fun, and enjoy your week.