Archive for September, 2010

in performance: the hold steady

the hold steady: craig finn, galen polivka, tad kubler and bobby drake.

the hold steady: craig finn, galen polivka, tad kubler and bobby drake.

Expressing an intriguing, literate and human tale in the context of a three minute rock song can be tricky business. It’s been done, certainly, by artists like Bruce Springsteen. And in the context of the music Craig Finn has fashioned for Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady, such an exhilarating fusion of story and song has been achieved with tunes that possess all the boozy and bass appeal of ‘60s frat rock, all the anthemic charge of a dozen or so different ‘70s arena rock bands (Foghat, Thin Lizzy and especially Cheap Trick come to mind) and all the literate wise-cracker-itis of The Boss himself on an especially giddy day.

Those elements didn’t always mesh at last night when The Hold Steady brought the Alltech Fortnight Festival to Buster’s. For his debut Lexington outing, Finn fronted a six member version The Hold Steady, even though his appearance (glasses, receding hairline, short sleeve collared short) made him look more like the captain of a bowling team. Such is part of the band’s unassuming appeal. And initially, that charm spilled over into the show opening, slide-guitar savvy The Sweet Part of the City.

But in short order, The Hold Steady went for the voltage – specifically, merry, chunky and somewhat bludgeoning guitar riffs that often gave the show a disappointingly static sound. The amped up guitar charge also tended to steamroll over some of Finn’s best stories.

Some sentiments survived nicely, like the hapless romanticism surrounding Don’t Let Me Explode (“she just smiled all polite like and said something vague”). Others, like the encore rave version of Stay Positive and the earlier Sequestered in Memphis, lost much of their swift lyrical wordplay but were reclaimed by hook happy choruses. But much of show’s voluminous and overly busy sound tended to bury Finn’s finest works, like the bar band saga Barfront Blues, in an avalanche of guitar crunch. The thunder took its toll on the crowd, as well, which had thinned considerably by the time the 95 minute set wound down.

What a shame. Guess that’s what happens when a rock ‘n’ roll party with the best of spirits and intentions gets the best of its hosts.


South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales) November 28, 2011 Byline: CLAIRE PETULENGRO You know what they say, if you want a job done well then you have to do it yourself and this is one project, which you both have to, and want to, be in control of. Call now to hear who is looking for you on Facebook. see here facebook phone number

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the deftones kiss and tell

deftones: stephen carpenter, sergio vega, chino moreno, frank delgado and abe cunningham.

present day deftones: stephen carpenter, sergio vega, chino moreno, frank delgado and abe cunningham.

In the fall of 1996, Kiss played Rupp Arena for the first time with its original lineup, full makeup and theatrical gear in over 16 years. Fans were rabid with anticipation. Woe be to any band that stood between them and their greasepainted heroes.

Enter the Deftones. At the time, the West Coast troupe mix’s of metal-singed guitar rock and pure, unadorned angst was largely unknown outside of California. It certainly was something an arena full of Kentucky Kiss fans knew little of. Perhaps not surprisingly, the audience jeered the Deftones without mercy.

To their credit, the band held its ground. They incited no further ire from the crowd, although singer Chino Moreno was bent on trying win over the unforgiving audience. But there was no sale. By the end of the set, boos hurled at the Deftones were unrepentant. It became one of the most savage treatments of an opening act in Rupp history.

“I’ve got to tell you,” said Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham. “It was brutal. I even have a (sound) board tape that we recently dug up from that Lexington show. It’s the funniest thing. I listen to it now and can go right back there. Man, was that brutal.”

To say the last laugh is on the Deftones oversimplifies the scenario. In the 14 years since that performance, the band has earned four gold/platinum-selling albums, helped define and legitimize a vaguely drawn alternative metal music genre and overcame the unforeseen loss of a co-founding member.

Formed in California – specifically, the Sacramento region – during the late ‘80s, the Deftones came to represent a smart but uncompromising guitar rock sound that fell somewhere between Anthrax and early Tool, even though the songs on albums like Adrenaline (1995) and White Pony (2000) also possessed a sense of pop wonder that formed a wild contrast to Moreno’s anguished singing. It’s a sound that has remained untempered through the years even if the lifestyles of the Deftones themselves have settled somewhat.

