Archive for April, 2008

critic’s pick 17

It took a catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina to hammer into all of our consciences the significance of New Orleans as a cultural epicenter of the South, if not the entire country. Amid the horrifying images of death and neglect in a struggle for survival that is still very much ongoing, we were also reminded of what was nearly lost: Music. Jazz. Joy.

Henry Butler was nearly one of those victims. Blind since birth, he became a vital link in piano traditions that stem to pioneers like James Booker, Allen Toussaint and, most directly, Professor Longhair. The piano, under Butler’s fingers, communicates a sound steeped in boogie woogie, blues, gospel, jazz, R&B and wondrous permutations of those styles and inspirations.

Butler lost his house, instruments, sheet music and nearly all of his possessions in floods triggered by Katrina and New Orleans’ failed levees. Though he now lives in Colorado as another unintended Crescent City expatriate, the pianist has issued a sublime new solo concert recording that echoes the heartbeat of his homeland.

From the moment he is introduced by the celebrated Windham Hill pianist George Winston, a longtime and vocal champion of Butler’s music, and as PiaNOLA Live sails grandly into Basin St. Street Blues, we are reminded of a culture and music that is only now regaining its proper artistic legging following an epic natural disaster and the very human blunders that came in its wake.

PiaNOLA Live isn’t music of retribution, although Larry Blumenfeld’s informative liner notes suggest, half-jokingly, that Butler’s cover of the Billy Preston pop-soul hit Will It Go Round in Circles – served with fat, percussive phrasing and mischievous performance playfulness – might be a response to dealings with FEMA. Instead, the album is a simple celebration not only of New Orleans music, but its kinship with other soul sounds.

Dock of the Bay, the Otis Redding staple that is among the most established R&B hits of all time, is played by Butler with luscious gospel fervor. As such, we are forced to give a serious, renewed listen to the lyrics. Sure, we may still bask in the soothing escapism Redding initiated in the ‘60s. But against Butler’s more reverential piano rolls, we are clued into what else the song is about: loneliness, hopelessness and, get this, the loss of one’s home. Within this more severe reading, Butler’s vocals provide a hurricane force intensity of their own.

Lighter spirits are at work here, as well, from the one-man-band R&B harmonies created for Toussaint’s Mother-in-Law to the rich gumbo of funk, pop and stride melodies stuffed into the Butler original Orleans Inspiration.

But what is most stunning is that PiaNOLA Live is a scrapbook of live recordings. Some stem back to the 1980s while others are from last year. Yet the mood is so seamless that you never fully realize the specific impact Katrina had upon the music. You just know that Butler’s sense of soul and tradition, like New Orleans itself, has survived with its vitality intact.

in performance: james mcmurtry and justin townes earle

How ironic that James McMurtry, in deflecting conversation about the assumed literary inspiration of screenwriter/novelist dad Larry McMurtry at last night’s Kentucky Theatre taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, would reference the father of the program’s other guest, Justin Townes Earle.

So came this quote from Americana renegade Steve Earle: “Songs are just literature you can digest while driving.”

True to that notion, and despite a few, very atypical WoodSongs broadcast glitches (the fortunes of war in any live radio setting), the tunes of McMurtry and Earle served as expert vehicles for tales set in the very wild, bluesy yonder.

McMurtry stuck entirely to the darker rural material from his new Just Us Kids album. He turned Dylan-esque phrasing into swampy retribution on Hurricane Party before courting the stark Texan storytelling prowess of Townes Van Zandt while singing for all the world like Lou Reed during the downward crackhead spiral of Fire Line Road.

Crisp, wiry support by McMurtry’s Heartless Bastards band (funny… no one mentioned that moniker on the air) came to a head on Just Us Kids‘ title tune, which, in keeping with the show’s unintended family theme, the singer dedicated to his teenage son. The more worldly dismay of You’d a Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die), the closing song on Just Us Kids, was served as an encore.

The younger Earle (yes, his middle name is a tribute to Van Zandt) sounded less like his father and more like Hank Williams. When matched with the mandolin, banjo, and very serviceable vocal harmonies of co-hort Cory Younts, Earle’s unadorned country musings fueled the hootenanny Hard Livin’ and the swing-savvy turns in an update of Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith’s Chitlin’ Cookin’ Time in Cheatham County.

