Archive for June, 2011

ford: built for the road ahead

colt ford. photo by jon-paul photography.

colt ford. photo by jon-paul photography.

Country and rap – not exactly musical genres one might suspect of striking up a cozy alliance.

Oh, it’s been done, as shown by the fleeting popularity of such unexpected country stars as Cowboy Troy. But you could say its takes a big man to sort out the true particulars of such seemingly opposing styles of music before making a serious charge at the charts.

And that man is an Athens Ga. native by the name of James Farris Brown. Fans, though, know him as Colt Ford.

Built like a wrestler and boasting enough commercial clout to enlist stars like Tim McGraw, Craig Morgan, Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Kentucky’s own Nappy Roots as collaborators on his new Every Chance I Get album, Ford is poised to be the first lasting link between Nashville and the world of hip hop.

“Go to any of these small country towns around Lexington or around anywhere, really, and you will see it,” said Ford, who performs Friday at Buster’s. “There will be these kids in their trucks wearing cammos and jeans, kids who like hunting and fishing. And they’re listening to Toby Keith and Jason Aldean. But they’re listening to Lil Wayne and Ludacris, too.

“People aren’t so genre-specific anymore. They just go, ‘Do I like the song or do I not like the song.’ And that’s really all that’s going on with my music.”

Central Kentucky country stars Montgomery Gentry and John Michael Montgomery were among the first to give nods to Ford’s hybrid songs. The former enlisted him for a remix version of its 2008 hit Roll With Me while Montgomery helped out on the title tune to Ford’s debut album, Ride Through the Country. But it took nearly 10 months for the latter to hit the charts. Ditto for the follow-up single, Cold Beer (cut with hardcore honky tonker Jamey Johnson) which received an Academy of Country Music nomination in 2010. Cementing the popularity was Aldean’s recent cover of Ford’s Dirt Road Anthem.

“I’ve certainly had a different battle to fight than a typical country artist that’s coming out will face. Getting on the radio has been hard. I mean, I knew it would be. But I didn’t think it would be this hard. You get to the point where you have to say to people, ‘OK, I know I don’t sound like George Strait.’ I understand that. But the great thing is we’ve already got a George Strait. But if you look back at the history of country music, there have always been artists who have been different from what was going on. Take Hank (Williams) Jr. He wasn’t considered country at all for a long time. And in today’s radio format, he’s almost considered too country.

“I’ve heard all of that stuff, too. All I ever wanted was a chance to be heard, you know? I’m not a bad guy. I’m a country man. I love God, America, family, friends and the blues. I give everything I’ve got to the music. All I want is a chance to be heard.

That chance was rewarded in 2010 with the release of Ford’s second album, Chicken & Biscuits. It broke into the Top 10 of the country charts and the Top 5 on many rap charts. Since its release in May, the new Every Chance I Get has reached the Top 5 on both charts. Even then, there was criticism that bordered on resentment from each camp.

“When Chicken & Biscuits did well, there were people who were like, ‘Oh, he just got lucky. There’s no way he could pull that off again.’ So there was some pressure when we went in the studio for the new album.”

Ford refers anyone doubting the artistic validity of his country rap concepts – or, as his bio terms them, “rhythmic sing-speak” –  to lessons set down by country stars of yore, specifically, the “Luke the Drifter” recordings of Hank Williams, Sr.,  much of the recorded music of Johnny Cash and the late ‘70s Southern rock hits of Charlie Daniels.

The latter artist even pops up on Every Chance I Get via a blue collar diatribe titled Overworked and Underpaid.

“He has always been one of my heroes,” Ford said of Daniels. “I hope 30 years from now people will talk about me the way they talk about him, and not just from a music standpoint. But from a personal standpoint, too. He says what he believes in and doesn’t back off from that. That’s the kind of man he is and the kind I hope I am, too.”
Colt Ford performs at 9 p.m. June 17 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 368-8871.

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critic’s pick 180

The first half of the ‘80s was a puzzling time for Neil Young fans. In quick succession he released an album of Kraftwerk-like electronic pop (Trans), a rockabilly session (Everybody’s Rockin’) and a straight-up country experiment (Old Ways), and then followed each with a tour featuring a different band.