“We still have an absolute blast out there,” Cunningham said. “This year, in fact, we’re having some of the best times we’ve ever had on tour. To have that feeling this far into our career is pretty amazing and special. Of course, time dictates some things. We’ve outgrown certain things, like years of extreme wildness. But we’re just appreciative we’re still a band, that we’re still doing this and that we’re still doing this right.”

Scan the reviews that have accumulated through the years for the Deftones, and you will find the band’s toughened sound has been termed “grunge” and “experimental.” The dreaded “nu metal” has also been a frequent favorite. Cunningham isn’t flattered by any of them.

“After all these years, I really don’t care. But it’s human nature, I suppose. People want to categorize things. It seems to help them when they put a band somewhere and get it out again later. And that’s fine. You have grunge. You have, dare I say, nu metal. Whatever. We’ve done our best to transcend all of that by just doing our thing. We always have.”

Doing their thing became a pointed challenge when it came time follow their fifth album, 2006’s Bob Ezrin-produced Saturday Night Wrist. A supposedly more experimental recording was cut in 2008 called Eros with an eye to an early 2009 release. But in November, bassist and Deftones co-founder Chi Cheng was seriously injured in a automotive accident that has left him in a “minimally conscious” state ever since. Eros was indefinitely shelved, interim bassist Sergio Vega was recruited and another new album, Diamond Eyes, was quickly assembled and recorded. Released last May, it became an immediate Top 10 hit.

“Obviously, we’re experiencing a huge loss,” Cunningham said. “Chi is our brother and he’s still down after almost two years. It’s a pretty heavy situation.

“We made Diamond Eyes, ultimately, for therapeutic reasons. We just wanted to get back and jam. There was no real thought of making another record after Eros. We just called our buddy Sergio up at a time that was kind of born out of desperation and out of a need to be productive.

“Look, we’ve been together about 22 years now as a band. Sergio has been a seamless fit, though, and has helped us find a fresh, new approach to our music. But all things being said, I would love to still have my friend Chi next to me, too.” 

Deftones perform at 9 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $25, $28. Call (859) 368-8871.

steady as they go

the hold steady: galen polivka, craig finn, tad kubler and bobby drake. photo by mark seliger.

the hold steady: galen polivka, craig finn, tad kubler and bobby drake. photo by mark seliger.

Usually, when a pioneering popular music force is asked to come clean about their musical heroes, the answer becomes a bit of a balk.

Maybe they prefer not to let on to the artistic tricks they may have picked up from them. Maybe they don’t want to be stylistically pigeonholed by the admission. Maybe they don’t know who their heroes are in the first place.

Craig Finn, vocalist, lyricist and co-guitarist for the pop-savvy Brooklyn rock troupe The Hold Steady doesn’t subscribe to any of that. He’s proud to claim to The Replacements as the band that forever changed the course of his rock ‘n’ roll journey.

Like The Replacements, Finn hails from Minneapolis. And like the band, he doesn’t fit the glammed up stereotype of a rock band frontman. And like chief Replacement Paul Westerberg, his songs are alert, literate, ferociously rocking yet full of pure pop accessibility.

“Before The Replacements, I didn’t even know I could be in a rock band,” Finn said. “I didn’t know that dudes who looked like me or like the people in my neighborhood could be in a band. I thought they all had to be Steven Tyler descending from some rock mountain. The Replacements were these charming but very believable guys playing music that was really poignant and exciting and smart. And kind of wild.”

Poignant, exciting, smart and kind of wild – those are integral ingredients of what has distinguished The Hold Steady’s music over the course of five albums. Buzz on an international level kicked in for the band after the release 2008’s Think Positive album. That’s also when touring alliances with the Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows (which Finn often echoes in his more overtly poppish moments), Drive-By Truckers and Kings of Leon noticeably raised The Hold Steady’s already hearty performance profile.

But at the heart of The Hold Steady are Finn’s lyrics. Actually, they’re more like full cinematic stories with characters ranging from the hapless to the heartbroken to the just plain boozed. Finn’s sense of narrative has been regularly compared to the writing of such major leaguers as Bruce Springsteen. That’s certainly true on the band’s newest album, Heaven is Whenever. Though the band was pared down to a quartet with the departure of founding keyboardist Franz Nicolay, Heaven offers a more varied and expansive sound for Finn’s songs to move about in.

