New York Music Daily

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Tag: country music

Abigail Dowd Stares Down the Flood and Wins

From Johnny Cash, to Led Zeppelin, to Karla Rose, musicians have never stopped finding new uses for flood metaphors. Americana songwriter Abigail Dowd is the latest in that venerable line. For Dowd, it’s personal: her Colorado home was flooded six times in 2018, springboarding the songs on her hauntingly intense latest album Beautiful Day, streaming at Soundcloud. As a tale of resilience and triumph over adversity, it has special resonance in the year of the needle of death.

Dowd has a ruggedly individualistic persona and a thing for southern gothic; her previous album Not What I Seem got a rave review here last year. Not everything is as it seems in the allusive, wary title track, Dowd’s spiky fingerpicking leading to a doublespeed charge fueled by Alex McKinney’s dobro and Scott Sawyer’s spare electric guitar lines over the low-key shuffle rhythm of bassist Jason Duff and drummer Austin McCall. Here and there, Joe MacPhail’s Rhodes electric piano pops up, a subtle suspenseful enhancement.

Diamond is a strutting Lou Reed tune in Americana disguise, spiced with MacPhail’s smoky organ: “Sometimes I feel like a miner left behind in the dark” is the key line. Dowd’s delivery in general is more flinty on this album, especially in One Moment at a Time, a moody carpe-diem theme built around a briskly flurrying acoustic guitar riff.

The instrumental St. Vrain – the name of the creek that rose up and almost took Dowd’s home with it – has a gorgeously haunting, baroque-tinged web of guitars and is over way, way too soon: Dowd could have kept this going three times as long and it wouldn’t be boring.

Sawyer’s ominous washes of chords raise the intensity in River, a resolute Appalachian gothic anthem. Dowd stays with the brooding minor-key atmosphere in Apple Trees, a chillingly metaphorical tale of plans suddenly derailed.

The Underground Railroad escape anthem Judgment Day captures the exhaustion of life on the run and the perils at every turn. “I just want to be alone,” the haunted freedom fighter in Don’t Want to Talk About It asserts: sometimes you have to become a monster to defeat them.

Dowd’s defiant narrator throws off the shackles of original sin in the briskly stomping After the Fall, right up to a surprise ending. The she brings down the lights in the haunting, organ-fueled, enigmatic Rise Above: at what point do we have to walk through hell to get any further?

The flood metaphors reach fever pitch in Run, a global warming-era Appalachian gothic tale run amok. Dowd winds up the album with Grandmother Moon, a shamanic, oldtime blues-infused tableau. Dowd is on a creative tear right now: there must be something in that Rocky Mountain water.

Live Music Calendar For New York and Brooklyn For May and June 2021

We’re taking baby steps toward getting back to normal: new calendar for July and August coming 7/1 with probably hundreds more listings. In the meantime, more and more free outdoor shows popping up all over town, so this calendar is being updated more frequently. A lot of shows are being announced at the 11th hour, so you might want to bookmark this page and check back on a night, or an afternoon, when you feel like going out.

Please don’t patronize venues that continue to enforce  lockdown restrictions. Let’s all do our part to make sure New York doesn’t turn into an apartheid state!

5/8, 4 PM brilliant resonator guitarist/bluesmama Mamie Minch in front of the Wild Project, 3rd St between Aves A + B. She’s also at High Dive on 5th Ave and Carroll Street in Park Slope on 5/29th at 2

5/13, 5 PM  hard-hitting bassist Dawn Drake & Zapote‘play psychedelic Afrobeat and funk at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/15, 3 PM ish powerhouse tenor saxophonist Mark Turner leads a chordless trio with Vicente Archer on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/15, 4 PM composer-collective Oracle Hysterical premiere their new song cycle Terra Nova outdoors at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza

5/15, time TBA avant garde chanteuse Jane LeCroy’s new punk cabaret duo project Shelter Puppy outdoors at City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Ave off Havemeyer, Williamsburg, free

5/16, 1 PM ish drummer Antonio Sanchez leads a trio with Donny McCaslin on alto sax and Matt Brewer on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/16, 3 PM luminous, visionary vocalist/dancer Luisa Muhr, multi-reed legend Daniel Carter and a posse of many more improvise outside 166 N 12th St. in Williamsburg

5/16, 5 PM the SEM Ensemble play Petr Kotik’s Letters to Olga (1988) with text by Václav Havel for two narrators, winds and guitars at in the yard adjacent to the Willow Place Auditorium, 25 Columbia Place (Joralemon/State), downtown Brooklyn, closest train is the A/C to High St.

5/17, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra brass quartet play works by Tcherepnin, Carlos Chavez, Strauss and others at Bryant Park. The program repeats on 5/19.

5/18, 5:30 PM oboeist Alexandra Knoll leads a wind trio playing an all-French program with works by Poulenc, Francaix and others at Bryant Park

5/20, 5 PM dynamic, sometimes atmospheric jazz violinist Charlie Burnham and band at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/21, 5 PM cellist Marika Hughes‘ New String Quartet with Charlie Burnham on violin, Marvin Sewell on guitar, and Rashaan Carter on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side. 5/27, 5 PM she’s at the corner of Fulton and Bond in downtown Brooklyn

5/22, 3 PM ish tsunami drummer Johnathan Blake leads a wild quartet with Mark Turner and Chris Potter on tenor sax and Dezron Douglas on bass, wow, in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/23 starting at half past noon an outdoor jazz festival starting at half past noon outside at 18 Whitwell Pl in Gowanus with saxophonist Ole Mathisen‘s Take Off Collective trio at 4:30 F/R to 4th Ave

5/23-24, 1 PM ish drummer Nasheet Waits leads a high-voltage quartet with Mark Turner and Steve Nelson on tenor sax, and Rashaan Carter on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/26, 1 PM lustrous singer and badass cello-rock bandleader Serena Jost in a rare solo show at Bogardus Plaza, Hudson Street between Chambers & Reade, Tribeca

5/26, 7 PM, tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his  noir-tinged Uncivilized band at the Flying Lobster, 144 Union St off Hicks, just over the BQE, outdoors, F to Smith/9th