A Treasure, the latest in a series of archival concert recordings by the iconic songsmith, focuses on the 1984 and 1985 country tours with a makeshift ensemble of old pals and learned Nashville pros that he dubbed The International Harvesters. A footnote: this tour marked the only time Young has ever played Rupp Arena. He performed there in Sept. 1984 with Waylon Jennings as an opening act.

Unlike the electro-pop and rockabilly detours, country music was a pretty natural stretch for Young. Though he came to fame as a Canadian ex-patriot enamored with Southern California folk, there are heavy country leanings throughout such esteemed early Young albums as After the Gold Rush and Harvest.

Not surprisingly, A Treasure scours an unusually broad spectrum that includes Young classics, samples from Old Ways (which was nine months away from release when the tour began) and period songs that are only now making their first appearance on a recording.

The big treat from the early days is Flying on the Ground is Wrong, which reaches back to the beginnings of the Buffalo Springfield. It is revisited here with a relaxed vocal lead that is stretched over a sea of country cool by longtime Young pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith.

From After the Gold Rush comes Are You Ready for the Country, which is fleshed out with the full force of the Harvesters, specifically the rolling piano strides of Anthony Crawford and the ceaselessly joyous country fiddle of Rufus Thibodeaux.

The most prominent obscurities come from a pair of tunes pulled from Young’s forgotten 1981 Crazy Horse album Reactor. The first, Motor City, is transformed into a blast of effectively crunchy honky tonk that bemoans the loss of faith and integrity in (and by) the American automotive industry. “There’s already too many Toyotas in this town,” Young sings, insuring that this country song will never make its way to country radio.

The other Southern Pacific, is the album highlight (along with the scorching Old Ways outtake Grey Riders). Here, the faded reign of the America railroad reflects the tough economic times faced by blue collar workers of most any era. The tune rocks with the rhythm of a locomotive, too.

Keith and Thibodeaux have both passed on since these performances were made, so in many ways this music is as much a testament to their sense of country faith as Young’s. Regardless, A Treasure is exactly that – a snapshot of Young in action during his most famously restless years.

in performance: jeff coffin mu'tet

jeff coffin

jeff coffin

At first glance last night at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort, it seemed the members of saxophonist Jeff Coffin’s aptly named Mu’tet band were wearing their influences openly. While perhaps not apparent on their sleeves, they were certainly visible on their chests.

Guitarist Mike Seal wore a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. Trumpeter Bill Fanning wore a Miles Davis t-shirt. Bassist Felix Pastorius wore a Muppets t-shirt. That suggested at least some of the traditional and, yes, mutated inspirations the ensemble’s infectious jazz sound zeroed in on last night and the playful means with which they brought them to life.

For example, Loueke was built around a guitar melody with an Asian/African accent that served as a backdrop for decidedly cool sax and trumpet leads that recalled the great Blue Note recordings of the early ‘60s. A similarly designed montage of genre-jumping was evident during Al’s Greens.  It opened with a spacey, rhythm section-generated groove that weaved its way in and out of the tune’s generous sense of swing.

And then there were instances where the Mu’tet’s personnel seemed to merrily embody those inspirations. Coffin, a longtime member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones now in the employment of the Dave Matthews Band, summoned the spirit of the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk by playing alto and tenor saxophones simultaneously. Seal mastered a wiry guitar tone flexible enough to trigger warp-speed solos that recalled the early work of John Scofield. And bassist Pastorius, with his lanky frame and powerfully elastic playing style managed to look and sound like his father, the immensely influential jazz fusion bassist Jaco Pastorius.

But even with a hit list of such specific influences at work, nothing in this two hour-plus sold out performance seemed imitative, from the pronounced and playful New Orleans vibe of Move Your Rug (one of two tunes where Coffin invited Lexington’s Miles Osland to sit on alto sax) to the mix of funk and boppish skirmishes during The Mad Hatter Rides Again.

