Archive for November, 2012

critic’s pick 256

Something curious but quite revealing happens as the soundtrack recording of the new James Bond film Skyfall heads into the home stretch. Sitting at No.23 in a dossier of 30 musical vignettes is a snippet that is essentially the album’s – and, one would suppose, the film’s – title piece. But it’s not the Adele-penned and performed theme, which already has made rounds on the pop charts. This is an icy instrumental in which a stark Brian Eno-esque piano line is undercut with reeds and a slice of orchestral ambience that sounds almost choral. The resulting music works like a requiem, a quantum of solace, to employ an earlier Bond title, in a score filled with restless tension and global ambience.

The exclusion of the Adele track, no doubt the product of some contractual restriction, is something of a commercial kiss of death for a recording like this. After all, who buys a Bond soundtrack just for the score? Well, over a sprawling running time of nearly 78 minutes, Thomas Newman’s score presents us with 30 great reasons.

First of all, this is rich, orchestral music that sounds positively old school in some respects. Sure, there are generous contemporary references, especially in the trance-like passages early on that trace Skyfall’s storyline from Turkey (Grand Bazaar, Istanbul) to China (Shanghai Drive). And no doubt, there is some keyboard generated orchestral simulation at work (although if there is, Newman hides it well). Mostly, though, Skyfall unfolds as an orchestral tapestry that serves the film as reliably as John Barry’s scores did early Bond classics, including From Russia with Love and Goldfinger.

But the similarity ends there. Barry’s scores addressed the adventures of Bond the hipster. Newman’s score addresses a decidedly steelier Bond. Skyfall is filled with the busy, requisite drama that surges with every chase and fight sequence. But it also turns gray and chilly when the film’s finale unfolds along the moors of Scotland. And it does so not with the expected Celtic melancholy, but with true orchestral menace (as in the drone and chant-style punctuation of Welcome to Scotland) that mirrors the mood and urgency of the moment.

It should be noted also that Newman has come up with possibly the least romantic score ever for a Bond film. There are no love themes here, just a rich orchestral restlessness that conveys a very different beauty – one that is as deep and unexpected as the film’s Scottish homefront.

It’s just as well Adele wasn’t invited to this party. She helps embellish the film’s typically lavish opening credits, but this Skyfall score is an altogether darker party that operates best without wordplay.

eye on the jack sparrow

Michael Bolton.

Michael Bolton sensed the question coming from a mile away.

We were ending a portion of our phone interview dealing with his versions of the soul classics (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay, Georgia on My Mind and When a Man Loves a Woman and whether he had any trepidation about recording such revered music.

Bolton’s reply was thoughtful and detailed. He described how adventurous new music begins by rediscovering pop’s past and how taking on such sacred ground songs wasn’t in any way inappropriate as long as proper respect and notice was paid to those who created the song in the first place.

“What you learn when you have a giant hit with a classic is that you’re bringing the song back to life,” said Bolton, who performs Tuesday at the EKU Center for the Arts. “How can that ever be a bad thing? Worse case scenario, you sing it, nobody likes it and nobody hears it. The best case scenario, people start talking about the song, who wrote it, who produced it and who gave it to us a gift.

“Think of the things that wouldn’t have happened – like, perhaps, The Beatles – if someone hadn’t been moved and inspired to embrace someone else’s work of art and say, ‘Here’s my interpretation. Hope you like it.’ And you just do it. One thing leads to another. As long as you’re respectful and mindful that there are people who are very connected to the original version, then you’re simply singing the praises of the artist and writer who first delivered that song.”

And Bolton should know. He turned all three soul staples to popular singles again between 1987 and 1991, interspersing them newly composed pop hits like Soul Provider, How Am I Supposed to Live Without You and Love is a Wonderful Thing.

But this wasn’t the question that Bolton knew was headed his way. Sensing our interview time was growing short, I wanted to make sure we could still talk about…

Jack Sparrow?”

