Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In

Last modified: Thursday, October 03, 2013

“Daddy used to catch his supper in this river / now you can’t swim it / smells like a 20-ton truck full of paint thinner sank down in it / come visit a spell, see the plaque to our war fallen / nothin’ but a good time.”

That’s the opening of “Where I Fell,” a sparse, pensive song and one of the great ones on Robbie Fulks’ new album, “Gone Away Backward” (recorded, like Fulks’ 1996 debut, by the one and only Steve Albini). He returns to the Iron Horse in Northampton on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Don DiLego opens.

Fulks has been labeled a country singer-songwriter, a description way too generic for his inspired output, which has included a diverse album of Michael Jackson covers (“Happy”), an even more diverse 50-song digital-only collection called “50-Vc. Doberman,” a tribute album to “the golden age of country” (“13 Hillbilly Giants”) and more.

But as rewarding as his records are, he’s a must-see live performer. I last saw him at the Iron Horse in October 2007, one of the best shows I saw all year, full of high energy and humor. It was just two guys and two acoustic guitars (he’d brought along longtime cohort Robbie Gjersoe) but they ripped up the place with crazy solos and a willingness to take songs into edgy places.

In one way, Fulks is as tightly professional as an old-time star, yet he takes wild chances — that night he ended his show with a wacked-out, merchandise-hawking rap that still sticks in the memory. A highly recommended show.

Folk singer-songwriter/author Dan Bern often gets Bob Dylan comparisons. He’s passionate, witty and prolific as heck — he put out three albums last year, including “Doubleheader” (18 songs about baseball), “Wilderness Song” (songs adapted from the writings of folk hero Everett Ruess) and “Drifter.” Bern returns to the Iron Horse tonight at 7 p.m. Wyndham Baird opens.

The Waterboys, the long-running band led by Mike Scott, responsible for decades of emotional and often epic Celtic folk and rock songs (“The Whole of the Moon” is this writer’s all-time favorite), take the stage at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton Friday at 8 p.m. Freddie Stevenson opens.

City of Four — University of Massachusetts Amherst jazz students Mike Caudill, Christian Tremblay, Stephen Kerr, and Lucas Apostoleris — celebrates the release of its new CD of original pieces with a show at the Montague Bookmill Friday at 8 p.m.

Winnie and the Pooh Bears (playing Creedence covers and more), Sandy Bailey and Maybe Marlene play a free show at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Earlier this summer Scud Mountain Boys released its first new record in 17 years (“Do You Love the Sun”) and the onetime Northampton quartet returns to its old stomping ground for two shows at the Parlor Room in Northampton Sunday at 7 and 9 p.m.

Mystics Anonymous (aka Jeff Steblea) and George Hakkila (aka Ham Steak, frontman of the memorable ’90s indie trio Stringbean) play solo sets in the basement of the Forbes Library in Northampton Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“First” Florence Night Out features free music, film projections, art showings and more at many businesses throughout the town center, including performances by Caroline and Matt O’Leary (violin/classical guitar duo), the O-Tones, Shangri-Lips, Beach Honey, Original Cowards, and more, Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. See the event’s Facebook page for details.

Power-pop band Fountains of Wayne, called “genius hookmeisters” by not-easily-impressed critic Robert Christgau, comes back to town with its ultra-catchy oeuvre (which includes the pretty “Valley Winter Song,” inspired by our very own Pioneer Valley). This time the band plays a rare small-venue show at the Iron Horse Thursday at 7 p.m.

What Cheer? Brigade, a 19-piece punk brass band from Providence, R.I., describes its own sound as “an aggressive mix of Bollywood, The Balkans, New Orleans, Samba and Hip-Hop.” The group will be joined by Bella’s Bartok for a double bill at Flywheel in Easthampton Thursday at 7:30 p.m.


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