Capping it all, though, was the opportunity to hear a player like Coffin, who is accustomed to playing arenas and even stadiums with the DMB, bringing his neatly combustible music to one of the region’s most inviting and intimate venues. What a splendid treat.

Microsoft Warns of File Exploits

eWeek July 24, 2006 | Naraine, Ryan In the midst of back-to-back zero-day attacks against select businesses in the Far East, Microsoft on July 17 released a security advisory with a terse message: Do not open or save unexpected Microsoft Office files, even if they come unexpectedly from a trusted source. go to web site microsoft powerpoint templates

The company’s advisory comes less than a week after virus hunters discovered that a previously undocumented flaw in Microsoft PowerPoint was being exploited to plant a keystroke logger on infected Windows systems. go to web site microsoft powerpoint templates

There are no prepatch workarounds in the advisory. Instead, Microsoft said Windows users should avoid opening or saving Office files, especially those that arrive from untrusted sources.

If an Office file – Word, Excel or PowerPoint – arrives unexpectedly from a trusted source, the advice remains the same.

Because these file types are widely used for everyday business activities, Microsoft’s suggested actions may appear impractical, but independent security researchers say enterprises with valuable data stored on client machines should warn employees about the associated risks of opening strange documents.

Naraine, Ryan

summer album of the week, 06/11/11

richard thompson: hand of kindness (released june 1983)

richard thompson: hand of kindness. released june 1983.

Though not exactly Richard Thompson’s solo debut album, Hand of Kindness was his first album after nearly a decade’s worth of incendiary British folk-rock with ex-wife Linda Thompson. But the record is still packed with pals, including three Fairport Convention mates, Celtic fiddle great Aly Bain, a then known John Hiatt on backing vocals and a saxophone duo that brings Hand of Kindness within spitting distance of American R&B. The result: an album of love-gone-wrong songs full of brassy soul.

TimetoPlayMag.com Unveils Its Holiday 2011 ‘Most Wanted’ List.

Health & Beauty Close-Up October 3, 2011 TimetoPlayMag.com, a destination website which provides information, entertainment, and services on what’s fun for children and their families, has announced its Holiday 2011 Most Wanted list, naming the 18 toys predicted by the editors to top holiday wish lists.

Hosted by Jim Silver, editor in chief, and Chris Byrne, content director aka The Toy Guy, the press conference kicked off a day-long event featuring a “who’s who” of manufacturers and entertainment companies. Participating companies exhibited a wide range of new toys, video games, and entertainment products that will hit store shelves in time for the holiday crunch, the Company noted in a release. site monster high wiki

Known as the official kick-off to the holiday family entertainment editorial season, the press conference addressed the current state of the toy industry, consumer trends, and those toys that will be exciting kids and the culture at large in the fourth quarter. In addition to unveiling the Most Wanted list, the Time to Play team announced its annual hot list for family friendly video games, The Power Ups. Games featured on the list are predicted to be the hottest titles this holiday season with fun appropriate content for kids of all ages.

“Companies recognize that families are looking for value,” said Jim Silver, editor in chief TimetoPlayMag.com. “Parents – and kids – can find value in a $10 toy or a $100 toy but what makes something a ‘keeper’ is whether or not kids will play with it for more than 15 minutes; true value is about providing longevity in the home.” “We are excited to see manufacturers continuing to respond to the realities of the economy and offering a low cost of entry into their hottest brands without compromising play,” said Chris Byrne, content director TimetoPlayMag.com. “That means that virtually all kids can engage with the hottest properties and be part of something that’s cool in their world and in the culture at large.” Predicted to be the most popular and best selling toys of Holiday 2011, the products named to the Time to Play Most Wanted list appear in alphabetical order: here monster high wiki