“I think we’re all just getting better at staying out of each other’s way,” Finn said with a laugh. “Obviously, storytelling is a big part of what I want to do vocally. So every time we make a record, we’re always hoping to evolve and play to those strengths. This album is but one example of that.

“We were already looking for a little more space in the music. Franz was an incredible musician who could play just about any instrument. But sometimes, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to fill up every available space within the music. So we wanted to make these new songs a little more wide open.”

Among the fine examples of such song design on Heaven is Whenever is Barely Breathing, a composition lyrically inspired by punkish bands Finn knew in his youth that triggered violent turns from their audience. But quirky twists abound. In terms of the story, the band Finn sings about dissolves and reforms as promoters of the Hare Krishna movement. Musically, the song’s huge anthemic hooks take a detour into swing with colors of brass and clarinet.

“The idea of a band converting people to the Hare Krishnas seemed like such a strange and weird thing. At 38, when I wrote the song, it just seemed too ridiculous to even be in a song.

“But this is a huge part of my lyric writing. It involves looking back to when I was younger and trying to understand what was important and unusual about these situations. I’ve been a New Yorker now for 10 years. But the stories in my songs are all about Minneapolis. It just took moving to Brooklyn to appreciate what was unique and special about living in Minneapolis. Sometimes you need that distance as you look back.”

The Hold Steady with Wintersleep and Very Emergency perform tonight  at 9 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20 and $22. Call (859) 368-8871.

critic's pick 143

“Some see life as a broken promise, some see life as an endless fight,” sings Neil Young at the half way point of his typically confounding new album, Le Noise. Such sentiments are ripe through the record’s eight terse songs. The tune these words are pulled from is titled, no less, Angry World. Although in basic Young fashion, it steers clear of the ditch in its mantra-like chorus (“it’s an angry world, but everything’s gonna be alright”). Yet as soon as you accept Angry World as an affirmation, the clouds close in again with a blunt, hardened guitar haze – specifically, a pack of hefty power chords delivered in layers of cushiony fuzz.

The make up of Le Noise is novel even by Young’s standards. It’s an exclusively solo recording. But it’s also predominantly electric. That means the raw voltage Young has brought to his garage rock records with Crazy Horse – especially 1990’s Ragged Glory and 1996’s Broken Arrow – pervades Le Noise.

On the album opening Walk With Me, for instance, the guitars rumble like distant thunder before coalescing under Young’s half spiritual/half redemptive call to arms. “I feel your love,” he sings over the corrosive sound. “I feel your strong love.”

But Le Noise is also something of a paradox. In some songs, the album reads like a hippie dream gone bust – like the way the wayward, drug-addled protagonist of Hitchhiker finds acceptance and salvation in family. There’s a mystical turn in the tune, too. It borrows the melody – not to mention, a chorus – from Like an Inca, a 1982 Young relic from Trans, an album that heavily relied on programmed synthesizers. Just to make the reference even cloudier is the fact that Like an Inca was one of the few Trans tunes to forego the electronics.

Similarly, that brings us to Love and War, one of two solo acoustic songs from Le Noise that wearily brings Young’s hippie dream into the present day, proclaiming protestation of war and hope to be as common as daily prayer (“They pray to Allah and they pray to the Lord. Mostly they pray about love and war”).

It should be noted that Le Noise offers Young one primary collaborator – producer Daniel Lanois. Over the past 25 years, Lanois has reinvigorated or entirely reinvented the careers of U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and many others. And in almost every case, he has left behind a trademark sound dominated by chilly atmospherics. Le Noise, however, may go down as one of the few Lanois-produced records not to be dominated by such ambience. Granted, the nicely layered guitar orchestration on Someone’s Gonna Rescue You, which hits the listener in waves, is a striking Lanois touch. Mostly though, Le Noise is the sound of Young still at play, making music that is fascinating, difficult and gloriously uncompromising.

Turner: Obama’s actions in Libya violate War Act

Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH) June 20, 2011 | Jack Torry; Jessica Wehrman Washington Bureau Rep. Mike Turner said last week that he is unsatisfied with President Barack Obama’s report to Congress on Libya.

