Tag Archives: Steve Earle

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Justin Townes Earle Celebrates New Album Tomorrow at Stage 48

September 8th, 2014

His last name comes from his father and his middle name pays homage to Townes Van Zandt, so it seems Justin Townes Earle was destined to become a musician. He grew up in Nashville, playing music at a young age, but not just country or bluegrass as you might expect. Instead, Earle joined a rock band and also toured with his dad before self-releasing the EP Yuma (stream it below) in 2007. His debut full-length, The Good Life (stream it below), an interesting mix of bluegrass, country and folk that helped establish a name for himself, followed the next year. And then like so many before him, Earle headed to the big city, eventually becoming a denizen of the East Village, which inspired the terrific Hudson River Blues (stream it below). Two years ago, the talented Earle (above, doing “White Gardenias”) put out his fifth LP, the aptly titled Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (stream it below), but his latest, Single Mothers, comes out tomorrow. And Earle celebrates its release with a hometown show tomorrow night at Stage 48.

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Steve Earle: Solo, Acoustic and Revealing

February 10th, 2014

Steve Earle – the Space at Westbury – February 8, 2014

“I don’t believe in lost causes…. I can’t afford to.” That was one of many revealing quotes Steve Earle offered at the Space in Westbury on Saturday night during a marathon two-plus-hour set. The show was billed as solo and acoustic, and as promised this was Earle as honest and bare as you could ask for. Of all our great living singer-songwriters, there are perhaps none quite as autobiographical as Earle—the word I appears in his lyrics more than any other, which makes for some mighty fine folk music and even better storytelling. The set spanned his entire career, which, for him, means life spanning.

Opening with “Low Highway,” Earle tumbled out three or four songs in quick succession that dealt with the heartbreak portion of his life. But as the show wore on, he opened up on a range of subjects, some causes more lost than others: loves lost and found, family, highlights of a troubled past and a range of political interests. Where in the past, he might have ranted or raged against the man in between songs, on Saturday Earle couched each highlight in a touch of affable banter. Sometimes it was just a throwaway line, like “same girl, different harmonica” between two love songs. More chillingly, he introduced “Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain” simply by saying, “Welcome to my nightmare” before his 12-string guitar resonated hauntingly in the room.

But the best moments were when he got off on a story, riffing like a jazz musician circling a theme with improvisation. The intro to the seasonally appropriate “Valentine’s Day” wove multiple threads about Hallmark holidays, NYC’s 24-hour flower shopping and his post-prison no-driver’s-license days. As political as he got, the stories were always 100 percent personal. Earle prefaced “Jerusalem” with a coherent ramble from a phone call on 9/11, to his own reading on the history of Iraq to recording with Israeli and Palestinian musicians. His tribute to the recently passed Pete Seeger wasn’t a cover (Dawn Landes in the opening slot took care of that nicely with a sing-along version of “Turn Turn Turn”), but rather overlapping anecdotes and the realization that to make it to your nineties playing music, you have to offload some of the singing to the audience. And with such a rich personal history to draw from, shooting for a few more decades of Steve Earle is certainly no lost cause. —A. Stein

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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The Devil Makes Three Play Webster Hall on Thursday

November 19th, 2013

The Devil Makes Three are an enigmatic band. First of all, they have no drummer. And despite the group’s three members—Peter Bernhard (vocals and guitar), Cooper McBean (banjo and vocals) and Lucia Turino (upright bass and vocals)—making their home in Santa Cruz, Calif., they each originally hail from New England. Plus, let’s face it, for a band based in California, they have an undoubtedly nuanced Southern sound, layering rhythm and harmonies over blues, bluegrass, country, ragtime and rockabilly to make their own unique folk-punk blend, garnering comparisons to Steve Earle, the Violent Femmes and the White Stripes in the process. Thanks to their high-energy live performances, the Devil Makes Three (above, performing “Walk on Boy”) have earned a reputation on the festival circuit as a band not to miss. But they still spend time recording in the studio: Last month the trio released I’m a Stanger Here (stream it below), which was produced in Nashville by Buddy Miller. Pop Matters calls it “a top-notch album that sounds like the band is finally reaching their potential and seizing this opportunity.” Join in on the sing-along fun when the Devil Makes Three play Webster Hall on Thursday night. Arrive early to check out the opening act, Shakey Graves.