ANGRY BIRDS KNOCK ON WOOD GAME (Mattel/Ages 5 years & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $16) BEYBLADE METAL FUSION (Hasbro/Ages 8 years & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $5.99 – $39.99) BIG ACTION CONSTRUCTION SITE (Fisher-Price/Ages 3 years & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $59.99) DAGEDAR (Cepia/Ages 4 years & up /Approx. Retail Price: $4.99 – $19.99) FYRFLYZ (iStar Entertainment/Ages 8 & up/Approx. Retail Price: $10) HOT WHEELS WALL TRACKS (Mattel/Ages 4 & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $29.99) INNOTAB (VTECH/Ages 3 & up/ Approx. Retail Price: $79.99) LALALOOPSY SILLY HAIR DOLL (MGA/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $34.99) LAZER STUNT CHASER (Thinkway Toys/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $39.99) LOGO BOARD GAME (Spin Master/Ages 12 & up/Approx. Retail Price: $24.99) LEAPPAD EXPLORER (LeapFrog/Ages 4 & up/Approx. Retail Price: $99.99) LEGO ALIEN CONQUEST & NINJAGO LINES (LEGO/Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $3.49 – $119.99) LITE SPRITES (WowWee/Ages 4 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $19.99) MONSTER HIGH DEAD TIRED LINE (Mattel/Ages 6 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $14.49) NERF VORTEX LINE (Hasbro/Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $12.99 – $49.99) REDAKAI (Spin Master/Ages 6 years & up/Approx. Price: $5.99 – $19.99) SPY NET STEALTH VIDEO GLASSES (Jakks Pacific/Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $39.99) 3D BREAKTHROUGH PUZZLE (MEGA Brands/Ages 8 years & up/Approx. Retail Price: $19.99) ((Comments on this story may be sent to health@closeupmedia.com))

an artist of many voices (and vocations)

lucy kaplansky

lucy kaplansky

Need to define the musical scope of New York songstress Lucy Kaplansky? Good luck. You might want to start with a listen to her 2007 album Over the Hills.

Try and find another artist gutsy enough to cover tunes by Roxy Music (More Than This), June Carter (the immortal Ring of Fire) and Loudon Wainwright III (Swimming Song) in quick succession. Now add in the record’s title track, one of the many works Kaplansky has co-written with her filmmaker husband Rick Litvin. The song deals, in part, with the passing of her father, a mathematician and pianist whose music Kaplansky has often performed. And let’s not overlook Julie Miller’s Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go that boasts harmony vocals by the composer’s husband, Buddy Miller. Oh yes, there is also the Ian Tyson folk standard Someday Soon that was popularized decades ago by Judy Collins, and Amelia, another startling original that’s not to be confused by another tune of the same name from one of Kaplansky’s prime inspirations, Joni Mitchell.

Talk about packing a lot into a single album. But then Kaplansky has long been an artist of many voices and, as we will soon discover, of more than one vocation.

“I love to sing,” said Kaplansky, who performs Sunday at Natasha’s for her first Lexington concert in over 15 years. “I feel I’m more of a singer than anything else. A good song, I feel, is a good song, regardless of who wrote it.

“Part of why I do a lot of cover songs is because I’m not prolific enough to have 12 songs of my own on each of my albums. And part of the reason for that is that there are so many great songs I love to sing. I started singing in the first place because of these great songs. That really crystallized for me when I discovered Joni Mitchell when I was 15 and started to sing her songs.”

A Chicago native, Kaplansky moved to New York in her late teens and became part of a regenerative wave of folk artists working in and around Greenwich Village.

“Certainly I was drawn to this very specific music scene during the late ‘70s. Some real powerhouses were just starting to show up there like The Roches and Suzanne Vega. Shawn Colvin and John Gorka showed up a little after me. I’m not really part of a scene anymore, although the city has been an incredibly important part of my work as an artist.”

But Kaplansky largely abandoned music in the early ‘80s, opting instead to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. By the end of the decade, folk singer Kaplansky had become Dr. Kaplansky and was working with mentally ill patients in a New York hospital while also operating a private practice.

A Colvin-produced demo tape soon found its way to Bob Feldman of the indie folk directed Red House label (Over the Hills is also dedicated to Feldman, who died last year). Booking agencies then beckoned for concert dates. Suddenly, the singer who left music for psychology was heading back to music again.

“I had already left music for a long time to become a psychologist,” Kaplansky said. “I completely gave it up. Then I had this revelation – ironically, though my own therapy when I was 32 – that I was really running away from the thing I really wanted, which was to be a singer. I think I had just finished my doctorate at that point.