Obama last week asserted that he does not need congressional authorization for the military operation in Libya. Critics, including Turner, have said that U.S. involvement in Libya violates the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires presidents to obtain Congress’ authorization when inserting U.S. forces into hostilities. site ohio christian university

“The President’s report to Congress is an attempt to evade Congressional approval of military action in Libya,” Turner, R- Centerville, said. “His response also fails to answer the questions I and many other members have been asking for months. We still do not know who the rebel forces are, what the plans are if Muammar Gaddafi’s regime falls, and the time frame of our commitment to this conflict.” Two weeks ago, the House passed a resolution giving Obama until Sunday to respond to congressional queries about U.S. involvement in Libya. “If the president does not formally seek Congress’ approval to continue military action, we must act to disapprove of the U.S. operations in Libya immediately,” Turner said.

Turner earlier this month authored a resolution formally disapproving of U.S. military involvement in Libya. The resolution has 77 cosponsors.

Brown says no to trade agreements Sen. Sherrod Brown officially broke with President Obama last week on the issue of trade, saying the president “is wrong” by supporting free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

In a news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill, Brown, D- Ohio, accused the Obama administration of engaging in a “continuation … slightly changed,” of the trade policies of former President George W. Bush. “The president is wrong on this,” Brown said.

In a debate in Cleveland during his 2008 campaign, Obama vowed to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico unless they agreed to substantial revisions. Once in office, Obama dropped the idea.

Obama is now urging Congress to approve free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that were largely negotiated by the Bush administration. But Obama also wants Congress to extend financial help to workers who lose their jobs because of trade. in our site ohio christian university

Brown, a consistent opponent of NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China, wants Congress to approve the financial help for workers before taking on the trade pacts themselves. He said he would vote against the South Korean pact.

House has ‘guest pastor’ for a day The president of Circleville-based Ohio Christian University gave the opening prayer last week at the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mark A. Smith served as the House “guest pastor” for the day. He was invited to give the opening prayer by U.S. Rep. Steve Austria, R- Beavercreek.

Smith has been the president of Ohio Christian University for five years. During that time, the university has grown from 380 to 1,350-plus students. Before coming to Ohio Christian University, he was vice president for adult and graduate studies at Indiana Wesleyan University for five years.

Jack Torry; Jessica Wehrman Washington Bureau

in performance: trombone shorty

trombone shorty on trumpet at courthouse plaza on sunday,

trombone shorty playing trumpet at courthouse plaza on sunday. photo by matt goins.

At the close a crisp autumn evening at the Courthouse Plaza last night, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews held the long-elbowed instrument that earned him his nickname over his head like a sort of brass fortified fist in the air. It wasn’t at all a symbol of defiance. The tireless carnival atmosphere he created through a one hour, 45 minute set was too much fun for that. But the gesture was a token of the spirit and celebration that dominated this endlessly fun Spotlight Lexington performance.

Andrews hails from New Orleans and sports a musical bloodline that runs through Crescent City brass band tradition, funk and R&B. Last night he was faithful not only to those inspirations but to the kind of inexhaustible party spirit that even the demon Katrina hurricane couldn’t whip out of the city.

Those wanting New Orleans funk were awarded with the show opening Orleans and Caliborne, a party piece full of bouncy brass figures that recalled the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s early ‘90s music save for guitar stutters and meaty bass grooves that were more in line with vintage Isaac Hayes records. The monster Mardi Gras tune, though, was Get Your Groove On, which was modeled more after the Rebirth Brass Band with irresistibly funky horn syncopation that bordered on ska. Andrews’ soul falsetto singing streamlined the tune a bit. But that preceding groove… man, that was just nasty.

From there, the show opened out into an R&B glossary with Andrews touching on James Brown style soul grinds, Marvin Gaye pop-soul (a cover of Let’s Get It On, no less) and waves of soul inspirations that touched upon the Isley Brothers, Duke Ellington, Wilson Pickett, Louis Armstrong (“we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him”) and, at Shorty’s interpretative best, Allen Toussaint by way of a soul smackdown version of On Your Way Down.