5/31, 2 PM drummer Michael W. Davis leads his trio with Lucas Pino on tenor sax, Martin Nevin on bass; at 3 trumpeter Jason Palmer leads his Quartet with Mark Turner on tenor sax, Edward Perez on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the right of the bridge

6/1, 3 PM, tenor sax titan Mark Turner leads a quartet with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the right of the bridge

6/2, 1 PM Celtic-inspired pianist Will Armstrong‘s Trio at Bogardus Plaza, Hudson Street between Chambers & Reade, Tribeca

6/2-4, 1 PM ish pyrotechnic tenor sax player Mark Turner records a live album with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

6/5. 4 PM  the world’s creepiest, slinkiest, most psychedelic crime jazz/film noir band, Big Lazy at a front-porch show at 182 Argyle Rd (Beverly/Albemarle). in Ditmas Park Brooklyn, Q to Beverly Rd.. 6/26 at 6:30 they’re at West Side Arts Concert series in Lincoln Park in Jersey City

6/6-8, 4 PM ish saxophonist Darius Jones records a live album with Dezron Douglas on bass and Gerald Cleaver next to the Catacombs in the middle of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, R to 25th St.

6/6, 4 PM  amazing string quintet Sybarite5– who are also the world’s coolest Radiohead cover band – on the steps of the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

6/6 and 6/13, 2 PM a Scandinavian orchestral and chamber music festival with performers TBA on the Billings Lawn at Ft. Tryon Park. Artists associated with the late, great NY Scandia Symphony may be involved.

6/10, 7:30 PM bhangra-klezmer mashups with Sharabi with trumpeter Frank London & Deep Singh with singer Sarah Gordon at Wagner Park just north of the battery CANCELLED DUE TO THREAT OF RAIN

6/10, 7:30 PM perennially popular jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and keyboardist Leo Genovese outdoors at the Clemente Soto VélezcCultural & Educational Center, 114 Norfolk St., LES

6/13, 2 PM carnivalesque Balkan punk monstrosity Funkrust Brass Band outdoors at 98 Dikeman St, (Richards/Conover) Red Hook

6/13 , 2 PM tenor sax player Danny Walsh leads a trio with bassist Yoshi Waki and dummer Richie Morales in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side, take the path up the hill to the left of the bridge

6/15, 7:30 PM orchestra the Knights with Gil Shaham, violin and Aoife O’Donovan, vocals play works by O’Donovan, George Walker and Beethoven at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, there may be restrictions, be prepared to linger on the fringes

6/18, 9 ish  torchy cumbia/swing singer and accordionist Erica Mancini at Sunny’s. She’s back on 6/25.

6/19, 4:30 PM intense Balkan chanteuse Jenny Luna‘s haunting, traditional Turkish band Dolunay outdoors at Barbes

6/19, 4;30 PM wildfire electric blues guitarist Celisse Henderson at the block party at Astor Place east of Lafayette

6/19, 6 PM House of Time play works by JS Bach, CPE Bach & Telemann; Suzanne Lorge sings azz with John Di Martino (piano) and Sophia Reyes (flute); pianist Evelyne Luest plays Schubert outdoors at the B-C Courtyard at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Ave, Washington Heights, A to 181st St., free

6/19, 8 PM fearless, psychedelic jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch and band at San Pedro Inn, 320 Van Brunt St, Red Hook

6/20, 1 PM ish an allday outdoor jazz extravaganza with trombonist Bryan Drye’s Zodiac Quintet, Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territorial Orchestra, drummer Jeff Davis’ quintet and Brooklyn psychedelic funk legends Groove Collective in front of I-Beam

6/20, 2 PM join some of the prime movers of the NYC pro-freedom movement for a summer solstice celebration in the park on Roosevelt Island with a picnic and activities, dedicated to the late great activist Rosa Koire. Tour starts at 2 at the café at Cornell Tech, 2 West Loop Road, a 10-minute walk south from the Roosevelt Island subway station.

2:00 – “Transhumanist dream” by art-rock singer/investigative journalist Tessa Lena (at Cornell Tech)
2:30 – “The biomedical roots of the Covid plandemic” by psychiatrist Dr. Karin Burkhard (Smallpox hospital ruins)
3:00 – “The evisceration of our freedoms” by investigative journalist/healer Cat McGuire (FDR Four Freedoms Memorial)
3:30 – gong-bath storytelling performance by Mary Ann Schmidt and Michael Jay
4:00 – acceptance celebration and healing circle
4:00-7:00 – percussion improvisation by Africa Forestdance

6/20, 3 PM alto saxophonist Abraham Burton leads a trio with Dezron Douglas on bass and Eric McPherson on drums in Central Park about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side; take the trail up, to the left of the bridge

6/20, 5 PM repeating 6/23 at 6:30 PM clarinetist Bixby Kennedy, cellist Madeline Fayette and pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg play works by Beethoven, Ries and Mendelssohn at Grinberg’s now-resusciated monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., convenient to 1/2/3 trains, $35 includes wine, munchies and good conversation afterward

6/21-24, half past noon lyrical jazz pianist Deanna Witkowski plays solo at Bryant Park

6/21, 6 PM dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine under the Manhattan Bridge archway in Dumbo, F to York St.

6/21, 6:30ish the NY Mandolin Orchestra at Needle Park at the triangle at Broadway and 65th St.

6/21, 7 PM Zach Layton and Nick Hallett lead a performance of Terry Riley’s “In C” at Brooklyn Bridge Park Harborview Lawn on Pier 1, south of the old roller rink, walk up and west and you’ll find it

6/24, 6:30 PM surreal, rustic, lyrical klezmer from the Beary Brothers featuring Psoy Korolenko, Zisl Slepovitch and Ilya Shneyveys at Wagner Park just north and west of the Battery

6/26, 4 PM cinematic, psychedelic quirk-pop keyboardist Michael Hearst and his Songs for Unusual (fill in the blank: creatures, vehicles, you name it) at the Old Stone House in Park Slope

6/26, 7 PM clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party  under the Manhattan Bridge archway in Dumbo, F to York St.