Yep. He knew it was coming, alright. How could he not? A video parody created last year by The Lonely Island, a hip-hop comedy trio featuring then-Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg, Jack Sparrow was a hysterical clip featuring a straight-faced Bolton singing his heart out with the same soul scratched R&B tenor that colored his radio hits. The video was a bizarre, even nonsensical mash-up of party dudes clubbing at night with a parody that shot through Pirates of the Carribean, Forrest Gump, Erin Brockovich and Scarface.

The video debuted on SNL in May 2011 and became a viral sensation overnight. At present, it has received more than 94 million hits.

Bolton was game to poke fun at himself from the get-go, but he initially passed on the original obscenity-filled script The Lonely People gave him for the project.

“Their script was so raunchy at moments,” Bolton said. “So I told them that as funny as I thought it was, I just couldn’t do it. My fan base and the people that have been loyal to me for many years aren’t going to get some of this language. They’re not going to appreciate it. And they said, ‘We get that a lot. Give us some time to tweak it.’ I figured they were just saying that and that I wouldn’t hear from them again.

“Then I started getting emails from Andy Samberg saying, ‘I think we’ve got it.’ Eight months later, I’m in Atlanta and they’re calling me to sing the vocals. You could tell from the video footage they shot that they were being very ambitious. It took two 17-hour days to make, and those guys were funny as could be. So the next thing I know, I’m on the Saturday Night Live set. I find a little hiding place up in the studio and I watch it, and I hear people starting to laugh.

“At the after-party, John Mayer was telling me, ‘Michael, when this thing goes viral on Sunday, there are going to be people who don’t even know your music who are going to be in love with this film.’ The next morning, my oldest daughter said, ‘Dad, you’re not going to believe this.’ She monitored a million hits the first day. This was for a three-minute video.”

That brought to mind the line Bolton used earlier about recording his own versions of the vintage soul hits:

“One thing leads to another.”

“There is a whole audience for me now of 14 year old guys who are huge fans of our version of Jack Sparrow. I’m on people’s radar now just because I was open to doing something different.”

Michael Bolton performs at 8 p.m. Nov. 27 at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond. Tickets are $55-$70. Call (859) 622-7469 or go to www.ekucenter.com.

sounds of the not-exclusively-digital season

Used to be you could buy records in department stores, shopping malls and even in the occasional drug store or truck stop. That was around the same time record stores were somewhat plentiful, with the good ones operating as much as social epicenters for music communities as retail outlets.

Today, music shopping is usually done at one’s home or office by point-and-click. And that’s just for folks that choose to purchase and download music legally.

So, as we have in recent years when presenting our annual holiday music gift guide, we encourage you to explore the joy to shopping for music at an actual record store and purchasing gifts you can actually see, hold and wrap.

If you’re hopelessly devoted to digital, we understand. But we implore you to purchase the music honestly and legally. We can’t have recordings themselves going the way of the record stores.

And now, the big question: what music is worth plucking down your hard-earned cash for in the first place? For that, you have come to the right place. Here are 18 critic’s pick selections from fields of pop, rock, jazz, country, hip hop and more varying from $7 to just under $30. On, then, with the sounds of the season.

+ Brian Eno: Lux – Producer, instrumentalist and sonic stylist Eno retreats from recent pop experiments back to his atmospheric ambient sounds of the ‘70s and ‘80s. In other words, Lux is 75-plus minutes of peace and quiet.

+ Andrew Bird: Hands of Glory – A wonderful, stylistically far reaching dessert of a record with songs that touch on Ryan Adams-style Americana, old timey country and pop deconstructions full of stark, atmospheric color.

+ Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day – At last, the December 2007 reunion concert by one of rock’s most storied acts surfaces as a dynamic double CD/single DVD package. Even as a pack of pop elders, the Zep crew still sounds commanding.

+ Various artists: 10-in-20 – Subtitled A Lexington Recording Project, this is the culmination of nearly two years worth of local studio sessions. The results make for one of the best sounding and most gloriously diverse local music samplers ever.

+ Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos – The man from Steely Dan returns with a new solo recording full of enough sleek jazz/pop sophistication and sardonic storylines to make it indistinguishable from music made during his band’s glory years.

+ Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill – No surprises here, other than the fact that in an on-again, off-again alliance that has spanned well over 40 years, Neil Young and Crazy Horse still fashion lo-fi, post-grunge jams that fascinate.