“It was scary. I mean it was really scary. I was 32 and kind of starting at the beginning again. But I knew what I had to do. It was very hard for me to come to the decision to give up psychology. But once I made it, I never looked back. It was just so clear to me that this was what I wanted. Of course, I’m still paying back my grad school loan. But I have absolutely never looked back.”

Along with a series of fine solo recordings balancing original songs co-penned by Litvin with interpretative works, Kaplansky became part of several groups, including Cry Cry Cry in the late ‘90s (with Richard Shindell and Dar Williams) and the new Red Horse (with Eliza Gilkyson and longtime pal Gorka).

“I’ve been incredibly lucky,” Kaplansky said. “Somehow, through a series of lucky projects – one of which was Cry Cry Cry – I’ve been exposed to a lot of new listeners and have been able to build a fanbase. Through that, I’ve found that people who really like an artist are very loyal.

“So if I keep on putting out good product, they will keep buying it and keep coming to my shows. Through that, I’ve maintained a career without major label marketing money or even commercial airplay. So I just hope to continue to write what I consider to be good songs and what other people consider to be good songs. I hope I can keep getting better.”

Lucy Kaplansky and Rachel Pearl perform at 8 p.m. June 12 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $20 in advance, $24 at the door. Call (859) 259-2754.

In Memoriam: Martin L. Wilhelm.(passed away)(Obituary)(Brief article)

Recycling Today January 1, 2007 Marty Wilhelm, an owner of Youngstown (Ohio) Iron & Metal Inc. and Atlas Recycling Inc. died suddenly in a car accident in mid-November. Wilhelm, who was 47 when he died, was in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago on a scrap buying trip with a business associate, Emile Valere, who also lost his life in the accident. this web site chase banking online

Marty entered the recycling industry when he joined his father Harold “Bud” Wilhelm’s company Atlas Auto Crushers in 1977. Marty became the chief operating officer and president of Atlas Recycling Inc., based in Warren, Ohio, and of Youngstown Iron & Metal, which Marty and Bud established in 1997.

Youngstown Iron & Metal was created to operate an automobile shredder to provide recyclable material to steel mills and foundries in the Youngstown, Warren and Canton markets. Marty used emerging technologies and methods to recover the maximum amount of usable materials in the recycling process, with the goal of limiting the flow of material into the landfill. here chase banking online

Marty led the family-operated businesses into additional opportunities, including international scrap brokerage and structural demolition projects. One of his recent entrepreneurial projects was International Materials Trading Ltd., founded in 2006, which is involved in the international import-export business.

The companies were built with Marty’s strong belief in the importance of personal and business relationships, many of which were cultivated through the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), say his survivors.

Marty is survived by his father Bud and stepmother Nancy; wife Joanne, who he married in 1981; sons Matthew and Christopher; brother Scott; and sister Christine.

Contributions can be made to the Martin L. Wilhelm Charitable Account, which will provide funds for university scholarships and environmental and community projects, at any Chase Banking Center or by mail to JP Morgan Chase, 6 Federal Plaza West, Youngstown, OH 44503, Attention Private Client Services, OH2-5761.

drum solo week

85 year old jazz drummer roy haynes performs tonight for "drum solo week" on the late show with david letterman.

85 year old jazz drummer roy haynes performs tonight for "drum solo week" on the late show with david letterman.

The Late Show with David Letterman is marching to the tune of four all-star drummers through Thursday with a percussive celebration called Drum Solo Week.

Admittedly, drum solos can quickly de-evolve into exercises of pure indulgence. But watch a clip of the late Buddy Rich in action (The Late Show presented a snippet of one last night). Or witness a living legend like Jack DeJohnette, Terry Bozzio or Vinnie Coluita in action. When those artists take the bandstand, technique, coupled with assertive improvisational prowess, invariably overtake the usual Spinal Tap-like grandstanding.

But The Late Show’s rather lively look at the art and flash of drum solos is especially appealing because of the wild diversity of the participating artists.

