Karen Nelson of Minneapolis:
1 The Devil Makes Three, Blue Ox Festival, Eau Claire, Wis. Their authoritative Americana mashup fused to a rock-punk backbone made you stand up and take notice. With fine, tight harmonies, they delivered on ear worms such as “Do Wrong Right” and “Bad Idea.” With an album due in August, I’ll be back for more.
2 Del McCoury, Blue Ox Festival. This classy country gentleman is a real-deal legend and a Grammy-winning link to Bill Monroe. He has been laying it down since 1963 and still keeps it fresh and smiling on the festival circuit.
3 Machinery Hill, 331 Club, KFAI House Party. Is it klezmer, ska, Celtic, country, folk or pop-rock? Yes! Bon vivant Harold Tremblay’s Wednesday in-studio sessions followed by the 7-9 p.m. show are rootsy outings that don’t cramp your school night or budget.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 “The Band’s Visit,” Broadway. This Tony-dominating, wonderfully quirky, delightfully special little musical is about a chance encounter of an Egyptian jazz band lost in a tiny Israeli town. Katrina Lenk is excellent as the hostess with a heart, and so is the band. Music is indeed the universal language.
2 “Springsteen on Broadway.” His soul-searching story makes for a dramatically compelling evening for the converted, with revealing confessions, self-deprecating humor and impassioned solo acoustic songs.
3 Kamasi Washington, Rock the Garden. He and his top-notch band jazzed it up big time. Loved “Truth,” with five different melodies to show how people with differences can get along.