NEW YORK CITY — American folk music in all its glory is on display this week in the Big Apple — from the living legends (Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger), to the scrappy buskers articulating the word on the street (Joe Crow Ryan). It's Dylan's turn at the new Barclays Center, and he's bringing Mark Knopfler along for the ride. Neil Young is back in the saddle with his rock 'n' roll brothers Crazy Horse, and Woody's son Arlo Guthrie, a gifted performer in his own right, is picking up the pieces after the death of his wife of 43 years by hitting the boards at Carnegie Hall for his annual Thanksgiving performance, featuring The Guthrie Family Reunion.
Wednesday, November 21
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!"
That was the introduction used at the beginning of every Dylan concert between 2002 and 2012, and a nice summary of the iconic performer. He started playing rock 'n' roll as a teenager at school in Minnesota during the 1950s, eventually becoming obsessed with American folk music while a student at the University of Minnesota in 1959.
In 1961, Robert Allen Zimmerman dropped out of college, decamped to New York City and became Bob Dylan. He hoped to perform in Greenwich Village's folk music clubs and cafes, and visit his musical idol, folk singer Woody Guthrie, who was was seriously ill with Huntington's Disease.
Dylan describes Guthrie's influence; "The songs themselves had the infinite sweep of humanity in them ... He was the true voice of the American spirit. I said to myself I was going to be Guthrie's greatest disciple."
Dylan's focus is still on the roots of American music — folk, blues, soul — and his 35th studio album "Tempest" is full of traditional musical influences, overlaid with Dylan's gravelly vocals. The album has attracted great reviews ("the single darkest record in Dylan's catalog", says Rolling Stone) and features a tribute to John Lennon, "Roll On John." The title track is a 14-minute epic consisting of 45 verses and no chorus about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. At the Barclays Center, with occasional Dylan collaborator and Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler in support.
Thursday, November 22
Brooklyn native Fabolous has a gift for mixing street tough hip-hop and hook-laden pop. Since bursting on to the scene with his 2001 debut and smash hit "Ghetto Fabolous," the rapper (aka John David Jackson) has sold more than 3 million albums. Next up for the MC is "Loso's Way 2: Rise to Power," his sixth studio album and a sequel to 2009's "Loso's Way." At Webster Hall.
Friday, November 23
Introspective rock and pop singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik enjoyed his biggest hit with his very first single, 1997's "Barely Breathing." Since then, he has released seven studio albums, creatively stretching his wings with 2001's Nick Drake tribute "Phantom Moon" — a collaboration with poet/playwright Steven Sater — and 2011's "Covers 80's," an album full of interesting covers from some of his favorite English bands. It includes the tracks "Hold Me Now" (Thompson Twins), Shout (Tears For Fears) and "William, It Was Really Nothing" (The Smiths). At Gramercy Theatre.
Saturday, November 24
As a singer, songwriter and lifelong political activist, Arlo Guthrie carries on the legacy of his legendary father, folk singer Woody Guthrie. Arlo's first album "Alice's Restaurant," released in 1967, features his best-known track — set on Thanksgiving no less — the rambling and funny "Alice's Restaurant." In an interview for "All Things Considered," Guthrie said the song points out that any American citizen who was convicted of a crime, no matter how minor (in his case, it was littering), could avoid being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. Check out the lyrics here This annual Thanksgiving Concert will include performances by Guthrie, Pete Seeger and The Guthrie Family Reunion (members of Arlo’s immediate and extended family). At Carnegie Hall.
Sunday, November 25
Manhattan Transfer have been one of New York Cities' premier vocal groups since 1972, moving through several different lineups, with founding member Tim Hauser being the mainstay. Their most successful period began in the mid '70s and continued until the early '80s, with their biggest hit being 1981's "The Boy from New York City." Manhattan Transfer's most recent album, "The Chick Corea Songbook," featured their vocal interpretations of the jazz piano legend. At Blue Note.
Monday, November 26
Folk busker Joe Crow Ryan can often be heard at the Metropolitan G stop on Wednesdays after midnight, serenading late-night straphangers with jazz, folk and showtunes. One of his most popular songs is "Goldman Sachs Is Just Plain Evil." His website features various recordings for sale, including his latest album, "This Machine Kills Purists Part III, Part 1: No More Ironing." At Goodbye Blue Monday, with Peter Dizozza.
Tuesday, November 27
Neil Young is touring behind "Psychedelic Pill," his first album of new material in 10 years with longtime buddies Crazy Horse. Young's association with Crazy Horse began in 1969 with the top 40 album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," which contained the classic tracks "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand." "Psychedelic Pill" represents his tenth studio album with Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro, with some critics calling it their strongest collaboration to date. At Madison Square Garden. With Patti Smith and her band.