Almanac music roundup (12/8-14)

Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams play Bearsville this Saturday

Local residing heroes of Americana Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams return to the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, December 10 at 8 p.m. Both were a vital part of the late Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles, with Campbell winning three Grammys for his production work with Helm. Between them, they’ve also played with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Mavis Staples, B. B. King, Elvis Costello, the Dead and Roseanne Cash, and were hand-picked by Jackson Browne as the support act for his three-month fall 2015 US tour.

Tickets cost $25 and $35, and are available at www. The Bearsville Theater is located at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock.


New Paltz candlelight concert on Huguenot Street this Saturday

The New Paltz Reformed Church presents its Christmas Candlelight Concert on Sunday, December 11 at 5 p.m. A New Paltz seasonal tradition since 1918, the Christmas Concert features the Junior, Youth and Senior Choirs of the New Paltz Reformed Church, as well as Gideon’s Army, a contemporary ensemble. The choirs will be accompanied by a string quartet.


Timeless and transporting, the sanctuary is darkened and illumined by candles. In eras past, members of the New Paltz fire company stood on guard, each one carrying a five-gallon water tank and hand pump. The theme of this year’s Candlelight Concert is “What Child Is This?” Each musical group will perform different interpretations of this Greensleeves-derived carol. There will also be singalongs of holiday favorites.

The event is free and open to the public. The historic church is located at 92 Huguenot Street in New Paltz. Donations to the church music program will be gratefully accepted. For more information, please call (845) 255-6340.


Guitar Junior Johnson plays Beacon’s Towne Crier this Saturday

The Towne Crier Café in Beacon welcomes in one of the secret heroes of the electric guitar – Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson & the Magic Rockers – on December 10 on 8:30 p.m. Well, not so secret: Johnson is the recipient of both a Grammy and a W. C. Handy Award; but in the world of blues and its indispensable influence on guitar rock, his name is not uttered quite as often as it should be, even as his articulate Stratocaster picking is an acknowledged influence on players of the order of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler.

Admission costs $35. The Towne Crier is located at 379 Main Street in Beacon. For tickets and additional information, visit


Listen to Bridge Music all winter at Marlboro’s Falcon

Long a venue for visual art as well for world-class jazz, blues, folk and rock, the Falcon in Marlboro is now the new winter home for composer Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music Listening Station from the Mid-Hudson Bridge through March 2017. Bertolozzi’s unique project using the Mid-Hudson Bridge as a musical instrument was realized in 2009 as a sound-art installation that can be heard at Listening Stations on the tower landings from April 1 to October 31 and on 95.3 FM in the parks flanking the bridge (Johnson/Iorio Park in Highland and Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie).

Although the radio broadcast of the project remains operational, Listening Stations are removed from the bridge during the winter. Guests at the Falcon and its new bottom-floor venue, the Falcon Underground, can find the Listening Station outdoors, near the Falcon Underground. Press a button to hear the music, created with sounds harvested from the Mid-Hudson Bridge as its raw material. The Falcon is located at 1348 Route 9W in Marlboro. For more information, visit


The inspired Nellie McKay plays Beacon’s Towne Crier this Friday

British-born New York songwriter Nellie McKay (pronounced Mc-EYE) will perform at the Towne Crier Café in Beacon on Friday, December 9 at 8:30 p.m.

In songwriting – as, I am sure, in economics, manufacturing and all that other things that I don’t understand – the paradox of bounty is devaluation: a negative correlation between the opulence of the Muse and its consequence, but only at extreme settings. Up to a certain bend in the curve, a prolific consistency is the hallmark of an artist both inspired and disciplined, impassioned and professional. The Beatles, recall, did all of that in about six years. Exceed that rate at your own commercial peril. But when the frequency of releases is frantic and the content of each excessive and obsessive – call it the “Of Montreal Line” – we begin to care less, almost as an act of self-protection.

When the British-born New York songwriter Nellie McKay hit the scene in 2004 with her double-album debut Get away from Me, we seemed to be in the presence of one of that kind: someone who was poised to pummel us into indifference with the unrelenting abundance of her wit and musical resourcefulness. It is not even that she lacked discrimination and self-censure at the age of 21, that she was unable to tell her gems from her turds. There were no turds. Extract any random nine-song subset from Get away from Me, and it is likely to be just as good as (though quite different from) every other statistically possible nine-song subset – which is to say rather humiliatingly good, for those of us who dabble in the art.