Topping it all was The Ghost of Virginia, an encore tune pulled from Earle’s Yuma EP disc that reveled in the cherished country imagery of a train running like a lost soul in the moonlight with cold steel tracks as its only companion.

The imagery may have been cold, but the performance couldn’t have been cooler.

MD Anderson Cancer Center to Investigate Potential Anti-tumor Effects of CG100649, CrystalGenomics’ Novel NSAID Candidate.

Biotech Week October 20, 2010 CrystalGenomics, Inc. (, a biopharmaceutical company with drug discovery and development capabilities, has just announced its plan to jointly conduct an investigational preclinical research project with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The purpose of this research is to explore the potential anti-tumor effects of CG100649, CrystalGenomics’ clinical stage novel NSAID candidate, which is being developed as an osteoarthritis drug (see also Osteoarthritis).

CrystalGenomics’ role in these efforts will be to provide CG100649 for studies in mouse models to determine if the drug prevents adenoma formation. CG100649 is believed to have a cancer prevention mechanism and a superior safety profile compared to existing cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors on the market today and this research is designed to validate this in the area of colorectal cancer. Depending on the results of the research, CrystalGenomics may expand CG100649’s indication to also include the prevention of colorectal cancer. site md anderson cancer center

The principal investigator for the research will be Dr. Raymond DuBois, an internationally renowned investigator and researcher in the field of cancer, especially in the link between colorectal cancer, arthritis drugs and the COX-2 enzyme. Dr. DuBois has served as president of the American Association for Cancer Research and currently is the provost and executive vice president of MD Anderson.

Dr. DuBois’ laboratory at MD Anderson seeks to advance the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer. DuBois and colleagues discovered that bioactive lipids and inflammation play important roles in the process of colorectal cancer prevention and were among the first to recognize that COX enzymes play a pivotal role in the formation of adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer. These discoveries led to successful clinical translational studies applying the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which included COX-2 inhibitors, in the treatment of high-risk colorectal cancer patients. here md anderson cancer center

President & CEO of CrystalGenomics, Dr. Joong Myung Cho said, “We are very excited to work with a world renowned cancer center and to have the research led by a premier investigator. There is a tremendous potential for our CG100649 program as there are great unmet medical needs in the areas of both osteoarthritis and colorectal cancer.”

the james and justin show

Who said there is nothing to do in Lexington on a Monday night? Not the good folks at the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, that’s for sure. They’ve got a beaut of a show on tap to tape tonight at the Kentucky Theatre: a double Americana bill featuring singer/songwriters James McMurtry (above) and Justin Townes Earle.

McMcMurty has long displayed a great flair for the narrative. And why not? He’s the son of celebrated Western novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry. But over the past two decades, James has issued one extraordinary set of worldly themed rural life snapshots after another. The political slant of his music has become increasingly pointed, as well.

A regular visitor to Lexington over the years (he’s played The Dame, High on Rose and Lynagh’s Music Club several times), tonight marks his first local performance since the release of what just might stand as his finest album, Just Us Kids. Rather than repeating myself ad nauseum, I’ll refer you to the critic’s pick 15 entry of The Musical Box for a full review. Let’s just say the record is a gem, one of the best so far in 2008, for sure. And that only ups the anticipation of tonight’s show, which will likely be devoted to the new songs. 

Earle (left), of course, is the son of Americana “hard core troubadour” Steve Earle. But a listen to The Good Life, the younger Earle’s debut album on the indie insurgent country label Bloodshot, reflects a life less amplified. There’s no Lone Star drawl to Justin’s singing, no brazen electric overtures, just a deep folky tenor with a flair for stark, conversational tales (like Lone Pine Hill and Far Away in Another Town, which recalls the late Townes Van Zandt, who Earle is partially named for), a hearty groove (the neo-Jamaican South Georgia Sugar Babe) and traditional country elegance (the Ernest Tubb-flavored Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving).

