Critic's Choice for the week of January 8-14, 2003 

An all-purpose folkie in Pleasanton, Mexican rock oldies in San Pablo, and musical improv in Oakland.

FOLK

A concert by Virginia's all-purpose folk musician John McCutcheon is a sure way to musically connect with what counts in life: Appalachian roots music, fun kids' fare, and stirring topical songs. Toting instruments from banjo and fiddle to hammered dulcimer, McCutcheon sings from his Grammy-nominated recordings and his new CD, The Greatest Story Never Told, Saturday at Pleasanton's Amador Theater 925-931-5340, and Sunday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

MEXICAN ROCK OLDIES

Playing Spanish-language rock 'n' roll covers and love ballads, Mexican pop grupos embraced the electric guitar sound of American and British rock bands and ruled the radio in the 1960s. Now nostalgic dance concerts -- Bailes Del Recuerdo -- are reviving groups like Arturo Cisneros y sus Fredis, El Jefe y su Grupo, Los Apson, Angeles Negros, and Grupo Viva Mexico, all of which are flashing back this Saturday at Casino San Pablo. 510-215-1719. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

IMPROV

Sound Shift Oakland, an amazing two-day, seventeen-hour event, begins Friday evening at Oakland's 21 Grand. Approximately seventy improvisational musicians, assigned into groups, will play overlapping one-hour shifts. At any time there will be between two and eight experimental, jazz, electronic, and ambient musicians onstage, playing instruments ranging from standard fare to laptops, photo-theremin, dry ice, and roofing nails. 510-268-8213. (Jason Serinus)

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