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Steve Earle – Town Hall – November 2, 2013

November 4th, 2013


Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Do Not Miss Steve Earle Tomorrow Night at Town Hall

November 1st, 2013

Music legend Steve Earle is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. He was first introduced to many as the character Walon on The Wire, the kind-hearted sponsor seeing Bubbles through rehab. More recently he was the street performer Harley on the New Orleans–based, post-Katrina Treme. In the mid- to late ’80s, he was a country rocker getting a taste of mainstream success. In the ’90s, he battled his way through drug addiction, becoming stronger in the process, and put out some of the best music of his life—moving much closer to the folk-rock singer-songwriter realm, penning songs designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Earle’s never shied away from politics, taking on all kinds of activist roles. With his heart on his sleeve, Earle’s an easy guy to like, and through all these chapters of his life, he’s built an interesting persona. The Steve Earle of today is one happy fellow. It shows onstage, playing with the Dukes, and he’ll be the first to admit it: “This is the best band I have ever had.” See for yourself when Steve Earle (above, performing “This City” for Studio Q) and the Dukes play Town Hall tomorrow night. —Dan Rickershauser

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The Legendary Steve Earle Never Disappoints

May 9th, 2013

Steve Earle and the Dukes – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 8, 2013


Steve Earle is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. He was first introduced to me as the character Walon on The Wire, the kind-hearted sponsor seeing Bubbles through rehab. More recently he was the street performer Harley on the New Orleans–based, post-Katrina Treme. In the mid to late ’80s, he was a country rocker getting a taste of mainstream success. In the ’90s, he battled his way through drug addiction, becoming stronger in the process, and put out some of the best music of his life—moving much closer to the folk-rock singer-songwriter realm, penning songs designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Earle’s never shied away from politics, taking on all kinds of activist roles. With his heart on his sleeve, Earle’s an easy guy to like, and through all these chapters of his life, he’s built an interesting persona.

The Steve Earle of today is one happy fellow. It shows onstage, and he’ll be the first to admit it. “This is the best band I have ever had,” Earle told the Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd last night as he introduced the four backing members of his band, the Dukes. He repeated this claim when discussing his inspiration for his latest album, The Low Highway, telling the audience, “I wanted to record an album with the best band I’ve ever had.” This doesn’t feel like hyperbole: The band is perfect for Earle, and it’s a demanding role considering his music hits on just about every genre, seems to involve every instrument imaginable and is as powerful as it is in hard-rocking loud moments as it is in hushed and fragile ones. The back of the stage was filled with an impressive lineup of guitars, mandolins, banjos and just about every other stringed instrument you could imagine.

Earle’s set included favorites for every fan imaginable, classics like “Copperhead Road,” “Guitar Town” and “Hard-Core Troubadour,” plus newer tunes like “The Galway Girl” and “You’re Still Standing There.” Earle introduced his heartfelt tribute to New Orleans, “This City,” as a song that now also speaks just as well to the hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods of our own New York City. For “I Thought You Should Know,” he blew through a gnarled harmonica solo, playing the instrument so close to the microphone that it simultaneously sounded familiar and rough around the edges, with the wailing harmonica sounds barely escaping through layers of distortion and grit. If there ever were a moment to perfectly capture what Earle’s music and life are all about, it was this one. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

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Catch Some Great String Music Tomorrow in Williamsburg

April 17th, 2013

The Devil Makes Three are an enigmatic band. First of all, they have no drummer. And despite the group’s three members—Peter Bernhard (vocals and guitar), Cooper McBean (banjo and vocals) and Lucia Turino (upright bass and vocals)—making their home in Santa Cruz, Calif., they each originally hail from New England. Plus, let’s face it, for a band based in California, they have an undoubtedly nuanced Southern sound, layering rhythm and harmonies over blues, bluegrass, country, ragtime and rockabilly to make their own unique folk-punk blend, garnering comparisons to Steve Earle, the Violent Femmes and the White Stripes in the process. The Devil Makes Three (above, performing “Do Wrong Right” for WNYC FM’s Live on Soundcheck) have put out four studio LPs, plus a live album, Stomp and Smash (stream it below), in 2011. NPR Music called it: “unplugged, yet intense, whiskey-drenched, ramshackle fury.” So it should come as no surprise that the trio has earned a reputation on the festival circuit as a band not to miss. So don’t: Join in on the sing-along fun tomorrow night at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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Two Americana Legends, One Night