6/26, 8 PM tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his  noir-tinged Uncivilized band at San Pedro Inn, 320 Van Brunt St, Red Hook

6/27, 7 PM Charu Suri Raga Jazz w/ Sufi Maestro Umer Piracha at Drom, $15

6/29, 7:30 PM an oldtimey swing dance party with the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free

6/29, 7:30 PM the Ulysses and Emerson String Quartets team up for music by Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

6/30, 7 PM the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra play music by Haydn, Dvorak and the Bruch violin concerto with concertmaster Luis Casal outdoors at the Old Stone House in Park Slope

7/1, 7:30 PM intense, rapturous Balkan/Middle Eastern ensemble the Secret Trio –Tamer Pinarbasi, Ismail Lumanovski & Ara Dinkjian – at Drom, $20. They’re back on 7/27 at 9:30.. After this show, at 9 moody, tuneful string-driven Americana and chamber pop with DM & the Expats play ($15 separate adm)

7/2, 7 PM Gordon Lockwood (blues guitar monster Jeremiah Lockwood and drummer Ricky Gordon) at Terra Blues. They’re back here on 7/9

7 /3, 7:30/9:30 PM cleverly lyrical, darkly klezmer-tinged pianist Uri Caine with Mark Helias on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums at Mezzrow, $25

7/5, 7 PM wryly retro, period-perfect classic 60s style female-fronted honkytonk band the Bourbon Express at Cowgirl Seahorse.. 7/10, 8 PM ish they’re at Schnitzel House, 7319 5th Ave in Bay Ridge, R to 77th St.

7/5, 9 PM the Binky Griptite Orchestra (formerly Sharon Jones’ brilliant oldschool soul backing band) at Bar Lunatico

7/6, 7:30 PM chamber orchestra A Far Cry play works by Grieg, Part, Jessie Montgomery and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/6, 7/8:30 PM postbop trumpeter Josh Evans leads a quintet at Smalls, $25

7/6, 8 PM legendary, risque, politically spot-on calypso icon the Mighty Sparrow at Damrosch Park. Maybe listen from across the street because there may be restrictions.

7/6, 8:30 PM tuneful original delta blues and acoustic Americana from guitarist Jon LaDeau at Pete’s

7/6, 9 PM Trio Catarina with hotshot Brazilian accordionist Felipe Hostins at Bar Lunatico

7/7, 6 PM new string quartet the Overlook with guest Tanya Birl-Torres play music by Leila Adu, Shelley Washington and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor at the Hispanic Society of America, 613 W 155th St. west of Broadway, 1 train to 157th St., free

7/7, 6 PM horn player Cort Roberts leads an ensemble playing new classical repertoire tba at Madison Square Park. He’s back on 8/11

7/7, 8 PM ish edgy alto sax player Kate Mohanty plays her bday show followed by uneasy female-fronted psychedelic abstract rock band Gold Dime at Our Wicked Lady, $12

7/7, 7:30 PM the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with Shai Wosner, piano; Chad Hoopes, violin; Kristin Lee, violin; Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, viola; David Requiro, cello; Xavier Foley, bass play works by Beethoven and Dvořák at Damrosch Park. Maybe listen from across the street because there may be restrictions.

7/8, 6 PM soaringly explosive jazz composer/torch singer Nicole Zuraitis at 55 Bar

7/8, 8 PM painter Jim Watt completes his “1000 Watts” series of 1000 ink washes in the monochromatic Japanese Sumi style while an allstar jazz trio – trumpeter Antoine Drye, guitar icon Bill Frisell & drummer Kyle Benford – improvise behind him at Collab, 309 Starr St, Bushwick (St. Nicholas/Cypress Ave), L to Jefferson St, $20 sug don. Watt will donate $100,000 (a hundred grand, you read that right) to benefit jazz musicians imperiled by the lockdown through sales at his dealer Jim Kempner Fine Art.

7/8, 8 PM the NY Philharmonic play Carlos Simon: Fate Now Conquers; Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite; Mozart: Symphony No. 40 at Damrosch Park. Maybe listen from across the street because there may be restrictions.

7/9, 7 PM perennially popular original folksinger Toshi Reagon & Big Lovely at Bryant Park

7/9, 7/9:30 PM cutting-edge B3 organ grooves with the Jared Gold trio at Smallls, ,$25

7/9, 7:30 PM iconic Afro-Cuban percussionist/bandleader Pedrito Martinez at Drom, $15

7/10, 2 PM afternoon improvisations: guitarist  Aron Namenwirth with Daniel Carter, Claire de Brunner, Tamio Shirashi and otherworldly Turkish group No Land at Oliver Coffee, 5 Oliver St (cor. St. James), Chinatown

7/10, 7 PM dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues. They’re back here on 7/24

7/10, 7:30 PM the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center play works by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Schumann at Damrosch Park. Maybe listen from across the street because there may be restrictions.

7/11, 3:30 PM the Noga Band featuring amazing Middle Eastern oudist Avram Pengas at Wagner Park north and west of the Battery

7/12-16, half past noon sly, cinematic, tuneful Microscopic Septet pianist Joel Forrester at Bryant Park

7/13, 7 PM pensive, eclectic, tuneful jazz/art-rock songwriter Becca Stevens at the big room at the Rockwood, $15

7/14, 6:30 PM repeating 7/18 at 5 PM guitarist Oren Fader and and pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg play rare duo works by Vivaldi, Beethoven, Hummel, Moscheles, Weber, Boccherini, Munier, Castelnuovo and Piazzolla at Grinberg’s now-resuscitated monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., convenient to 1/2/3 trains, $35 includes wine, munchies and good conversation afterward

7/16, 7 PM  sizzling salsa dura band the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at Bryant Park

7/16, 7/8:30 PM drummer Sylvia Cuenca leads a quintet with Dave Kikoski on piano and Craig Handy on tenor sax at Smallls, $25

7/18, 7 PM slashing lo-fi guttar blues songwriter/guitarist Breanna Barbara at Our Wicked Lady, free

7/18, 7:30/9 PM Falkner Evans solo on piano – sometimes inscrutable, sometimes darkly rapturous – at Mezzrow, $25

7/19, 9 PM darkly brilliant, psychedelic Klezmatics multi-reedman Matt Darriau‘s group plays a Yusef Lateef tribute at Bar Lunatico

7/20, noon classical ensemble the Sterling Strings play their hilarious string quartet versions of rap and pp hits at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn

7/20, 7 PM vibraphonist Felipe Fournier‘s wild Tito Puente and Dave Brubeck cover band, Supermambo at Gantry Plaza State Park

7/20, 7:30 PM the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra play works by Purcell, John Blow and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/20, 7:30/9:30 PM  rapturously eclectic jazz chanteuse Marianne Solivan leads her leads her trio at Mezzrow, $25

7/21, 7 PM adventurous indie classical ensemble Contemporaneous play edgy, often poignant new works by Alex Weiser, Zachary James Ritter, Yasmin Williams , toy pianist Lucy Yao and a world premiere by Yaz Lancaster at Pier 64, 24th St. and the Hudson, free, rsvp req  

7/21, 8 PM bhangra-klezmer mashups with Sharabi feat. trumpeter Frank London & Deep Singh with singer Sarah Gordon plus Israeli reggae-rockers Zion 80 at Drom, $20

7/22, half past noon mostly-female, kinetic klezmer/cumbia/cinematic jamband Isle of Klezbos at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave/10th St.

7/22, 7/8:30 PM colorful,  eclectic, paradigm-shifting B3 jazz organist Brian Charette  leads his organ trio at Smalls, $25

7/23, 7 PM orchestra the Knights play music by Jessie Montgomery, Anna Clyne, and Christina Courtin, alongside Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik. at Bryant Park

7/24 2 PM improvisational keyboardist Matt Mottel plays his bday show at Oliver Coffee, 5 Oliver St (cor. St. James), Chinatown

7/24, 7/8:30 PM Mike LeDonne takes a relatively rare turn on piano with a trio on piano at Smalls

7/24, 7:30ish the Sun Ra Arkestra at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

7/24, 8 PM sprawling large jazz/ambient ensemble/jamband Burnt Sugar at Damrosch Park

7/24, 10 PM fiery electric bluegrass and C&W with Demolition String Band at Skinny Dennis

7/26-30 half past noon big band pianist Russ Kasoff solo at Bryant Park

7/27, 7 PM the George Gee Big Band play vintage 30s swing at Gantry Plaza State Park

7/28, 6 PM vibraphonist Sae Hashimoto leads an ensemble playing new classical repertoire tba at Madison Square Park. She’s back on 8/4

7/29, half past noon fearlessly relevant, toweringly intense latin jazz pianist Arturo O’Farrill leads a smaller band than usual at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave/10th St

7/29, 7:30 PM the Mingus Big Band celebrate their new home at Drom, $30

7/29, 10ish sly blue-eyed soul pianist/crooner Nat Osborn at the big room at the Rockwood, ,$15

7/30, 8 PM Indian percussionist Ravish Momin’s Sunken Cages + Migiwa “Miggy” Miyajima‘s lavish large jazz ensemble at Damrosch Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

7/30, 7:30 PM postbop saxophonist Greg Osby and his Quartet and clarinetist Oran Etkin’s Open Arms Project at Drom, $30

7/31, 7 PM salsa romantica crooner Tito Nieves at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

7/31, 8 PM Raga Maqam with paradigm-shifting trumpeter/santoorist Amir ElSaffar and members of  Brooklyn Raga Massive at Damrosch Park. Their Lincoln Center show a couple of years ago was off the hook.

7/31, 8 PM legendary Brooklyn psychedelic funk band Groove Collective at Drom, $20

8/1, 7 PM the Harlem Gospel Travelers and irrepressible 60s-style blue-eyed soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed at Our Wicked Lady, free

8/3, 7:30 PM the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Mozart, Golijov and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/6, 7 PM trumpeter Terence Blanchard with the Turtle Island Quartet at Bryant Park

8/6, 11 PM clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party at Drom, $20

8/7, 2 PM an amazing improvisational jazz triplebill: baritone sax monster Josh Sinton with Daniel Carter and Sam Newsome, then brilliant, politically fearless visionary/tenor sax improviser Matana Roberts , and flutist Laura Cocks solo at Oliver Coffee, 5 Oliver St (cor. St. James), Chinatown

8/11, 7 PM slinky, hypnotic percussive Moroccan trance band Innov Gnawa on the steps at the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

8/14, 9:30 PM  this era’s most consistently interesting jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer at Prospect Park Bandshell. Listen from outside (try around the back) since the arena may still have restrictions

8/17, 7 PM Dominican jazz guitarist Yasser Tejeda & Pelotre at Gantry Plaza State Park

8/18, 5 PM the Harlem Quartet at Times Square. Where? Follow the sound, it seems

8/18 alto sax powerhouse Ravi Coltrane and the sultry Juke Joint Jelis feat. badass singer Brianna Thomas at Drom, time/price tba

8/19, 7 PM double threat Camille Thurman – equally dazzling on the mic and the tenor sax – with the Darrell Green Trio, and trombonist Conrad Herwig with his Quintet at Drom, $30

8/20, 7 PM amazingly dynamic drummer  Johnathan Blake and his trio and wildfire Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda with drummer Ari Hoenig at Drom, $30

8/21, 7 PM legendary second-wave Afrobeat band Antibalas at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

8/21, 7 PM edgy, incisive, terse jazz guitarist Russell Malone and his Quartet at Drom, $20

8/22, 7 PM paradigm-shifting Romany jazz/psychedelic rock guitar mastermind Stephane Wrembell at Drom $30

8/24, 6 PM the Donald Harrison Quartet with the Harlem Orchestra play Charlie Parker’s Bird with Strings at Marcus Garvey Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

9/12, 4 PM the Overlook String Quartet play music by Eleanor Alberga, Florence Price, and Chevalier de Saint-Georges at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace about a block south of 162nd St., Washington Heights, free, A/C to 163rd St.

9/18, 7:30 PM Trombone Shorty at Prospect Park Bandshell. We might have to listen from outside since the arena may still have restrictions

9/19, 7 PM Patti Smith at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, maybe listen from outside because there may still be restrictions involved

Hard Country Singer Sara Petite Shifts Gears into Harder Rock Territory

“I ain’t feeling like an angel tonight,” Sara Petite sings over a twangy stomp on the opening track of her new album Rare Bird, streaming at Soundcloud. She’s made a career in defiant bad-girl hard country sounds: this one’s more rock-oriented. Her vocals are more focused, more wintry, more dynamic this time out: there’s more depth to the hard-living persona.