Radically free and fluent with all the materials of songwriting and style, Get away from Me is expansive, ironic piano pop, and every bit a part of the lounge-and-cabaret revival of its time: genre- and persona-hopping, wickedly funny and socially perceptive, playfully produced, donning production and arrangement memes and tossing them off like wigs, flirting with all traditions, marrying none. Nothing is precious or pious. The appropriations – cabaret jazz, soul and disco, novelty rags, boogie-woogie, a little bossa, a little hip hop even, and all eras of show tunes – are never as reverent or as deep as what, say, Norah Jones was selling on the same streets at the same time. Get away from Me was attention-deficient sophisti-punk by comparison, almost more of a piece with Magnetic Fields but with many more chords than Stephen Merritt has ever managed to master.

It sure seemed that McKay was soon to be shunned for not shutting up, one of those: someone for whom the act of songwriting is something more than discipline, something more than passion, something more like pathology – a rare disorder, MacManus syndrome, otherwise known as Declanitis. Geoff Emerick produced Get away from Me. He is best-known for engineering every Beatles record from Revolver on, and for writing a great book about the experience; but the gig that might have best prepared him for an o’erflowing wunderkind like the young Nellie McKay was producing Elvis Costello’s masterpiece, Imperial Bedroom. Costello still writes great songs, you know; and I can name maybe three people I know who have even checked in in the last 20 years. Quarantined by his own loquacious genius.

McKay (famously pronounced Mc-EYE) did some theater work (Threepenny Opera, of course), struggled through creative conflicts with Columbia and finally self-released the self-produced Pretty Little Head in 2006: another double CD, but one that rocks considerably harder than Get away from Me. Since then, releases have been relatively scant, at least for someone I was preparing to get tired of fast. She recorded Obligatory Villagers in 2007, a challenging nine-song set of would-be show tunes that channels both the arrangement chops and the deceptively easygoing political savvy of Randy Newman. Next came a tribute to Doris Day in 2009, and then her last (to date) collection of originals: 2010’s Home Sweet Mobile Home, a typically smart and sardonic effort that grasps at the trends of the moment: indie rock, cutesy uke-pop and musical globalism. In sum, her catalogue is hardly paltry, but hardly prodigious.

In 2015, McKay released My Weekly Reader, in which she interprets gems of the ’60s. Some are well-known and loved: the album-opening reading of the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon,” the Small Faces classic “Itchycoo Park” and – finally arriving at Lennon and McCartney nine songs in – “If I Fell.” Along the way, she hits on Zappa, Herman’s Hermits, Moby Grape, Gerry & the Pacemakers and CSN&Y, among others. The record is, by definition and intent, a mixed bag, and its highlights tend to be its quieter moments – for example the lovely cover of the early Steve Miller Band oddity “Quicksilver Girl,” a song that nicks its bridge from “Taxman.” I hope and suspect that this thoroughly enjoyable collection of covers is just a way of clearing the decks for her next effusion of smarter-than-the-rest-of-us originals. It is time for her to get back on the prodigy track.

Nellie McKay, with special guest Timothy Dark, performs at the Towne Crier Café in Beacon on Friday, December 9 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30. The Towne Crier is located at 379 Main Street in Beacon. For tickets and additional information, visit

Holidelic at Helsinki Hudson

Everett Bradley’s Holidelic Christmas is described by its host as a show that “will shake you free of the Andy Williams and Nutcracker rut.” The richly decorated Bradley has played with Springsteen and the E Street Band; he served as Carly Simon’s musical director, and the rest of his résumé is a partial Who’s Who of 20th– and 21st-century rock, soul and pop. But Holidelic is something different: a funkifed taste of holiday classics.

Holidelic debuted in 2002 at New York’s prestigious Joe’s Pub. It comes to Club Helsinki in Hudson on Saturday, December 10 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, December 11 at 8 p.m. Admission costs $30 reserved, $25 general admission. Note that reserved seating is available only by phone at (518) 828-4800. For general admission tickets and more information, visit Club Helsinki is located at 405 Columbia Street in Hudson.