+ Punch Brothers: Ahoy! – Call this one a stocking stuffer. The youthful and wildly industrious string music brigade offers twists on traditional tunes, assorted covers and more on a spry five-song EP that retails for about $7.

+ Tift Merritt: Traveling Alone – One of Americana music’s great songwriters, Traveling Alone is a statement that defines, alternately, confidence, defiance and vulnerability. Similarly, its music runs from lean acoustics to buoyant, rockish grooves.

+ The Rolling Stones: Grrrr! – The die-hard fans get two new tunes that are actually pretty decent. But at heart, Grrr! is just another greatest hits package to commemorate the Stones’ 50th anniversary. Still, it’s pretty hard to argue with the material.

+ Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything – A companion disc of sorts to last summer’s Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp, Evil Empire solidifies the return of rap music’s most socially conscious forefathers.

+ Jamey Johnson: Living for a Song – A disciple of the country outlaw movement reveals a staunchly traditional streak on this sterling tribute to songsmith Hank Cochran. Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Merle Haggard and others serve as guests.

+ Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin’ Tunes – Jazz titan Marsalis reconvenes his longrunning quartet with new drummer Justin Faulkner and a set of predominantly original tunes both playful and rambunctious.

+ Preservation Hall Jazz Band: St. Peter and 57th St. – Speaking of 50th anniversaries, New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band celebrated theirs at Carnegie Hall. St. Peter brings it home with help from Trombone Shorty, Jim James and others.

+ Manu Katche: Manu Katche – French drummer Katche has been the engine drummer for, among others, Peter Gabriel. But his recordings are studies in cool. This self-titled fourth CD for the ECM label reflects lustrous grooves of old school soul and subtle jazz.

+ Marillion: Sounds That Can’t Be Made – The ongoing evolution of Marillion from a prog unit into a band with a massive orchestral pop sound of its own drives Sounds. The opening suite Gaza, though, is proving to be unintentionally timely.

+ Frank Zappa: Make a Jazz Noise Here – Nearly the entire Zappa catalog – some 60-plus albums – were reissued in recent months. Jazz Noise was picked here for its retrospective/revisionist slant. But, really, any Zappa CD makes a killer gift.

+ John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood – Ever the pop pioneer, this founding member of the Velvet Underground explores a thoroughly modern musical view on Nookie Wood with sounds that run from ambient to abstract.

+ Peter Gabriel: So – That the 26th anniversary of the career redefining So offers a new, remastered look at Gabriel’s most popular songs isn’t new. But packaging it with two discs of unreleased concert music from a 1987 stadium show in Athens sure is.

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So this is what became of the Led Zeppelin reunion show.

Staged nearly five years ago in London, this reteaming of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and, in place of his late father, Jason Bonham triggered hope that what was once one of England’s mightiest rock ‘n’ roll forces might be reborn long enough for a concert tour.

Of course, that ever happened. The concert earned rave notices, but Plant put the kibosh on any longstanding reunion by going off to play folk music with Alison Krauss. The live recordings and film footage of the London show seemingly disappeared. For years, the only evidence of the revived Zep came through bootlegs of unavoidably unrefined quality. Now we get to witness that London evening up close.

What surfaces now as a new CD/DVD package called Celebration Day is the sound of an older, tamer Zeppelin obviously invigorated by the sound of its own past but quite content to stroll through its most fearsome and familiar corridors with a precision and confidence that regularly sounds quite remarkable.

Sure, the banshee wail of a youthful Plant has been replaced by a huskier, deeper vocal charge. But it’s still full of vital emotive detail, whether it is in the more plaintive melodic stride of No Quarter or the looser, more abandon-free groove of Misty Mountain Hop. Best of all, Plant approaches this performance with no youthful pretensions. The fury within the brilliant blues rampage of Since I’ve Been Loving You still chills the marrow. But there is also a sagely cast to it now. The musical sensibility is still blue. But that sense of menace, asleep for so long, has been stirred.