If you miss Earle this time around, be patient. He will be back for a full set this fall at the Christ the King Okotoberfest. Keep Sept. 20 open.


James McMurtry and Justin Townes Earle perform at 7 tonight for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main. Tickets are $10. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888.


The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) January 8, 2006 | MISS CONDUCT My daughter’s future in-laws have offered to contribute to the cost of her wedding. My husband and I are considering accepting but have not yet discussed how much they would give. It will probably be a few thousand out of a total wedding budget of approximately $25,000. How will this change the wording on the invitation? At what point does the invitation switch from the “bride’s parents request the honor” to both sets of parents? I want to be fair to them. G.B. /// Milford Naming an exact amount makes the situation sound less as though you are accepting a generous offer and more as though you were soliciting a corporate sponsorship. “And for $10,000, you can get a half-page ad in the program and your logo emblazoned on the wedding cake!” This is not an appropriate attitude. go to website essing wedding invitations

You can choose to be traditional about the invitation’s wording, in which case only you, as the bride’s parents, are mentioned. Or you can choose to be egalitarian and list both sets of parents on the invitation (the bride’s first; egalitarianism has its limits). But the decision should be based on your values and aesthetics, not on whether the future inlaws have ponied up enough cash to get themselves mentioned. My recommendation would be to accept their donation if you believe they sincerely want to help out. It would also be nice, regardless of how much they give, to put them on the invitation if they would like to be so named (i.e., if they are not terribly traditional themselves). They did, after all, provide the groom, which I’m sure your daughter considers a significant contribution.

A friend and I agreed to dog-sit for each other, but the last time her dog stayed at my home, he had several accidents, chewed furniture, and destroyed two rugs as well as his own bed (which I paid to replace). Since my friend was on her honeymoon, I was hesitant to mention all of the problems. I don’t want to dog-sit for her again and could use some advice on how to handle this situation. J.M. /// Exeter, New Hampshire You did the right thing by not spoiling your friend’s trip with news of canine malfeasance, and a heroically right thing it was, too. But now that the honeymoon is over, so to speak, you should be upfront about what happened. Your letter indicates that you’ve had this dog at your house before, and presumably he behaved well on those occasions. If there’s been a change in his behavior, then your friend, as a responsible and caring pet owner, will want to know about it. A well-trained dog who suddenly goes off on a destructive spree is telling his people that something’s wrong, and your friend needs to figure out what’s got Buster’s tail in a twist.

You can start off by saying that you know the situation is an awkward one, and that you aren’t telling her these things to make her feel guilty. (After all, it’s not as if she was, from her cruise ship, sending the dog telepathic commands to gnaw on the coffee table.) Then, as calmly and objectively as you can, describe what Buster did. Your friend may want to pay you for some of the damages. If she offers, it would be kind of you to accept, since this will ease her conscience.

Once you’ve explained what Buster did, you can then reasonably say that you’re not comfortable having him stay with you again. Your friend will almost certainly understand and may well say something to that effect before you do. (It would be hard for her to relax on a trip if she’s constantly worried about what havoc her dog might be wreaking.) If she asks you to give him another chance, and you feel inclined to do so, set some conditions. You might, for example, want to keep Buster confined to a crate whenever you couldn’t be in the room with him.

The most important thing is to have this conversation soon, so that your friend has plenty of time to investigate alternate arrangements for Buster’s care. It would be terribly inconsiderate to let her think everything is fine, and then tell her a week before she plans to leave town that you won’t be housing her hellhound anymore.

A friend of mine got an invitation to a surprise housewarming shower being thrown by the guest of honor’s sister and some friends. The invitation asked guests to purchase gift cards or certificates at specified stores and to bring food items. To me, this sounds extremely tacky, and the hosts are acting as though this new homeowner, who is in her 40s, is a charity case. How appropriate (or inappropriate) is it for these people to throw such a party? A.D. / // Danvers It depends on what age you are. If you are a baby boomer or older, it is “extremely” inappropriate; if you are a Gen-Xer, it is “way” inappropriate; and if you are Generation Y or younger, it is “mad” or perhaps “hella” inappropriate. At no age is it a good idea to shake down your friends for money and consumer goods to support the lifestyle that you have freely chosen. I hope your friend politely declines the invitation. go to website essing wedding invitations


If you’re prone to forgetting what you want to say while others are talking, teach yourself the sign-language alphabet. Then you can hold your hand in the position of the first letter in the main word you need to remember – “M,” if you want to ask someone about their mother’s health, say. Cuts down on forgetfulness and interruptions.


in performance: keith urban and carrie underwood

Keith Urban sure knows how pack a sense of celebration into a final chorus.