Such varied references set a very accessible party mood for the crowd. But what sold it all, even above Andrews’ thoroughly arresting instrumental work, was his stamina. Along with the youthful intensity of his Orleans Avenue band (an ensemble whose oldest member is 27), the trombonist/trumpeter was an involving, commanding and immensely audience friendly frontman. Throw that kind of powerhouse spunk in with the drive of a Shorty original like Hurricane Season, with its feverish call and response hooks, and you had the kind of show that helped Spotlight Lexington – and all of downtown, for that matter – put on its finest party face.

in performance: randall bramblett

randall bramblett. photo by nathan rodriguez.

randall bramblett. photo by nathan rodriguez.

Amid the pageantry surrounding the World Equestrian Games, the Alltech Fortnight Festival offered up last night what may turn out to be one of its rare moments of intimacy. In a mostly solo performance by Southern song stylist Randall Bramblett at Natasha’s, the broader WEG celebrations were held at bay. What surfaced instead was a luxuriously quiet reading of South Georgia-inspired songs where, as Bramblett aptly described them, you could sense the “sand and religion” of the region. The crowd was on the sparse side – roughly 60 or so patrons. But that only added to the active listening environment that enveloped the concert.

The program was split between material for solo acoustic guitar and solo electric piano. The former was more narrative friendly, allowing yarns like Queen of England and God Was in the Water to percolate in subtle but deep rural grooves. They were countered with meditations seemingly warmer and more reflective (Sun Runs) even though several guitar songs revealed a strong autumnal chill (Nobody’s Problem and especially the exquisitely bittersweet Disappearing Ink).

The keyboard songs unlocked another dimension of Bramblett’s music. Keys have long been his primary instrument. So the concert’s stylistic scope nicely broadened when he sat down and let loose with the rolling piano strolls of My World, the neo-country gospel undercurrent of In the Meantime and the deep jazzy turns from the title tune to 1998’s See Through Me album.

The latter offered something of a bonus. It was one of a half-dozen songs to feature opening act Seth Walker – who preceded Bramblett with an infectious set of folkish originals strongly accented by elements of mid ‘60s soul and pop – as an unrehearsed accompanist on guitar. On See Through Me, Walker’s riffs possessed the cool of Bumpin’ on Sunset-era Wes Montgomery while Driving to Montgomery the guitar supplements placed the music decidedly closer to river country.

Winding the show up was the evening’s lone encore, a stirring cover of Howlin Wolf’s Evil that was preceded by a story of how the blues giant’s strictly religious mother was so outraged by her son’s music that she refused to come to his funeral.

There are obviously no such broken ties in Bramblett’s own family line. The show’s highlight was Fading, a lovingly understated eulogy to “Miss L.D.,” Bramblett’s mother. “I’m drinking up the starlight to keep from telling you goodbye,” he sang. Like the rest of this sublime performance, the song was steeped in a sense of Southern faith that was devout but never forced. Its emotive power, however, was immense.

shorty grows up

troy "trombone shorty" andrews

troy "trombone shorty" andrews

Troy Andrews’ musical heart and inspiration may hail from New Orleans. But some of the larger thrills he initiates onstage as Trombone Shorty come from using his Crescent City homeland as a launch point for musical journeys that can land just about anywhere.

During some of his festival concerts this summer, Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, indulged in an original tune titled Neph. After getting the audience to clap along to its spirited syncopation, the trombonist switched to his other instrument, trumpet, and blew a sunny blues melody accented by a retro soul blast of wah wah guitar. The band soon blurred the melody, Andrews instigated an old school croon and the groove morphed into Marvin Gaye’s bedroom classic Let’s Get It On.

The crowd, needless to say, went nuts, proving Andrews to be part New Orleans jazz journeyman and part retro soul soldier. And that’s says nothing of the rock, R&B and even hip hop references that abound on the newest Trombone Shorty album, Backatown. In short, Shorty, at age 24, is a new kind of New Orleans funkster. He is a generation crossing stylist that holds fast to the city’s regenerative musical spirit while pursuing a groove all his own.

“This is just me being part of the city of New Orleans,” Andrews said. “I mean, it’s one of the only cities where we can see city Ellis Marsalis playing in one club. Then, right next door, you might have The Neville Brothers. So growing up in the city, hearing all these different things and playing with so many different people over time was all I ever knew. The music just came through me as a kid.