Monday featured house band drummer Anton Figg, a first-rate instrumentalist who has recorded/performed with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Mick Jagger, Warren Zevon as well as hundreds of guest artists on The Late Show. He worked off of James Brown-schooled soul grooves on Monday for a solo that seemed to unfold in waves. “Take the week off,” Letterman said in response to the workout.

Last night, veteran soul-pop priestess Sheila E., who comes from a long family line of percussion greats, served up salsa, Latin funk and a seriously rocking groove fashioned after her 1984 pop hit A Love Bizarre. She also topped Figg in one respect by performing in high heels.

Now, get a load of who will wind up the week. Tonight, The Late Show’s Drum Solo Week features 85 year old jazz giant Roy Haynes, who has collaborated with such greats as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.

On Thursday, the final guest will be one of the pre-eminent arena rock drummers of the last 30 years – Rush’s Neil Peart. (The Late Show schedule calls for a rerun on Friday).

And so the beat goes heartily on.

them's the breaks

steep canyon rangers: mike guggino, graham sharp, woody platt, nicky sanders and charles humphrey III.

steep canyon rangers: mike guggino, graham sharp, woody platt, nicky sanders and charles humphrey III.

Even before dreams of stardom take hold, the thing most young acts of any artistic genre wish for most is a break. They look for that one bit of luck capable of thrusting a career built on craft into the spotlight.

For the celebrated North Carolina bluegrass troupe known as the Steep Canyon Rangers, that break didn’t come from Nashville. It didn’t come from its native Asheville and Chapel Hill environments. It came from Hollywood.

“As a developing band, you almost hate to use the word ‘break’ too often,” said Steep Canyon Rangers guitarist and lead vocalist Woody Platt. “But you always want to have something to help you gain more fans, keep more fans and make you more money – or at least enough money to be able to play music full time.

“We felt we got our break when we got a record deal. Then we felt we got a big break when we signed to booking agencies and management. So we felt we had all this great momentum as a band.

“And then we got matched up with Steve.”

Yes, the Hollywood connection that helped introduce the Rangers to audiences that have likely never heard a lick of string music in their lives is comedian, actor, author, playwright and longtime bluegrass banjo enthusiast Steve Martin.

When Martin decided to add the occupation of professional touring musician to his already crammed dossier after the release of the 2009 album The Crow, he recruited the Rangers, a band he had met through his wife and a subsequent jam session.

Then when Martin recorded a follow-up, he enlisted the Rangers as his studio as well as touring band. The resulting album, Rare Bird Alert, cements one of the more unlikely bluegrass alliances in recent years.

On Thursday, the Rangers help kick off this year’s Festival of the Bluegrass with a set of their own music. Then on June 21, the band returns for a sold out Opera House concert with Martin.

“It still kind of takes me by surprise that we’re even doing this,” Platt said of the Rangers’ work with Martin. “And really, we’re not just ‘doing it.’ We’re having a great time with Steve, who I really think is having a great time with us. We’re developing into a new band. It’s not just Steve and the Steep Canyon Rangers. It’s almost like a band unto itself. Any way you look at it, it’s a really great project that we are super excited to be involved in.”

“They have the same sense of drama I have, that I like,” Martin said during a recent telephone news conference. “And it just went from there.

“It’s just one of those lucky things in life that you get, accidentally almost, tied up with a group of people that works out perfectly. It continues to be a good creative match.”

The most recent Rangers album, Deep in the Shade, signaled a band on the critical and commercial rise upon its release in 2009. Produced by Lonesome River Band alum Ronnie Bowman, it capitalized on the songwriting talents of banjoist Graham Sharp and bassist Charles Humphrey III. But there were also a pair of traditionally minded cover tunes that came to the band not through their composers but through newer generational voices.

The Leadbelly classic Sylvie, for instance, was popularized by folk icons The Weavers. But Platt became aware of it through a soul-drenched version cut by the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Similarly, I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known comes from the country pen of Merle Haggard. But the Rangers were raised on the ‘60s version Gram Parsons recorded with the International Submarine Band.