Petite also explores more musical territory here. Case in point: the second track, Runnin’. If not for the pedal steel and the down-home snarl of the guitars, this would be new wave.

As Petite sees it, Scars are “like barbwire to the touch, jagged and jaded” and make a good theme for a richly textured, unexpectedly complicated Americana rock anthem. Listen closely and you realize how much Stockholm Syndrome plays into an abusive relationship.

The title track is a mashup of elegant 60s countrypolitan and more recent, harder-edged Nashville sounds, with a plaintively sizzling fiddle solo on the way out. Petite picks up the pace with The Misfits, a big, fist-pumping nonconformist anthem, then brings the lights down again with the gorgeously bittersweet Missing You Tonight.

She fills a barroom with a colorful bunch of party animals in Crash Boom Bang, mashing up a simmering Texas slide guitar shuffle with a familiar Elvis hit. Likewise, she blends some catchy Memphis soul into the mix in Medicine Man.

Floating With the Angels has tinges of Tex-Mex, Petite finding religion in drunken bliss via a clever litany of gospel imagery. She goes back in a retro soul direction with the resolute, distantly New Orleans-tinged Keep Moving On: “I’ve been ridiculed, blamed, shamed, misunderstood,” she admits, but she won’t let that get her down. “Freedom ain’t just for the chosen few.”

She winds up the record with Working on a Soul: who would have expected the crazed noiserock intro that kicks off this surreal mix of hick-hop, Nashville gothic and jubilant country gospel.

A Smart, Defiant, Diverse Debut Album From Americana Tunesmith Cristina Vane

Cristina Vane shifts between a simmering intensity and a low-key, brooding vocal delivery. She’s a strong guitarist with command of a whole bunch of blues styles and writes sharply lyrical, darkly aphoristic songs. Her narratives are cached in allusive, grim rural imagery more than fire-and-brimstone gospel. Her brilliant debut album Nowhere Sounds Lovely – streaming at Bandcamp – covers a lot of ground, stylistically and otherwise.

She opens the record with Blueberry Hill – an original, not the Fats Domino classic, although the first verse of this intricately interwoven, Appalachian-flavored acoustic slide guitar blues is set in New Orleans. The devil tells her to get out, so she heads to New Mexico – and that isn’t any more welcoming:

We got spiders in the bathrooms and there’s snakes in the halls
We got our women in white dresses gonna walk through walls
And this house is haunted, not as much as me
But I could shake these demons, they’re good company

Travelin’ Blues has an easygoing Piedmont-style feel, Tommy Hannum’s dobro lingering over Vane’s nimble fingerpicking, bassist Dow Tomlin and drummer Cactus Moser giving it a, loping groove. By contrast, the stark banjo tune Prayer For the Blind has a midwest gothic fatalism, an endless cycle where “Time passes on old wounds as if they were brand new.”

Badlands is not the famous song by that 70s rock guy who became a hopeless lockdowner apologist, but a searing, allusively grim slide guitar-driven blues original. It could be a sinister account of antedeluvian rural hell…or a thinly disguised pro-freedom anthem. The big guitar payoff at the end is spot-on.

There’s redemptive solitude in the front-porch folk waltz Dreaming of Utah, Hannum’s pedal steel adding a touch of vintage Bob Wills western swing. Vane reaches for a matter-of-factly strutting Memphis soul feel in What Remains and goes back to blues with Heaven Bound Station, a steady stroll with some neat twin-guitar interplay.

She switches to banjo for Will I Ever Be Satisfied, a spare, lonesome-traveler type number. Vane imagines her ideal guy in Dreamboy, a stomping, insistent, similarly simmering blues: turns out she likes the strong silent type. Then she slows things down with the moody, slide guitar-driven Wishing Bone Blues, rising out of a hypnotic, summery resonance

The Driving Song captures a gloomy, desperate rural atmosphere where “The characters around me, border the absurd/It’s a comedy of horrors, and it just keeps getting worse.” Vane winds up the album the triumphant waltz Satisfied Soul, Nate Leath’s fiddle harmonizing with the keening pedal steel. If she hits the road in the free states this summer, she’s going to make a whole lot of fans.

Grimly Lyrical, Darkly Jangly Americana Rock Tunesmithing From Janet Simpson

The ramshackle, embroidered cover art for Janet Simpson‘s new album Safe Distance – streaming at Bandcamp – is pure American gothic, a cowboy trying to lasso a snake. That speaks volumes for Simpson’s worldview and irreverent outsider persona. Her songs draw a straight line back to the glory days of the so-called “paisley underground” rock of the 80s: Americana twang, punk spirit, psychedelic ambience. Simpson’s tales of hard times on the forgotten fringes are starkly lyrical and often chilling. She plays guitars and keys and has a great band behind her: Will Stewart on guitars, Robert Wason on bass and Tyler McGuire on drums. This is one of the best rock records of the year.

The opening track, Nashville Girls sounds like the Dream Syndicate with a woman out front, a clanging, vampy, wickedly catchy, caustically picturesque sendup of the kind of clueless trust fund kids you see in any gentrified neighborhood. Stewart’s uneasy chorus-box guitar solo wafts in, a fresh breeze straight ouf of the 80s; Simpson overdubs some whooshy synth on the way out. It’s a hard act to follow, but the rest of the record holds up.

The blend of jangle and clang in the second cut, Slip, is just as delicious: it could be the Gun Club at their most focused mid-80s peak, taking a stab at a hypnotic, nocturnal waltz. Alcohol permeates these songs like George Jones’ breath: Simpson’s battlescarred narrators medicate 24/7. Case in point: Reno, a pulsing, honkyonk-flavored tale that turns far much darker than you would ever think.

Simpson layers hazy keys and spare guitars for suspenseful, nocturnal ambience in Awe & Wonder, a brooding, completely ambiguous look at trying to rekindle what seems to be a pretty dead romance.

She wails to the top of her range over a steady, tense backbeat iu I’m Wrong: “I wander off sometimes it’s so easy to let myself fall through the cracks,” she muses. The baritone guitar solo out is an unexpected treat.