Page is the jawdropper, though. Ever since the semi-Zep reunion with Plant in the ‘90s (when the two were billed under their own names), the guitar heart of Zeppelin has played with a greater strength and proficiency than in the band’s heyday. Sure, the bravado and swagger are understandably absent. But in many ways, Page has it both ways on Celebration Day. One has to marvel at the dark, potent guitar force still at work in this new, streamlined Dazed and Confused as well as within the tremors that surface on Kashmir and the show-opening Good Times Bad Times. But I also lost count at how many times on the DVD that Page grinned with delight like a school kid at the music he was conjuring.

Jones is as trustworthy as ever, playing utility man while purposely remaining out of the spotlight. Bonham’s playing approximates Page’s. It’s technically precise but obviously without the danger element his dad, John Bonham, brought to the band. Still, it’s a pleasing rhythm section, one that bolsters the mighty and way overdue career victory lap that is Celebration Day.

in performance: chris isaak

chris isaak.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for some real semi-professional entertainment this evening,” remarked Chris Isaak early into an immensely fun and musically solid performance last night at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

With that, the veteran West Coast singer and song stylist strolled into the audience to shake a few hands, sit on a few laps and sing the summery ‘60s-flavored nugget We’ve Got Tomorrow. As semi-pro moments go, it was quite something.

As he did at the Singletary two years ago, Isaak called upon the spirits of pop inspirations past, the drive of a resourceful support quintet, a stage persona draped in glammed up cool and a sense of wit that signaled a very open love of performing.

While Isaak’s music has long maintained a pronounced retro cast in both design and delivery, nothing in last night’s performance felt like a museum piece. The show-opening American Boy operated as a sleek pop rumble, San Francisco Days abounded with spring-like lyricism and the more overtly sensual Dancin’ worked as a modest groove meditation with its title serving as a mantra of sorts.

But the show was also full of simple mood pieces that utilized the retro accents like spices. A beautiful example came early into the program via the 1986 Isaak gem Blue Hotel. It opened with noir-flavored ambience (much in the same way the signature hit Wicked Game did later in the program) before stretching out into acres of fuzzy twang supplied by guitarist Hershel Yatovitz.

Isaak addressed the rootsier side of his pop and rock heritage directly with a set-ending segment of vintage Memphis-style covers from his 2011 album Beyond the Sun. While he obviously reveled in the clean, elemental drive of Dixie Fried and Live It Up, the performance was more satisfying when it embraced the expert ways Isaak fashioned such references into his own music. Case in point: the sly, Slim Harpo blues groove that bolstered Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing.

Lexington’s own roots troupe, Coralee and the Townies, opened with a potent 30 minute set of vintage flavored honky tonk fortified with rockbilly-esque guitar harmonies, a vivid country-colored vocal charge and, near its conclusion, an unexpected but complimentary reggae groove. It all made for a very satisfying prelude to this stylish retro-roots soiree.

in performance: lindsey buckingham

lindsey buckingham.

Deep into a riveting solo performance last night at the Opera House, Lindsey Buckingham found himself in the thick of I’m So Afraid, a tune that has been a staple of his repertoire since he uncorked it on his first album with Fleetwood Mac some 37 years ago.

Last night, drum loops set the rhythm, an elegantly frenzied guitar solo fueled the rock ‘n’ roll charge and his voice – that wild, hopped up roar that still sounds downright primal for a performer so versed in the ways of vintage pop – merged into a mighty one-man-band display.

“I’ll never change,” Buckingham sang as the song crested with an almost seething intensity. “I never will.”

That was a telling line. While Buckingham offered an especially revealing comment on the subject of change earlier in the evening, there was a remarkable sense of pop invention throughout this show. Though billed as a solo acoustic performance, this was by no means some folky variation on the often masterful pop he has created in and out of Fleetwood Mac over the decades. This was, in every way, a rock ‘n’ roll show.

While no band supported him, Buckingham still played the game he knew best and hammered out hits and overlooked solo gems in an all-too-brief 75 minute set that was played fast, loud and with an almost caffeinated sense of urgency.

