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February Music Highlights

Fr 2/4, 2/11- TODD SNIDER (2/4) and CHRIS SMITHER (2/11) at Club Helsinki, Hudson—Here’s a killer double shot plucked from Club Helsinki’s formidable February line-up. Americana troubadour deluxe Todd Snider has navigated a singularly windy path, with count ‘em twelve albums bouncing from major to medium labels—MCA, John Prine’s Oh Boy—meanwhile touring relentlessly. Each of those albums are chock full of high value songwriting, reaching from the deepest and most personally resonant moment possible, to the funniest damn thing you ever heard, often in the same line. His latest, the Don Was-produced The Excitement Plan (Yep Roc) was cut live in two and a half days—with just Todd, Was, steel/dobro player Greg Leisz, and drum legend Jim Keltner—but it sounds like it took more like a lifetime, it’s that good. Jesse Rubens opens. Then the following week, it’s area favorite Chris Smither passing through, touring his most recent release. Though he usually performs solo—smoky voice over deft fingerpicking blues—Chris recently had such a good time playing with a pickup rhythm section on a run to the Netherlands that he pulled them into the studio, and with a handful of fresh tunes plus choice tracks by Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler, made Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds/Mighty Albert). For all shows there we recommend making early reservations for dinner—great food, and it’s the best way to get the best seats in the house. Club Helsinki Hudson, 405 Columbia St., Hudson,, 518.828.4800.

Fr/Sa 2/11 & 12- AMERICAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA performs Beethoven, Sibelius, Handel, and Jolivet, at Richard B. Fisher Center, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson—It must have been quite an evening, that concert on December 8 1813, in Vienna. Good times: the French were on the run, thanks to the Duke of Wellington’s Spanish victory with the Battle of Vitoria, and Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig. But there was still very much the need for funds to be raised on behalf of Austro-Bavarian soldiers, mostly from the Battle of Hanau, where Napoleon’s army in retreat had left numerous locals injured. This was no ordinary fundraiser though: Ludwig van Beethoven himself was conducting not only his new patriotic mini-symphony Wellington’s Victory for the occasion, but also—way more importantly—the world premiere of his Symphony No. 7 in A major, which many consider to be his penultimate work, or certainly one of them. The American Symphony Orchestra, under director/conductor Leon Botstein, will bring that moment into the present, contrasting again the decidedly martial Victory—considered a major influence on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture—with the bold, yet meditative power of the second movement from the Seventh: the transcendent Allegretto. Plus, a preview of the 2011 Bard Music Festival’s featured composer Jean Sibelius with his vocal work Luonnotar, George Frideric Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim” from Samson, and André Jolivet’s Concertino for Trumpet, Strings, and Piano, featuring soloists Mary Bonhag, soprano, and Tamás Pálfalvi, trumpet. With a pre-concert talk (7 PM) by Peter Laki. Richard B. Fisher Center, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson,, 845.758.7900. Both shows 8 PM

Sa 2/12, Mo 2/14- SYD STRAW’S “HEARTWRECKED” SHOW (2/12) and DR. DOG’S “LOVERS ONLY NIGHT” (2/14) at Bearsville Theater, Woodstock—Well whaddaya know, another two-fer this month. Maybe we’re just making up for lost time here, but this February has a lot going for it musically in the Hudson Valley. And here’s a nice double shot for V-Day, starting with Syd Straw, whose “Heartwrecked Show”—featuring her trademark expressive and smoky vocal style, with appropriate tunes—is usually only caught annually in New York City, but she’s bringing it up to the deep suburbs for one night only. Straw has been a Zelig-like vocalist; collaborators include the Golden Palominos—which included, among others, Michael Stipe, Matthew Sweet, and Anton Fier—as well as Richard Thompson, Peter Blegvad, Rickie Lee Jones, Leo Kottke, and the Skeletons. Plus, she was on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, one of those Nickelodeon shows sentient adults could actually enjoy with their kids in the 90s. But I digress—bottom line, this will be a great show. Then on Valentine’s Day proper, WDST Radio Woodstock 100.1 brings you Dr. Dog, with their special “Lovers Only Night.” The good “doctor” has ties to the area, having recorded their recent release Shame Shame last year at Dreamland Studio, in West Hurley. The Philadelphia-based quintet—“discovered” by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James—has an easygoing organic approach, with fun songs that mix skillfully shambolic NYC-style guitar with Nilsson/Rundgren piano pop changes, making for one of the more interesting young bands on the national scene. Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker St. (Rte. 212), Woodstock/Bearsville,, 845.679.4406. SYD STRAW Sa 2/12 9 PM, DR.DOG Mo 2/14 8 PM

Su 2/27- TAJ MAHAL at Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC), Kingston—I hear that somewhere there’s a big ass palace—I’m thinking India—named after this amazing and inspiring musician. No? Well it ought to be, because as far as I’m concerned, the musical cornucopia of quality this artist has provided the world since the early 60s is every bit as well-crafted and durable as that famous place. Though likely best known for his seminal blues, rock and R&B work over the years—finally netting two Grammy Awards, in 1997 and 2000— with over 30 releases, Taj Mahal has played just every kind of music possible, drawing from sounds from the Caribbean, India, and Africa, always with great results. Here are three personal Taj Mahal Polaroids for you. One: New Hampshire kid sees the movie Sounder with his folks, 1973, realizing that he had never really heard the blues before, feeling glad he finally was. Two: seeing Taj and his band—with Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, set the bar high for the other bands on The Rolling Stone’s Rock and Roll Circus. Only the Who cleared it. Three: Know-it-all pro with his improvisational pseudo-hippy band opens for Taj in Memphis, early 90s. The man comes out with one guitar, casts a spell, and everybody (mercifully) forgot everything that had happened before he started singing and playing. We can’t endorse this show enough: make no other plans this evening if you love great music. Ulster Performing Art Center (UPAC), 601 Broadway, Kingston,, 845.339.6088. 7 PM

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