Some 107 concerts after it began, the country star wrapped up his tour in support of his Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing album last night with an electrifying performance at Rupp Arena – his first there as a headliner.

Urban kept matters very lean and simple onstage with a workmanlike five-man band that easily filled every square inch at Rupp with a highly cosmopolitan sound that  approximated ‘70s rock ‘n roll more than even the most modern of country formulas. But the singer had plenty of help. In the seats were 17,000 fans that merrily cheered the show on from the moment a hydraulic lift hoisted Urban to the back end of the stage precisely at 10 p.m. amid the opening strains of Once in a Lifetime.

That wasn’t all. Around the stage – and the crowd, for that matter – cameras were on boom cranes, cameras were suspended from the ceiling and camera men were scampering around the stage like cocker spaniels capturing every rocking moment for a live DVD.

Not a bad deal, really. Play Rupp for only the second time (the first was as an opening act for Kenny Chesney four years ago) and you get a near sell-out crowd and a camera crew to capture “the whole crazy thing.”

Oh, yes, Urban got to share the bill with Carrie Underwood as part of the deal, too. That undoubtedly sold a few tickets, as well.

Underwood’s 70 minute opening set was as over-the-top as Urban’s was concise.

The Oklahoma-born American Idol winner opened with Flat on the Floor after being shot up through the stage floor (country stars must have a phobia of simply walking onstage anymore). After tearing down a walkway (in stilettos, no less) that sliced the arena floor in half and with a shower of guitar power chords egging her on, Underwood made quick business of making the show, at least its first half, her own.

Aside from an upper register that is still need of some taming, Underground had ample vocal sass to back the already rockish and anthemic Get Out of This Town and sufficient patience and phrasing to sell the hard sentimentalism of Just a Dream.

But, boy, was her set ever a production. Light beams dropped to the center of the stage like marionettes or else followed Underwood around like predatory drones. There were roughly three dress changes, four if you count the rip-a-way number she draped herself in and out of for the uptown I Ain’t in Checoteah Anymore. By the time a video backdrop of Las Vegas lit up for Last Name, you almost thought the high rolling setting was real.

Yeah, dedicating a song to her dog (The More Boys I Meet – you figure out the parallel) was cute and all. And hearing a relatively restrained Don’t Forget to Remember Me was a nice breather. But by the time Underwood tore into a cover of the Guns N’ Roses hit Paradise City, the Vegas attitude took hold completely.

Urban’s set was just as electric, but a lot more streamlined and far less frilly.

Shine was one of many vehicles for the singer’s expert guitarwork, which regularly approximated the popish swagger of Lindsey Buckingham. Where the Blacktop Ends mixed banjo and mandolin to sound like a G-rated Copperhead Road. And on Raise the Barn, a Hazard youth was picked from the crowd to play lead guitar while Urban switched to bass. The smiles artist and audience member beamed to each proved to be the most honest special effect of the night.


out come the freeks

No, the spellcheck isn’t on the fritz. We’re not talking mere freaks here, but bonafide freeks – as in anyone who is up to spending today atop the Downtown Transit Center, at the corner of High St. and Martin Luther King Blvd., for FreeKY Fest.

The event, of course, is the culmination of a week-long celebration of WRFL-FM’s 20th anniversary. The all-ages fun – which, as the name suggests, is entirely free – reflects the artistic but stylistically varied pride that has given the student run station at the University of Kentucky such a refreshingly independent and slightly subversive presence on the airwaves.