Not surprisingly, the Rangers – completed by mandolinist Mike Guggino and fiddler Nicky Sanders – are hardly lifelong bluegrass scholars. They came to the music when they met as college students in Chapel Hill. Even then, they banded together as much for social reasons as musical ones.

“We are as much friends as anything else in this band,” Platt said. “And that’s important. You keep any band together because you first have a bunch of friends. Then you have a bunch of friends unified for one goal and interest.

“This band was born out of friendship. Music didn’t bring us together. We were just brought together socially in college. But now we have a nice foundation that we’re really proud of. We’re focused on the same goals and are willing to make the same sacrifices.”

Add in Martin, a performer with a solid passion for bluegrass but who also can’t help integrating his very high profile sense of humor into the music he wrote for Rare Bird Alert and you have a career break not just for the Rangers but an evolutionary break for the awareness of bluegrass music as whole.

“I’m certain there are a large number of people every night we take to the stage that are hearing bluegrass for the first time. A lot of them might be Steve Martin fans that will follow anything he does. But Steve ends up turning them on to this music.

“I think it’s a great thing for the entire industry to kind of spread bluegrass around like that and help it grow.”

Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain, Katie Penn & New Town perform at 7 p.m. June 9 for the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park. Tickets are $25. Call (859) 253-0806. For more info, call www.festivalofthebluegrass.com.

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers perform at 7:30 p.m. June 21 at the Lexington Opera House. The performance is sold out.

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critic’s pick 179

Let’s start by trying to unravel the ambiguity behind the title of the new concert recording by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. It’s called Forever, which references Return to Forever, the groundbreaking jazz fusion band from the ‘70s to which these three remain charter members. But the music on Forever isn’t exclusively electric. In fact, the better portion is gorgeously acoustic and steers far closer to the Bud Powell schooled bop that pianist Corea has often explored on his own. The band also isn’t “forever” in any literal sense. The 2009 performances making up the album mark the only occasion these jazz pals have ever toured as a trio. But this year, they have already re-teamed for a new Return to Forever lineup that includes violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. He also joins the trio for most of the album’s more electric adventures, making Forever a kind of return to Return to Forever.

The first disc is pulled from acoustic trio dates Corea, bassist Clarke and drummer White gave in the fall of 2009. The opening On Green Dolphin Street (a staple of Corea’s repertoire for decades) sparkles with an animated lyricism that recalls jazz giant Bill Evans. And, what a coincidence, next up is a very faithful treatment of Evans’ Waltz for Debby that, after another glowing but patient solo intro from Corea, engages in exuberant ensemble swing.

After a playful and slightly streamlined trip through Thelonious Monk’s Hackensack, the trio comes to No Mystery, the title tune from one of Return to Forever’s most popular albums. It’s a neat fit, as No Mystery has, since its 1975 inception, been acoustic in design. But the difference this time is hearing it without guitar. Still, the dynamics, the luxurious Spanish accents and preferences for melody over groove never slag on Forever‘s 11 minute version. It’s stark and dramatic at times (especially in passages dominated by Clarke’s beautiful bowed bass work) and giddy and cartoon-like at others.

The second disc shifts focus to predominantly studio sessions with Ponty, veteran soul diva Chaka Khan and original Return to Forever guitarist Bill Connors.

The 1976 Corea/Ponty duet Armando’s Rhumba is revisited here on Forever as a trio piece with Clarke. Similarly, Ponty’s wonderfully melodic Renaissance (also from 1976) glides along with contemplative grace.

The addition of Connors offers a full reunion of the 1973 Return to Forever lineup that recorded Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy. As such, several of that album’s finer works (Clarke’s After the Cosmic Rain and Corea’s Space Circus) are reinvented as neatly orchestrated quintet pieces with Ponty joining in.

Finally, there is the still-regal Khan. Her scatting on High Wire – The Aerialist and bluesy moan on I Loves You Porgy brings Forever‘s exuberant and eclectic jazz voyage back to earth.

together again for the first time

gene watson and rhonda vincent

gene watson and rhonda vincent

There was literally zero time for fanfare when Gene Vincent and Rhonda Vincent first met face-to-face to seal a musical partnership begun a few months earlier when they recorded a duet in separate studios.