February 22nd, 2013

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale – The Bowery Ballroom – February 21, 2013


The Bowery Ballroom had a couple of seasoned veterans on hand last night: Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. These guys aren’t just pros, but pro’s pros whose résumés include collaborations and projects with a who’s who of Americana giants. With the pedal steel and fiddle from band member Fats Kaplin permeating the set, “Buddy and Jim” mixed up a Cobb salad of Americana, from straight country tunes, like the opener, “I Lost My Job of Loving You,” to a zydeco take on the Johnnie and Jack standard “Down South in New Orleans.” Miller and Lauderdale complemented each other perfectly, like cousins whose reunions are filled with old stories, bad jokes and plenty of name-dropping.

The banter was either canned bits that felt ad-libbed or vice versa—one part Laurel and Hardy, two parts Doc and Merle. The relationship carried over into the music, their voices perfectly meshing whether in harmony, one backing the other, or trading verses between them. The set featured some superlative takes on standards, like George Jones’s “The Race Is On” and Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Wobble,” and material from their decades of work together and individually. The show felt like a story of the history of their ups and downs together, each song an anecdote in itself.

A third collaborator, Miller’s wife, Julie, was there in spirit, mentioned several times as a writer of, as it so happened, several of the stronger songs of the night, including a powerful “It Hurts Me.” But plenty of other friends found their way into the set, from Steve Earle, who was in the balcony as an audience member, to the departed Levon Helm, who had covered Miller’s “Wide River to Cross.” In the end, though, it was just Buddy and Jim (their names, the name of the band and the name of their new record, as they joked). Well into the set, it felt like they had enough material to go on forever, including the groovy honky-tonk of “Always on the Outside” and a bluesier “Vampire Girl,” off the new album—but eventually the fun had to end. The evening was summed up with “The Wobble,” dedicated to Earle, the audience in full-boogie mode, and Miller and Lauderdale finishing each other’s sentences like the pros they are. —A. Stein

 

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Carnegie Hall – January 7, 2012

January 9th, 2012


Photos courtesy of Michael Jurick | music.jurick.net

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Two Nights of the Levon Helm Band This Weekend

November 24th, 2010


Levon Helm is a member of rock royalty. He grew up in Arkansas but headed to Canada after high school to join rockabilly-star Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks. Eventually he played alongside Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson before those five struck out on their own. By the mid-’60s, Bob Dylan was looking to go electric and he decided the Hawks were the perfect musicians to accompany him. While Dylan’s plugged-in takes on his folk classics would eventually gain widespread acclaim, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. As the audience’s booing and catcalls intensified, Helm decided to leave the band rather than face that negativity night after night.

In the meantime, Dylan and the Hawks headed to Europe and then to Woodstock after Dylan had a disastrous motorcycle accident there. While they were in upstate New York, they recorded a slew of material—eventually released as The Basement Tapes—at Danko, Hudson and Manuel’s house, affectionately known as Big Pink, in West Saugerties, N.Y. With things going so well musically, Danko invited Helm to rejoin them and write their own music, and somewhere along the way the band became the Band. They toured and released seven studio albums—including their spectacular debut, Music from Big Pink, and their fantastic sophomore effort, The Band—and one of the greatest live albums ever, Rock of Ages.

With their supreme musicianship, vivid storytelling and three of the finest voices (Danko’s, Helm’s and Manuel’s) in the history of recorded music, the Band went on to influence countless musicians and songwriters, and their songs, including “The Weight,” “Ophelia,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” are an enduring part of the rock canon. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. And so the Band closed up shop at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day 1976. It was, quite literally, The Last Waltz.

Following the Band’s breakup, Helm toured and recorded music and dabbled in acting, appearing in Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Right Stuff and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada among others. And after a successful but costly bout with throat cancer, he began to stage monthly Midnight Rambles at his home studio in Woodstock. Helm sings, entertains and plays the drums and mandolin, accompanied by an all-world backing band of his own, led by sideman extraordinaire Larry Campbell and Helm’s daughter, Amy. And if that weren’t enough, Helm has even put out two new albums, the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, since 2007. But here’s the best part: Levon Helm (above, playing “Ophelia” on PBS) is bringing his Ramble to the Beacon Theatre on Friday, with Steve Earle, and Saturday, with Bettye LaVette. Do your best to make it there. But be warned that your face will hurt the next day from smiling so much the night before. —R. Zizmor