On tap for the Fest will be a headlining set by the always inventive indie pop of The Apples in Stereo, the lusciously torchy jazz/folk reflections of Jolie Holland, the brassy dance grooves of Big Fresh, the orchestra-sized roots music caravan out of Louisville known as the Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band and much more.

Here’s the lineup.

+ 11 a.m.: Children’s concert with performances by Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine (featuring Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo), Pezhed and the Blipsquad (featuring Dave Farris of Club Dub), Rakadu Gypsy Dance and Snow Monster!

12:30 p.m.: Big Fresh (performing a covers set entitled A History of College Radio)

+ 2 p.m.: Indian Dewali and Punjab dance performance

+ 2:30 p.m.: Sound/Vision (performing excerpts from Steve Reich’s Drumming on the concourse).

+ 3 p.m.: The Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band.

+ 4:30 p.m.: Hair Police.

+ 5:30 p.m.: Mahjongg.

+ 7 p.m.: The Coup

+ 8:30 p.m.: Jolie Holland

+ 10 p.m.: The Apples in Stereo

There will also be concourse exhibits of interactive art and inflatables designed by the University of Kentucky College of Architecture along with a lounge set up below the Transit Center with an “aural graffiti” exhibit and performances by Daniel Mohler and Everyone Lives Everyone Wins.

So put your weekend in motion by heading downtown, hitting the Transit Center roof, celebrating college radio and getting freeky.

in performance: the brubeck brothers quartet

It’s easy to dismiss a band like The Brubeck Brothers Quartet as a mere generational knock-off of a landmark jazz innovator. True to the name, bass guitarist/bass trombonist Chris Brubeck and sibling drummer Dan Brubeck are sons of the iconic pianist Dave Brubeck. But the clan shares far more than a preference for funky time signatures. The younger Brubecks have played with their father, as well as with each other, for over 35 years and have become more a little versed in their own fatherly jazz dialogue.

In fact, the most immediate and distinctive aspect about the brothers’ performance last night at Berea College’s Phelps-Stokes Auditorium was that the rhythm section continually called the shots. Sure, pianist Chuck Lamb (from the ‘70s fusion band Dry Jack) and guitarist Mike DeMicco were featured liberally. But the program’s drive, swing and all around animation wwere very much of Brubeck-ian design, as in the bossa nova and tango colors on electric bass and drums that introduced Dance of the Shadows.

More often than not, once a band voice for a tune was established – which was regularly, as the majority of the repertoire sported round robin soloing – it was Dan Brubeck who turned up the rhythmic fire.

Sometimes that worked neatly, as in the light, circular acceleration he provided on brushes during West of One or the way the drums picked up on the overall ensemble groove (initiated first on piano, then on guitar) during Eclipse.

But the effect was a little more intimidating on two classics by daddy Dave.

On Blue Rondo a la Turk, the Brubecks let the Turkish sense of timekeeping speak for itself while emphasizing, in far more Americanized terms, a fervent blues underpinning.

The show-closing Take Five, in turn, was built around a clever New Orleans second line-style beat by brother Dan that veered freely into contemporary funk. But then it succumbed to a barrage of rock star drum figures full of purposely impressive technique and, as a result, a touch of indulgence.

Still, this was smartly played stuff that the half-collegiate/half community crowd was openly and enthusiastically receptive to. And that should be more than enough to do the Brubeck family name very proud.

current listening 04/24

Among the off-the-clock listening this week: 

Joe Ely and Joel Guzman: Live Cactus! – Direct from the Cactus Café in Austin, Tx. is this serving of spicy acoustic duets between master Texas songsmith/raconteur Ely and accordion ace Guzman. In this setting, Because of the Wind and Letter to Laredo shine so brightly you can almost feel the West Texas sun beating down on your back.

Otis Redding: Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul – A new two-disc version of the soul gem that shook the world in 1965. Everything here is killer: the two live versions of Respect, the regal reworkings of My Girl and Rock Me Baby and the voice that lights up Down in the Valley. Oh, yes. There’s also I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. A classic.  