As an offhand portrait of despondency while everybody’s out having fun, Aiu’t Nobody Looking packs a calm wallop: and that fretless bass is a trip. The album’s title track is not a snide lockdown reference but a sobering account of a blackout hookup set to a marching waltz beat:

Dancing the line as if it was straight
A callous ballet, the border so fine
On the border so fine between two awful states

Simpson goes back to portraits of terminal depression in the spare, fingerpicked Black Turns Blue:

I’ve been drinking all my feelins it’s so much easier than dealing
The world’s so pretty when I’m reeling I’d rather stay where I can’t see

The album’s most hauntingly allusive song is Double Lines, a Nashville gothic drinking-and-driving tale right up there with Ninth House’s Follow the Line. Simpson offers up the spare, mostly acoustic Silverman as a mea culpa to someone who could have been a safe harbor.

Mountain, a Memphis soul tune, is an unexpectedly optimistic scenario. The album’s final cut is Wrecked, a subdued but defiant, distantly Tex-Mex flavored tune:

Maybe I’m barely hanging on
Maybe I’m wrecked, but I’m not too far gone
Maybe the edge is right where I belong
I’m not a fighter but I’m a dancer
And it might be a grave I’m dancing on

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For April and May 2021

Audiences from Florida to the Dakotas are back to normal while we’re still stuck in lockdown hell. But there’s a growing number of shows here this month, almost all of them outdoors and free. Sorry, no speakeasy shows listed here: we can’t snitch on them!

New listings are being added, sporadically: it couldn’t hurt to bookmark this page and check back in about a week to see what else is on the schedule!

4/4. 11 AM alto saxophonist Sarah Hanahan, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, bassist Phil Norris, and drummer Robert Lotreck followed at 1:30ish by the Wayne Escoffery/Jeremy Pelt Quartet with Dezron Douglas on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums, wow, at the south end of the mall in Central Park, enter at 72nd St and go south when you see the Naumburg Bandshell

4/6, 5 PM the Regeneration Quintet – Ras Moshe (saxophones), Matt Lavelle (trumpet),Ayumi Ishito (saxophone), Evan Crane (bass), Dan Kurfirst (drums) improvise in Prospect Park near the 11th St. entrance off Prospect Park West, F train to 7th Ave

4/10, 3 PM organist Gail Archer plays a rare program of Russian organ music at St. John Nepomucene church, 411 E 66th St at 1st Ave, sug don

4/10, noon AM alto saxophonist Sarah Hanahan,, bassist Phil Norris, and drummer Robert Lotreck followed at 1:30ish by bassist William Parker’s Trio with Cooper-Moore (on keys?) and Hamid Drake on percussion at Summit Rock in Seneca Village in Central Park, enter at 82nd St., follow the noise and look up

4/11, POSTPONED DUE TO THREAT OF RAIN alto saxophonist Sarah Hanahan,, bassist Phil Norris, and drummer Robert Lotreck followed at 1:30ish by tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana leading her Trio with Pablo Menares on bass and Kush Abadey on drums at Summit Rock in Seneca Village in Central Park, enter at 82nd St., follow the noise and look up

4/14, 5:30 PM serious improvisation: Becoming and Return – Daniel Carter (woodwinds/trumpet), Roshni Samlal (tabla), Dan Kurfirst (drums) in Prospect Park near the 11th St. entrance off Prospect Park West, F train to 7th Ave

4/15, 7 PM poignant, eclectic, lyrical jazz bassist/composer Pedro Giraudo’s tango quartet at Terraza 7, sug don $10

4/17, 1:30ish saxophonist Chris Potter leads a trio with Joe Martin on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

4/17, 1:30 PM luminous, visionary vocalist/dancer Luisa Muhr, multi-reed legend Daniel Carter and a posse of many more improvise outside 166 N 12th St. in Williamsburg

4/20, 5:30 PM best show of the month: haunting Middle Eastern jazz with Ensemble Fanaa – Daro Behroozi (saxophone/bBass clarinet), John Murchison (double bass), Dan Kurfirst (drums/percussion) in Prospect Park near the 11th St. entrance off Prospect Park West, F train to 7th Ave

4/23, 7 PM noirish, tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his pastoral noir Uncivilized band at the Flying Lobster, 144 Union St off Hicks, just over the BQE, outdoors, F to Smith/9th

4/24, 1 PM ish trumpeter Marquis Hill‘s Quartet in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

4/25, 1 PM ish saxophonist Michael Thomas leads his Quartet with Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, Edward Perez on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

4/25, 5 PM spy-surf band the Royal Arctic Institute outdoors at 18th Ward Brewing, 300 Richardson St off Kingsland, Greenpoint, G to Nassau

4/27, 5:30 PM stoner downtempo grooves with Lateef Beats – Fima Chupakhin (keys), John Merrit (bass), Dan Kurfirst (drums) in Prospect Park near the 11th St. entrance off Prospect Park West, F train to 7th Ave

5/1, noon saxophonist James Brandon Lewis‘ Freed Style Free Trio with Rashaan Carter on bass and Chad Taylor on drums followed at 1 ish by sax player Aaron Burnett’s Quartet with Peter Evans on trumpet, Nick Jozwiak on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/2, 1 PM ish intense tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana leads a trio with Pablo Menares on bass and Kush Abadey on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/3-4, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra String Quartet play works from south of the border by Manuel Ponce, Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chávez at Bryant Park

5/5, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra Percussion ensemble play an all Javier Diaz program in the park at Herald Square. The program repeats on 5/12

5/8, 1 PM ish cellist Marika Hughes‘ New String Quartet with Charlie Burnham on violin, Marvin Sewell on guitar, and Rashaan Carter on bass – hey, they’re all string players! – in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/10-11, 5:30 PM jazz pianist Lee Musiker leads a quintet at Bryant Park

5/15, 1 PM ish powerhouse tenor saxophonist Mark Turner leads a chordless trio with Vicente Archer on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/15, time TBA avant garde chanteuse Jane LeCroy’s new punk cabaret duo project Shelter Puppy outdoors at City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Ave off Havemeyer, Williamsburg, free

5/16, 1 PM ish drummer Antonio Sanchez leads a trio with Donny McCaslin on alto sax and Matt Brewer on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/16, 5 PM the SEM Ensemble play Petr Kotik’s Letters to Olga (1988) with text by Václav Havel for two narrators, winds and guitars at in the yard adjacent to the Willow Place Auditorium, 25 Columbia Place (Joralemon/State), downtown Brooklyn, closest train is the A/C to High St.