The mood was set with the opening Cast Away Dreams, one of three tunes performed from 2006’s sublime (and, coincidentally, predominantly acoustic) Under the Skin album. Playing a neo-Spanish melody that was amped up to the heavens, Buckingham took plenty of time in letting his vocal charge meet the intensity of his musicianship. By Bleed to Love Her (from the 2003 Fleetwood Mac comeback album Say You Will) and the curious rock star reflection Not Too Late (another Under the Skin treat), his singing became a wail full of still-youthful bravado.

There were a few surprises during this solo rock parade, as well. The biggest was the instrumental Stephanie, a work that reached back to the pre-Fleetwood Mac album Buckingham Nicks and became the purest vehicle for Buckingham’s crisp guitar tone. From another stylistic universe altogether came Go Insane, which was transformed from its 1984 beginnings as a studio snapshot of fractured Brian Wilson psychedelia into a slow, ghostly confessional.

But the topper had to be Big Love, the 1987 Fleetwood Mac hit that Buckingham admitted had matured from “a contemplation on alienation” into “a meditation on the power and importance of change.” But time hasn’t soothed the song’s overall terseness. Last night, as he has for the past 15 years, Buckingham played the tune at breakneck speed with brittle guitar runs and a vocal lead that built to a punctuated howl.

As was the case with nearly the entire show, Big Love favored a restless, intuitive pop spark over pure nostalgia. Sure, those who wanted the vintage hits got more straightforward readings of Never Going Back Again and Go Your Own Way. But the moments where Buckingham turned the past on its ear to face the same vigor and intent of his current material clearly drove the concert. Turns out the man knows how to change just fine.

in performance: glen campbell

Glen Campbell.

A patron beside me Tuesday night as we were leaving the Opera House summed up the Glen Campbell performance that had just ended with a remark that was more like a sigh of relief than an exaltation of praise:

“Well, that wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.”

And it wasn’t. Campbell has been on the road for more than a year since announcing that he had Alzheimer’s disease, so one couldn’t help but be braced for the worst. If you have ever had a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s, you know how merciless it can be. And there was no denying the toll that it has taken on Campbell, but many elements of the performance were both surprising and encouraging.

First, there was his voice. Campbell’s singing on this tour seems to have taken a bigger beating in the media than by the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Sure, his voice sounded a little crusty around the edges, a seeming effect of aging more than anything (Campbell is 76). But it revealed a conversational familiarity (which propelled the still-enchanting Wichita Lineman) and considerable range and reach (showcased best during a jubilant Try a Little Kindness).

Then there was his guitar work. Though a touch busy and disconnected at times, there were flashes of serious instrumental fire, as in the warm phrasing and tone during a solo that concluded the show-opening Gentle on My Mind and the solid twang that fortified Galveston.

All of this suggests that the show was essentially a hit parade. In many ways, it was. But there were several comparative surprises thrown in as well. Having used his well-known hit covers of Jimmy Webb tunes to essentially bookend the show, Campbell dug deeper into the composer’s catalog for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Last night’s version was presented as an elemental duet, with longtime keyboardist T.J. Kuenster providing the lone accompaniment.

Equally inviting was Paul Westerberg’s Any Trouble, one of the more cordial and hopeful interpretations from Campbell’s recent Ghost on the Canvas album.

The singer was shakier between songs. His banter was light-hearted but obviously confused. A few times, he had to be assisted by daughter/multi-instrumentalist Ashley Campbell in locating the right keys – and, at times, titles – of the songs he was about to play. But when the music began, it was as though a switch clicked on. Campbell was in tune and on cue – except once.

On Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.), everything derailed. Campbell lost his place and seemed unsure of what song he was singing. But just when everything seemed like a train wreck, he shut his mouth, shut his eyes and launched into an electric guitar solo that was simply breathtaking. One can only guess what spirit he was communing with at that moment.

In the end, this was a fascinating but undeniably flawed performance. Fans at the half-empty Opera House will have to decide for themselves whether a show with such scattered triumphs warranted ticket prices that topped out at $100. But in the program’s brightest moments, it was clear that the Wichita Lineman was still very much on the line.

critic’s pick 254

For much of his career, the musicianship of the pioneering Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek has revealed a striking duality.