Amon Duul II: Tanz der Lemminge – It originally took two vinyl albums in 1971 to cover the German band’s spacey blasts of prog-rock, psychedelic folk, Zappa-esque frenzy, moody atmospherics and good ol’ Munich boogie. Reissued as a single 2006 CD, Tanz today sounds reflective, pensive, trippy and exquisitely dated. 

Jonny Greenwood: There Will Be Blood – Though released almost simultaneously last winter with the newest album by guitarist Greenwood’s other band, Radiohead,  I find myself listening to this more. Admittedly, there is nothing rock ‘n’ roll about There Will Be Blood. But its icy, strident, chamber-style string works are every bit as emotive. 

Santana: Welcome – The 1973 album that effectively killed the commercial appeal of the first phase of Santana’s career. But the deep percussive spiritualism of Mother Africa, the keyboard hymn Going Home and a mind-blowing, 13-minute guitar summit with John McLaughlin highlight one of Santana’s most audacious works. Reissued in 2003.

in performance: john hammond

Though his recordings have regularly shifted roots music tactics over the past 47 years, the better part of John Hammond’s performance profile came down to exactly what was onstage at The Dame last night – namely, two acoustic guitars, a harmonica and a voice that is the living embodiment of blues and country blues traditions.

The repertoire alone reflected the stylistic depth that has always been a virtue of Hammond’s concerts. There were tunes by Charles Brown, Jimmy Rogers, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller, Muddy Waters, Billy Boy Arnold, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin’ Slim, Robert Johnson, Skip James and, in a comparatively contemporary turn, Tom Waits and Hammond himself.

Hammond is no mere interpreter of blues traditions, though. Granted, his between-song banter reflected enough encyclopedic statistics about the music, as well as stories about his own performance adventures in the blues world, to fill an autobiography. In fact, if Hammond isn’t already contemplating setting his blues life to book form, he should. But the resulting music in the 100 minute performance merged traditions and influences into a voice that has long been Hammond’s own.

On James’ Hard Time Killing Floor, for example, Hammond’s singing was full of conversational and worldly desperation. This wasn’t blues as mere entertainment. This was the music as a sort of penance, a weary reminder of a world as brittle, emotive and unforgiving as the steel guitar setting Hammond placed the song in.

As usual, Hammond played roughly half the program on 6 string acoustic guitar, including the smoldering Rogers lament Who’s Loving You Tonight and the sly Arnold shuffle I Wish You Would. But when Hammond put the slide to the steel guitar, blew on the harp like it was a siren and kept his own rhythm with the fevered stomp of his left foot, the blues drive became edgier and, at times, deliciously weirder.

On Buzz Fledderjohn, an ultra-creepy Waits tale about an ammo-loving neighbor, Hammond turned from rustic snapshots of country blues to the real life carnival of suburbia (“Rottweiler, Doberman, a Pinkerton guard; I ain’t allowed in Buzz Fledderjohn’s yard”). More direct in its blues attitude was the Waters chestnut I Can’t Be Satisified, a romp performed with a rich, wiry intensity.

Curiously, the evening’s most telling tune was a 2006 Hammond original called You Know That’s Cold, a song about emptiness, age and a shattered sense of purpose. “Maybe it’s just time to go,” Hammond sang from the viewpoint of a lost, archaic and possibly abandoned soul. Luckily, that was one storyline, in a show full of living blues vitality, that wasn’t remotely autobiographical.

critic’s pick 16

You get little insight as to why Martin Scorsese is co-billed with the still-mighty Stones when you listen to Shine a Light, a soundtrack album/live chronicle of the band’s Halloween 2006 engagement at New York’s Beacon Theatre, on its own.

But take the music in as part of Scorsese’s fascinating concert film of those shows, which opens with a 15 segment of unnerving preparation and ends with a breathtaking shot that stands as another of the director’s poetic salutes to New York City, and you have a far more complete idea of what an absorbing collaboration Shine a Light is.

For full effect, though, view the film in its intended IMAX setting, where Mick Jagger all but leaps off the screen as he tears down an onstage ramp and Keith Richards’ face approximates the Grand Canyon. The visual presence is, understandably, mammoth.