5/17, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra brass quartet play works by Tcherepnin, Carlos Chavez, Strauss and others at Bryant Park. The program repeats on 5/19.

5/18, 5:30 PM oboeist Alexandra Knoll leads a wind trio playing an all-French program with works by Poulenc, Francaix and others at Bryant Park

5/22, 1 PM ish tsunami drummer Johnathan Blake leads a wild quartet with Mark Turner and Chris Potter on tenor sax and Dezron Douglas on bass, wow, in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/23-24, 1 PM ish drummer Nasheet Waits leads a high-voltage quartet with Mark Turner and Steve Nelson on tenor sax, and Rashaan Carter on bass in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/29, 1 PM ish alto saxophonist Abraham Burton leads a trio with Dezron Douglas on bass and Eric McPherson on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

5/31, 1 PM ish trumpeter Jason Palmer leads his Quartet with Mark Turner on tenor sax, Edward Perez on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

6/2-4, 1 PM ish pyrotechnic tenor sax player Mark Turner records a live album with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

6/ 6-8, 1 PM ish saxophonist Darius Jones records a live album with Dezron Douglas on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums in Central Park on the elevation about a block north of the 81st St. entrance on the west side

6/10, 7:30 PM bhangra-klezmer mashups with Sharabi with trumpeter Frank London & Deep Singh with singer Sarah Gordon at Wagner Park just north of the battery

A Surreal, Lushly Eclectic Live Album From Susanne Sundfor

The fourth track on today’s album features a duel between Greg Leisz’s pedal steel and André Roligheten’s sax – in a pensive chamber pop piano ballad.

Sung in English by a Norwegian songwriter. WTF?

In this century, stylistically, music is up for grabs. If a Brooklyn psychedelic cumbia band can get press here, Susanne Sundfor deserves to make the front page too. That particular song, Good Luck Bad Luck, is from People in Trouble: Live From the Barbican, streaming at youtube. You can start your playlist with track number three, Reincarnation, a loping, western-flavored country song that winds down to almost four minutes of desolate steel.

This is why live music – where it’s legal, anyway – is worth the hassle of leaving the house and putting down the magic rectangle for an hour or so. Sundfor stretches from New Mexico C&W to pensive piano balladry to dark folk, as exemplified by the album’s centerpiece, The Sound of War. “Leave all the silverware ‘cos you won’t need it there…just pawn the china…leave this ghost town before they burn it down” she warns. Bass player Frans Petter Eldh detunes and leaves his axe feeding into the PA; eventually a tightly pulsing intensity emerges.

“You take the pain, I take the fear, was the Devil a good negotiator?” Sundfor asks in Bedtime Story, a hazy psych-pop ballad with echoey Rhodes piano and a pensive clarinet solo by Jesse Chandler. Skip the seventh track: it’s a pop song with a pointless bass solo (which bass solos usually are). You can pick up with No One Believes in Love Anymore, arguably the album’s catchiest tune, with an aptly lush outro.

The album’s best and most disorienting track is The Golden Age, an Amanda Palmer-like waltz, interrupted. Sundfor winds up the record – and presumably, the concert – with Mountaineers, an echoey, possibly very metaphorical, orchestral take on Stereolab.

For those who refuse to listen to reason and insist on hearing tracks one, two and seven, be aware that there is a “moon-june” rhyme in the second one. For real. Sundfor gets a pass this time around because she’s not a native English speaker.

Chamomile and Whiskey’s Gloomy Americana Rock Narratives Echo in the Here and Now

Americana band Chamomile and Whiskey’s new album Red Clay Heart – streaming at Spotify – is their loudest and darkest yet. The jaunty Celtic-tinged themes and newgrass of their earlier material have been switched out for hard country and electric blues, desperate narratives for desperate times.

The album’s opening track, Way Back is a careening hillbilly boogie “That was way back when I used to give a shit…when I used to strive for greatness, when I used to think I should,” frontman/guitarist Ryan Lavin snarls, flipping off a tantalizing blues solo before the last verse. If nostalgia is the enemy of history, this song rings true.

With its litany of hellfire imagery, Dead Bird seems to be a Bible Belt gothic cautionary tale: “I drank the blood of the savior and he drank some of mine.” The dark electric blues of Will Scott is a good comparison.

The embittered, gloomily reflective Never Live Up follows the same pattern: the full electric band doesn’t kick in until a couple of skeletal acoustic verses. Lavin’s layer of twangy riffage mingle with fiddler Marie Borgman’s leaps and bounds in Triumph, an ironically titled, haphazardly catchy honkytonk shuffle.

They follow the 80s-tinged rock anthem All Right with the fire-and brimstone-shuffle Hard Time Honey, spiced with an unexpected Spanish guitar solo. Another Wake – a requiem for the Charlottesville massacre – is a famous John Lennon piano ballad recast as grim Americana, with a surprisingly empowering message.

The band go back to lo-fi hard honkytonk with the party anthem Best of the Worst, which would have been a good way to end an album which again and again returns to a personal pain that anyone who’s suffered under the past year’s lockdowns can relate to.

Smart, Sharply Hilarious Black Dirt Country Rock From Joe Stamm

Americana rock bandleader Joe Stamm cut his teeth crooning over crowds of drunks in bars across the High Plains and the Midwest. He’s got a great ear for a story and a catchy tune, and he’s funny as hell. Dale Watson is an obvious comparison; New York’s own Jack Grace is another. Considering that Stamm makes his living on the road in a part of the world populated by freedom-loving people who like a good time, his touring schedule last year wasn’t completely put on ice by lockdowner insanity. He even found the opportunity to put out a new album, The Good & the Crooked (& the High & the Horny)”streaming at Spotify.

Good songwriters never have a hard time finding good musicians, and Stamm is a prime example. Check out lead guitarist Dave Glover’s sizzling flatpicking in Tough Times, Hard Luck, bassist Jonathan Byler Dann and drummer Bruce Moser pushing Stamm’s rapidfire, aphoristic story along. Imagine the Grateful Dead in a lucid moment (if you can) covering John Prine.

