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Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud

When the Black Crowes made their recorded debut with Shake Your Money Maker in 1990, it was like a bolt out of the blue—or a bolt out of 1973, anyway. Helmed by the brothers Robinson, guitarist Rich and vocalist Chris, the Crowes rocked with enough soul to shame hair-metal poseurs back into hibernation, and enough Glimmer Twins swagger to show up flannel-bedecked grungesters as the overearnest boors they often were. As befit their unapologetically outsized arena-rock persona, the band toured aggressively—hell, mercilessly—gaining a reputation as purveyors of one of the purest live rock experiences available. (It was no accident that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page teamed up with the Robinsons for a tour; Chris sang the livin’ shit outta the Zep tunes, stealing back for the States the blues that Robert Plant swiped years earlier.)

Though the band’s record sales slowed over the decade, their dedication to performance won them a loyal following that kept them afloat and more or less focused through the travails of the hard-touring life. Progress was never smooth however, and as a means of combating boredom during a slow period, Chris branched out with a solo project, the fruits of which were recently released as the 12-track New Earth Mud.

Fans of the Black Crowes will find much to like on the album: Robinson’s voice is as soulful and ballsy-emotive as ever, and the organic, predigital vibe is undisturbed. But if you think, “Hell, I’ll just throw on The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion again,” you should think again. There’s a thread, a quality, shared between Robinson’s band work and this project, but it’s not Crowes redux. There’s less leer and strut in the music and a bit more ramble and laze. It’s a kind of sunny Southern Californian tumble through loose funk and gentle, poppy psychedelia. The songs are less challenging in some ways than the Crowes at their pissiest-and-vinigariest, but it seems the sound of a pleasantly baked contentment rather than a slackening. Now the question is, armed with this easygoing, jammy set, can Robinson resist the urge to tear shit up when he hits the Northern Lights stage on Sunday?

Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud will play Northern Lights (Route 146, Clifton Park) on Sunday (Dec. 15). Tickets for the 7:30 PM show are $20. For more information, 371-0012.

Anonymous 4

Most everyone agrees that the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall has gorgeous acoustics. We’ll go out on a limb and say that the four singers who will take the stage this Sunday afternoon are likely to create as unique and wondrous a sound as has ever been heard in the venerable hall. Continuing their 106-year-old tradition of showcasing great artists, Troy Chromatic Concerts will present the Anonymous 4.

The quartet of Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner and Johnna Marie Rose have won renown (and a large following) with a vocal repertoire that, for the most part, dates to before the 14th century. Whether singing plainsong, chant, liturgical works or contemporary pieces by such composers as Steve Reich or Richard Einhorn, these women create a clear yet ethereal sound that resonates with spirituality and beauty. As they explain on their Web site, “our ideal concert program is not too long (just under an hour and a half), without intermission, unbroken by applause and held together by a single theme. . . . We interweave chant and polyphonic music to create a dramatic unity from many short works.” Given the season, their program this time will be Wolcum Yule, a selection of Celtic and British carols and songs taken from both the pagan and Christian traditions. Accompanied by Alyssa Reit on Celtic harp, they will present two newly commissioned carols by Peter Maxwell Davies and Jocelyn Pook in addition to the traditional material, as well as Benjamin Britten’s much-loved A Ceremony of Carols.

Anonymous 4 will perform Sunday (Dec. 15) at 4 PM at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (corner of Second and State streets, Troy). Tickets are $28, $25. Call 273-0038 for reservations and information.

Miss Saigon

One of the most popular musicals of all time will grace the stage at Proctor’s Theatre beginning Tuesday. Miss Saigon, which was written by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg (who also wrote Les Miserablés), is the sixth-longest-running show on Broadway and has won three Tony Awards. The story is based on the timeless Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, and is set in 1975 during the final days before the American evacuation of Saigon. It tells the story of two lovers torn apart by destiny yet held together by a burning passion and the fate of a small child. A blend of love ballads, rousing marches and more, the score of Miss Saigon conjures up the steamy nights, crowds, passions and dangers of wartime Saigon.

Miss Saigon will be performed at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady) from Tuesday (Dec. 17) through Dec. 22. Shows are at 8 PM Tuesday through Saturday, and 2 PM Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday (Dec. 22) show will be sign-interpreted for the hearing impaired. Tickets are $49, $42 and $39. For tickets or more information, call 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.


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