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In the clubs and under the radar

The role of the master blues musician is twofold. First, it is this musician’s duty to share his or her interpretation of this American art form far and wide, for as long as there is a demand for that music, and for as long as the body holds out. Secondly, and equally importantly, the master bluesman must act as a mentor to emerging talent in the idiom. It is the kids learning about this music today, we must never forget, who are going to be the master musicians of tomorrow.

Buddy Guy has always taken his responsibilities as a master bluesman seriously. With his 80th birthday only a few years away, Guy continues to tour on a regular basis, just as he has never stopped recording and releasing inspired new renderings of seasoned blues tropes. And he also has consistently mentored young musicians. One of them – 14-year-old blues guitarist Quinn Sullivan, a native of the Boston area – will join Guy and his band when the blues guitar legend hits the boards of Artpark’s mainstage amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. today.

Guy first encountered Sullivan, then 8 years old, at a concert. Guy was blown away by the youngster’s mature blues phrasing and fiery attack, and subsequently asked Sullivan to play a solo on Guy’s Grammy-winning “Skin Deep” album. Since then, Sullivan has garnered the attention of several of his blues idols, and recorded his own album under the auspices of Guy cohort (and Buffalo native) Tom Hambridge.

In addition to Sullivan’s appearance, Guy’s headlining slot also will benefit from another generation of supremely gifted bluesmen – Robert Randolph & the Family Band will handle the opening duties this evening.

Tickets are $30, $37 and $45 for reserved seating through the Artpark box office and (There will be no lawn seats available for this show.)

Isbell’s happy ending

Jason Isbell has had a tough go of it since splitting with the wonderful Drive-By Truckers back in 2007. His estimable talents as songwriter, guitarist and singer began to be compromised by a serious problem with alcohol, one that may or may not have contributed to the end of his marriage and his tenure with the Truckers. Early solo efforts had their moments, but seemed fuzzy and gauzy, as if the songs were being viewed through a windshield badly in need of defrosting.

Happily, Isbell grabbed a hold of the reins, got sober, got his life back together, and made the strongest album of his career with the recently released “Southeastern.” It’s a stirringly beautiful and smartly observed collection of stories, songs and melodies, one that deals with Isbell’s struggle and recovery without wallowing in it. And it is already being called one of the year’s strongest albums by tastemakers like NPR and Pitchfork.

Isbell and his band, including fiddle player Amanda Shires, will arrive at the Waiting Room (334 Delaware Ave.) for an 8 p.m. show today. Tickets are $17 (

Prog royalty at the Den

The Stick Men seriously rearranged my gray matter when I caught the trio at the Tralf two years back. Adventurous, fun, virtuosic, playful and serious in equal amounts, the band offered a master class in groove-centric complexity and forward-looking technical agility.

Led by revered bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin, the Stick Men is also home to dynamic drumming powerhouse Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter, progenitor of the “touch guitar” – an instrument that is played with all of the fingers on both hands touching the fingerboard. The amount of sheer talent on display during a Stick Men show is indeed dizzying, but these guys surge the music, not their egos, so everything comes across as uncluttered and deeply musical, whether it be an original tune, a King Crimson cover, or a freaked-out interpretation of a Stravinsky theme. These guys are not to be missed. And you don’t have to miss them – the Stick Men play at 8 p.m. Friday in the intimate Bear’s Den at the Seneca Niagara Casino. Tickets start at $25 (box office, Ticketmaster).

Gig picks

The first Buffalo Dead Fest finds the Maniacs, Workingman’s Dead and others celebrating the spirit and music of the Grateful Dead at the campgrounds located on South Blossom Lea Drive in Alden, beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday. There’s free camping for attendees after the concert!

Ted Nugent will attempt to turn Braun’s Concert Cove (11891 Main St., Akron) into a “Motor City Madhouse” beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday, when opener Laura Wilde hits the stage. Tickets are $35 advance, $50 on the day of the show (

One of the coolest indie rock shows of the entire summer concert season takes place at 7:30 tonight in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls) when Grizzly Bear shows up to make its area debut. Tickets are $35 (box office,