There were no handshakes between the cross generational country stylists. There wasn’t so much as a ‘How do you do?’ Delayed by air travel, Vincent arrived at the Grand Ole Opry, where Watson was performing, walked onstage and immediately kicked into a song.

In short, their first meeting was a performance for live television.

“They always used to tell all of the artists performing for the televised portion of the Opry that if you are not at soundcheck or at camera blocking, you will not be on the show,” said multiple International Bluegrass Music Association Award winner Vincent. “So that’s what I was thinking about as I was sitting at the airport in Kansas City for a flight that was delayed. I thought, ‘I’m not going to get to meet Gene. I’m not going to get to sing with him.’ But I arrived at the Opry just in time to walk onstage. Our first face-to-face meeting was singing together on that stage. It was so bizarre.”

Adding to the curious nature of their formal introduction was the song they performed – the Buck Owens classic Together Again.

The duo’s recorded version of Together Again was featured on Watson’s 2007 album In a Perfect World. They teamed again for his 2009 recording A Taste of the Truth on a fittingly named follow-up single, Staying Together. Those tunes set the idea in motion for an entire album of duets which will hit stories this week as Your Money and My Good Looks.

On paper, the Watson/Vincent duo might seem like a peculiar pairing.

Watson, 67, is a Texas-born singer who has been unwavering in his love of staunchly traditional country music. He scored nearly two dozen country hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s (including Fourteen Carat Mind and You’re Out Doing What I’m Here Doing Without) but never retreated from touring and recording as younger, pop-bred artists took over the charts.

Vincent, 48, is perhaps the most recognizable female artist in bluegrass music behind Alison Krauss, having become a touring and recording juggernaut over the past decade with her band The Rage. But she also grew up as a fifth generation performer in a family band that included generous portions of country music in its repertoire.

So while they may be nearly a generation apart in age, Watson and Vincent share a mutual love of traditional country that is proudly displayed with this inscription on the cover of Your Money and My Good Looks – “Warning: Contains Real Country Music.”

“To me, bluegrass has always been a sister of country music, so it feels quite natural to sing both,” Vincent said. “I love singing bluegrass. That’s what I do as a career. But it’s also fun to have an extension of that to play with.

“But this is more than that. There is a serious void out there now for really traditional country music. And I think we have been able to fill that with this project.

The music on Your Money and My Good Looks was cut in predominantly live sessions over a two day period. Vincent’s husband, Herb Sandker, served as producer while some of Nashville finest country/bluegrass players (fiddler Stuart Duncan, steel guitarist Mike Johnson among them) filled out arrangements that made Hank Williams’ My Sweet Love Ain’t Around sound like it could have come from the same generational pen as the Vincent original Making Everything Perfect Tonight.

But the whole point of a country music duet is the vocal blend. The tone and temperament Watson and Vincent summon with their singing creates a sterling throwback to a more unspoiled and dramatically emotive country sound, whether it’s through a weeper like Gone for Good or a more pert heartbreaker like You Could Know as Much About a Stranger.

“I don’t sing with any vibrato and Gene sings with very heavy vibrato,” Vincent said. “It was really quite surprising to find out how well our voices sounded together. So when we looked each other in face at the Opry, when we sang together that first time in person and heard our voices together, we could just tell there was a uniqueness to that blend.

“And that is a rare and exciting thing.”

Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent perform at 7 tonight at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main, for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. The event is sold out.

summer album of the week 06/04/11

the flying burrito brothers: the flying burrito bros. released june 1971.

the flying burrito brothers: the flying burrito bros. released june 1971.

In honor of last night’s concert visit by Chris Hillman, we offer a look back at the self-titled third album by the Flying Burrito Brothers. The year was 1971. Chief Burrito Gram Parsons was gone, leaving Hillman to recruit longtime pal Bernie Leadon (a year before he joined the Eagles) and Rick Roberts (soon to gain fame with Firefall). The result was a more streamlined country sound still bolstered by pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow, who left the band after this album was cut. A forgotten Americana gem.

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