“But I’m very influenced by hip hop, and the beats of that style of music, too. Growing up, hearing that music on the radio and experiencing all of that at this particular time in my life… I mean, it had a big impact. I couldn’t help but try and put everything together.”

And so Trombone Shorty was born. Actually, the stage name stuck when Andrews began mastering trombone at such an early age that his arms were barely long enough to operate the instrument. Today, though, Andrews’ blend of generational jazz and funk has him rubbing shoulders with some big league rock names. He will tour overseas with Jeff Beck in October before returning Stateside to wind up a fall tour by the Dave Matthews Band.

Similarly, Backatown sports cameos by Lenny Kravitz (Andrews’ one time employer) and the elder statesman of New Orleans’ soul, Allen Toussaint.

“We celebrate everything, man,” Andrews said. “It’s like Mardi Gras year round with us. But it’s also cool to see all the new faces. We go to cities where people have probably heard of us, even though they’ve never checked us out. Then when we come out playing funk-rock with a trombone in front, you can tell it’s something new and exciting to them. Maybe that will make them want to come to New Orleans and discover some of the other musicians.”

So far, that’s the case – on television, at least. Andrews is one of the native artist/residents featured as performer/actors on the HBO series Treme (pronounced Trehm-may) that focuses on life in post Katrina New Orleans. As Treme is the very New Orleans neighborhood Andrews was born in, the series literally hits close to home.

“But that neighborhood is a small part of what the series is about. The show captures the views of everybody, from chefs and businessmen who are struggling to people that are just trying to find their family after the storms to musicians trying to gets gigs to make ends meet.

“It captures a bit of everything from the city of New Orleans and the people that are just trying to move forward while keeping the city alive.”

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Courthouse Plaza as part of Spotlight Lexington.

in performance: dr. ralph stanley and the clinch mountain boys

dr. ralph stanley

dr. ralph stanley

As an encore to an hour-long set of sterling, sage-like bluegrass music, Ralph Stanley last night took advantage of the surroundings at Christ the King Church to serenade a massive crowd of Oktoberfest revelers with the gospel standard I’ll Fly Away.

OK, OK. So he was singing a Baptist hymn in a Catholic church parking lot on a Friday night. The really curious part of the performance turned out to be the audience, which sang along with tipsy fervency and abundant cheer. Given the O-fest setting, a few plastic cups of ales were even raised in solidarity during the chorus. Funny. I’ll Fly Away never seemed like a drinking song before. But the spirit still moves the masses in mysterious ways. Last night, Stanley piloted this slightly surreal scenario through substantial crowd chatter and a horrific sound mix and emerged, as always, a gallant musical elder.

At age 83, Stanley exhibited no more performance affectation than he did when playing alongside brother Carter Stanley over a half century ago. When he sang, the weight of his 64 years of performing never appeared as oppressive. As a result, his still harrowing a capella reading of O Death – a stirring centerpiece tune because it illuminates every crease in Stanley’s majestic mountain tenor – more than ever sounded like a meditation on salvation. Even amid the beer and brats, that sentiment was not lost for one moment on the audience.

“Won’t you spare me over ’til another year,” Stanley sang to the spectres in the song’s gripping finale. “Hope so, Ralph,” uttered one crowd patron in reply.

Elsewhere Stanley let the five members of his current Clinch Mountain Boys band do some of the heavy lifting last night. Harlan-born banjoist Steve Sparkman still sounded like gold on the Clinch Mountaun Backstep while guitarist/grandson Nathan Stanley summoned faithful mountain harmonies during Rank Strangers to Me.

“I believe you all like that old time mountain music,” grandpa Stanley told the crowd just the Clinch Mountain Boys took the reins for a feisty Molly and Tenbrooks. Indeed they did, Dr. Ralph. Indeed they did.

who's alejandro talking to?

who is alejandro escovedo talking to?

who is alejandro escovedo talking to?