Stamm opens the record with the title track, a hillbilly boogie laced with vintage Bakersfield twang and searing blues from Glover. Stamm takes the explosive metaphors in Bombshell – a tall tale about a femme as fatale as you can get – to the next level. with a funny ending that’s too good to give away. Same deal with the album’s funniest song, Blame It on the Dog. This is one bad canine: “Dryhumping in the middle of the night, left on all the lights and who’s the sonofabitch who left up the toilet seat?” Stamm wants to know. It gets even better on the third verse: no spoilers.

Bottle You Up is the album’s most endearingly amusing song: as it turns out, daydrinking is a legacy. Stamm goes into classic honkytonk for Lower When I’m Sober, Dave Zollo’s piano adding a vintage Nashville edge, up to yet another twisted punchline.

As ridiculousy comical as a lot of Stamm’s songs are, some of them are just as serious. On this album, there’s Good Times, a simmering, grimly detailed ballad about the perils of overdoing it. 12 Gauge Storyline works on multiple levels, as a macho murder ballad but also a sobering reminder of how violence has its own legacy: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Lee Bains songbook. And the twangy, soulful, sad Comin’ Home Again is a throwback to 70s outlaw C&W.

“I don’t play no Kane Brown or any of that pop country shit,” Stamm snarls in Pearls to Pigs, as he says so long to Illinois and heads for wilder times in Texas. The psychedelic tinges in that song get darker and shift toward southwestern gothic afterward in Wild Imagination, one of the wildest tales here.

Stamm has a very smartly designed webpage: enough videos and freebies and amusingly dirty merch to get you in serious trouble with your boss. You have been warned. Stamm is playing his birthday show this year on March 13 at Crusens Rt. 29, 1007 N. Main St. in Creve Coeur, Illinois. Your best deal is to show up at 5:30 for a “VIP” seat which includes a good deal where you get a free collectible poster and your first beer is free. Their pizza is pretty cheap and looks really good.

An Epic Live Album by One of the Most Epic Bands of the Century

Let’s say your band has made a good living on the road for the last twenty years. All of a sudden, a bunch of oligarchs get together and create a phony health emergency in order to turn the world into an Orwellian nightmare where music doesn’t even exist. People aren’t even allowed to sing, let alone get together to see a band, since crowds of people who get together usually have fun. And in order to condition the population to a totalitarian slave state, all happiness has to be outlawed. That really happened throughout much of the world in 2020, and it isn’t over yet.

But it will be. The lockdown bears the seeds of its own destruction. In the meantime, out of the thousands of artists who’ve dumped hours upon hours of live recordings onto the web, only a handful can match the epic sweep of road warriors Okkervil River‘s latest release, A Dream in the Dark: Two Decades of Okkervil River Live, streaming at Spotify. On one hand, it’s sobering to realize that they’ve really been around that long. On the other, they are absolutely in their element, careening through the record’s two dozen tracks with their usual reckless abandon. This endless road trip begins in Northhampton, Massachusetts in 2006 and wind up in Cambridge in 2019, with almost a complete turnover in band members. By then, this endearingly shambling Americana quasi-jamband had tightened up their act a little without losing their spontaneity or irrepressible sense of humor.

The first song on this long, strange trip is the outlaw ballad Westfall, kicking off with a brief blast of feedback, steady strums from frontman Will Sheff’s acoustic guitar and a flurry of mandolin. The rest of the band don’t leap in until right before the fateful final verse. They fall apart in a spacerock outro.

The haphazard intro to the punkgrassy No Key, No Plan is priceless. Sheff gets a singalong going, mercilessly needles the crowd: the joke is too good to spoil. Then, as if this was an actual setlist, they follow with a superslow, lingering, steel guitar-infused take of the sad ballad Kansas City

The quiet, wintry, waltzing beginning of Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas doesn’t offer the slightest hint of how orchestral the arrangement’s going to get: “Not even home will be with you forever,”Sheff intones.

This version of the subdued piano-and-strings ballad For Real winds up with a regal peak and a careening, screaming guitar solo. It Ends With a Fall come across as part Jayhawks, part late Beatles, part loping White Denim soul. Then the band pick things up with Sheff’s dramatic, signature off-key flair in a driving take of Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe, decaying to a free jazz freakout and then a typical noisy jam out.

The 90s Wilco influence comes in loud and clear in Unless It’s Kicks, the last song of a 2008 set in Germany. Goodnatured barrelhouse piano makes a surreal contrast with techy string synth in It Was My Season. Down Down the Deep River has post-Velvets clang, new wave swoosh and C&W chickenscratch guitar. By now, if this was an actual show, the band would really be on a roll, so in this case they keep the momentum going with Lost Coastlines and its faux-Motown groove.

A Stone – from a 2015 New York gig – is a momentary detour into wistful stoner country, with spot-on slip-key piano. Thirteen songs into the album, we’re finally rewarded with a minor-key anthem, Another Radio Song, from that same set – and as the band holler, “There’s no escaping it.”

The litany of dead performers in Okkervil River RIP is the most sobering moment here. The brisk, hypnotically pulsing, ten-minute stadium rock version of Judey on a Street is the album’s longest track among many: pretty much everything here is around the seven-minute mark or more.

The ridiculous mashup of blippy new wave and 90s alt-country in So Come Back, I Am Waiting is classic for these guys, in that they manage to make it work somehow. A Seattle crowd is stoked for a slowly crescendoing take of Okkervil River Song, probably the only Americana rock escape anthem that mentions skunk cabbage.

The Surgeon Above the Arbor is an inside joke, but a good one: a fan had requested a song by that title, but trouble was it didn’t exist. So Sheff wrote it: it turned out to be a slowly jangly, pensively vamping, distantly Neil Young-tinged ballad.

The album’s most muted, psychedelic number is Skiptracer. They pick up the pace with Black, a Velvets-meet-Wilco stomp and follow with the hip-hop/soul/Grateful Dead mashup Pink Slips.

Sheff brings out his dad Paul to play mandolin on the faux-western swing tune External Actor, just as he did on the album version.

Mary on a Wave, from a 2019 Washington, DC show, gets a long, lingering spacerock intro. They wind up the album on a similar note with Your Past Life As a Blast, more psychedelic than ever after all these years.