Scorsese has hit the rock ‘n’ roll boards before by directing The Band’s The Last Waltz.  But Shine a Light differs completely in intent. This is not a career summation or postscript. It is simply a living snapshot of a legendary band playing within the intimate confines of a theatre and reveling in, despite its long-in-the-tooth profile, a performance drive of remarkable vitality.

The set list features the usual bucketful of Stones staples, starting with an explosive Jumpin’ Jack Flash. But mixed in are such New York themed relics as She Was Hot (a sleeper tune from 1983), Just My Imagination (a Motown cover, yes, but one that shifts Richards from the rhythm role to the guitar solo spotlight) and the Stones’ greatest Big Apple kiss-off, Shattered.

There are a few guests on hand that pepper the party with varying results. Jack White comes off as a new generation rocker cut from the Stones’ rugged cloth on Loving Cup while Christina Aguilera reveals the vocal chops to spar with Jagger on Live With Me but shows little-to-none of her host’s intuitive cunning. The kicker, though, is watching Buddy Guy channel the mighty blues roar of Muddy Waters on Champagne and Reefer. Guy’s earthquake vocals and ripping guitar work make for some of the most playfully raw music the Stones have placed on an album in ages.

Jagger is as tireless as ever – a wind-up star that tears into the electric drive of All Down the Line, the pre-psychedelic pop of As Tears Go By and the comfortable menace of Sympathy for the Devil with equal confidence. The bonus on Shine a Light, though, is Far Away Eyes, a Stones novelty played as straightforward country by Ron Wood on pedal steel guitar but still delivered by Jagger as a wicked rural gospel send-up.

Far Away Eyes is also one of the few instances on Shine a Light where Richards attempts harmony vocals. While the results make for a merry train wreck, the guitarist is in remarkably strong voice when he takes the lead on the ultra bluesy and boozy You Got the Silver and his Between the Buttons relic Connection.

While the film essentially wraps up after (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and the prized camera shot that Shine a Light summons after Scorsese barks one simple but urgent direction to the camera (“Up!”), the album tacks on a few bonus tracks that include vigorous readings of Paint It Black and I’m Free. The finale is the title tune, which plays under the film’s closing credits. Initially a spiritual fashioned for the Stones’ classic Exile on Main Street in 1972, Shine a Light is here offered with a simpler, less demonstrative glow. Like the entire album, it boasts a vitality that is worldly, forthright and great fun.

powering the tower

WRFL-FM is counting down the days to Saturday’s 20th anniversary FreeKY Fest celebration by getting a head start on its future. Specifically, the station is planning on a major upgrade of its transmitter tower that will boost the broadcast power from 250 watts to over 7900 watts.

While the FCC has given its approval to the renovation, there is still the none-too-small matter of cash.

To help with that are four – count ‘em; four! –  “Boost the Power, Build the Tower” benefit concerts this week. The first brings violinist Zach Brock back to Natasha’s Cafe, 112 Esplanade, tonight.

Living, studying and working in Chicago since 1992, Lexington native Brock is a versed player who is worth catching any night for any reason. Among his current projects is participation in a documentary film on the late Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert. Keyboardist Orville Hammond, bassist Danny Cecil and drummer John Wilmarth will perform with Brock (9 p.m., $15).  

The second puts five Lexington bands into the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E Main St. on Tuesday. The lineup includes alt-country ensemble Some Other Meanness, the New Orleans-inspired funksters of the Old Vine Street Social and Pleasure Club, blues brigade Soul Patch, bluegrass group Blue Dawg and the University of Kentucky Graduate Jazz Ensemble directed by Raleigh Dailey. Comedian Ross “The Sauce” Duncliffe will host (7 p.m., $10).

Wednesday’s benefit slides over to The Void Skateshop, 518 E. High St, where Ben Allen, Jason Zavala and Eyes and Arms of Smoke will perform (8 p.m., $3)

Finally, there is bluegrass at Al’s Bar, 601 N. Limestone on Thursday featuring Dean Osborne, Blue Dawg, 23 String Band, the Downtown County Band, Quote, the Floorwalkers, Daniel Ellsworth, Brother Barret and the Rainjunkies (5 p.m., $10). This is an all ages show.

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