Even with the World Equestrian Games finally at hand, we’re looking ahead to what life will be like in Lexington after Oct. 10. In getting a leg up on a post-WEG autumn, we spoke yesterday by phone to Alejandro Escovedo, the Texan songsmith who has long been a favorite of Lexington audiences. Having forged a solid fanbase here through a succession of concerts at Lynagh’s Music Club in the late ’90s, Escovedo has recorded his last two albums – Real Animal and Street Songs of Love – here. The latter, which sports cameos by Bruce Springsteen and Ian Hunter, has earned Escovedo some of the most complimentary reviews of his career.

Escovedo will be back to play Lexington with a Kentucky Theatre concert on Oct. 19. We caught up with him in Miami, where he was preparing for a series of shows that will lead up to a pre-game appearance at Sunday night’s Miami Dolphins-New York Jets smacksdown. NBC is carrying the game. No word on whether any of Escovedo’s performance will get aired. (He will be featured, however, on the Oct. 23 boradcast of Austin City Limits along with Trombone Shorty, who just happens to be playing Spotlight Lexington on Sunday… small world, eh?)

We’re saving the Escovedo interview until closer to the show date. But imagine our surprise when an audience patron at last night’s Oktoberfest performance by Ralph Stanley tipped us off about what popped up on Escovedo’s facebook page. Here’s the link.

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in performance: little feat

little feat: gabe ford, kenny gradney, fred tackett, paul barrere, sam clayton and bill payne. photo by bill payne.

today's little feat: gabe ford, kenny gradney, fred tackett, paul barrere, sam clayton and bill payne. photo by bill payne.

As of this writing, the World Equestrian Games are roughly 36 hours away from commencing. But the celebration surrounding Lexington’s long awaited time in the sun began in earnest last night at the Opera House.

From the crack of the huge, rolling New Orleans grooves of Calling the Children Home, Little Feat rang in the event-long Alltech Fortnight Festival. As far as a party summons goes, the song (and the entire show, for that matter) was a beaut. Children – a sleeper tune from a sleeper album (1998’s Under the Radar) – came stacked with everything anyone could ever love about Little Feat. There were brassy, playful keyboard passages by group founder Bill Payne, soulful vocal bounces from guitarist Paul Barrere and, perhaps best of all, the funky Crescent City beat set down by drummer Gabe Ford, the former Feat tech that took over for Richie Hayward, who died in August after a year long bout with liver disease.

The verdict on Ford: a huge thumbs up. He navigated the mighty Feat rhythmic fortress with confidence and rocking swing, but also deftly handled the turns that popped up in tunes like Spanish Moon and the extended jams that grew out of a lengthy Dixie Chicken.

Veteran hands Payne and Barrere were in equally impressive form. Payne remained something of a marvel on the keys. His Dixie Chicken solos, for instance, boasted an orchestral, yet jazz-like exterior accented by booming bass patterns that recalled the great Weather Report chieftain Josef Zawinul. But on tunes like Cajun Girl, where his playing mimicked the dizzy accents of an accordion, he approximated the ultra animated spontaneity of The Band’s Garth Hudson.

Barrere, as always, stood as the earthy, bluesy Feat figurehead, singing over the sly, deep pocket groove of Skin It Back and harmonizing with aged but defined soulfulness alongside Payne on Roll ‘Em Easy.

Percussionist Sam Clayton went to the well for the evening’s biggest surprise, a sweaty, syncopated version of 1979’s Feel the Groove that jettisoned his usual bullfrog vocals for a sweeter, more streamlined soul sound. Kenny Gradney, as always, was a solid, stoic presence on bass, pumping up the bottom end of a rollicking Oh Atlanta and fueling the fluid groove of the show-closing Let It Roll.

Little Feat’s undeniable ace-in-the-hole, though, was multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett. He regularly matched and played off of Barrere’s guitar intensity, blew blasts of Miles Davis-like trumpet cool (at the onset of Dixie Chicken, no less) and engaged in a mighty mandolin breakdown jam at the end of Cajun Girl that ended with busted strings and beaming faces all around onstage.

Crowning it all was a brief country doo-wop rendition of Don’t Bogart That Joint that Barrere dedicated to Hayward. How typically Feat it was – a sober take on a druggie sing-a-long done up for a departed musical brother. There was no sentimentalism here, folks. Little Feat, much like the soon-to-be-ensuing WEG, are made for motion, not looking back.

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