On its own, Garbarek’s playing is positively ghostly, especially when his weapon of choice is soprano sax. Admittedly, the often stark, wintry shades of his recordings from the past four decades on the European jazz label ECM have contributed to such clarity and ambience. But the exactness of Garbarek’s tone and the predominant absence of American jazz accents like swing and bop make his playing seem almost incantatory.

Then there is his gift of harmony. From recordings that match his playing with the ancient songs and choral singing of the Hilliard Ensemble (where the ghostly meets the spiritual) to sideline work with fellow ECM greats like Keith Jarrett (as evidenced on last summer’s extraordinary archival release Sleeper), Garbarek reveals himself as a journeyman at home in most any musical company.

On two new multi-disc sets of vintage ECM music – one of which assembles three out-of-print and/or hard-to-find early ‘70s albums while the other offers a previously unreleased live recording from  the ‘80s – Garbarek’s two musical profiles come brilliantly into view.

Carta de Amor is the stunner. It presents a complete April 1981 concert from Munich (ECM’s home base) with the global trio Magico, which also features the vanguard American bassist Charlie Haden and the underappreciated Brazilian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti.

As was the case with the two studio albums Magico cut for ECM at the dawn of the ‘80s, the repertoire here is rooted as much in ethnic folk music as jazz. Gismonti’s title tune, which is offered in two versions that bookend the album, is built around a light, fanciful guitar melody and spare bass support. Then Garbarek enters on tenor sax with a tone that is regally plaintive. The tour-de-force piece, though, is the 14 minute Spor (Garbarek’s lone original work on the album), which offers a saxophone bounce that weaves in its way in and out of beautifully tense trio exchanges.

Dansere resurrects three albums – 1971’s Sart, 1973’s Witchi-Tai-To and 1975’s also-titled Dansere – that established his work with another prime collaborator, Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson.

The latter two records have been re-issued before, making Sart the real find. Some might find the wah-wah guitar effects of guitarist Terje Rypdal to be intrusive and dated. But his playing, aside from offering dramatic contrast to Stenson’s lean atmospherics, serves as an exquisite set-up for Garbarek’s wails and elephant-like screams.

But the rhythmic drive and recoiling beauty in Don Cherry’s Desireless (the 20 minute finale of Witchi-Tai-To) and the more relaxed quartet sway of the 14 minute title tune to the original Dansere offer equally compelling echoes from the formative years of this distinguished Nordic jazz voice.

10 in 20 time

duane lundy, left at shangri-la studios with members of killer meteor. herald-leader staff photo by mark cornelison.

duane lundy, left, at shangri-la studios with members of killer meteor. herald-leader staff photo by mark cornelison.

It has all come down to this. On Saturday, 10 in 20: A Lexington Recording Project finally gets to showcase its finished project. Needless to say, a party is in order.

Devised as a project that would allow 10 local acts a two day stretch each to record a song at Lexington’s Shangri-la Studios (hence, a cumulative period of 20 days), 10 in 20 is now set to release a vinyl compilation of that music. It’s a beautifully varied set, too, that shifts from Wille Eames’ rootsy guitar blues nugget Riot Goin’ On to Englishman’s bright pop reflection Man Like Me to Coralee and the Townee’s honky tonk party piece ProfessionaLoner.

The party comes Saturday at Cosmic Charlie’s when artists from all of the 10 in 20 acts will hold a performance summit. Some will play on their own while others will share members. The intended spirit, said Duane Lundy, who runs Shangi-la and has overseen 10 in 20 since its inception, is one of family.

“We already know each other so well from sessions done here in the studio to playing in each other’s bands. So it’s nice that everyone is interested and still focused on helping the project out as a sort of Lexington family collective.”

While the project may have only utilized 20 days of actual recording time, the entirety of 10 in 20, from inception to realization, took considerably longer. “The idea started about two years ago,” Lundy said. “I pitched the idea to (Lexington attorney) Jennifer Miller. She worked with us in Chico Fellini (the local rock unit Lundy plays guitar in) on an executive level. So I ran this idea by her and a few other people. By February of 2011, we initiated the project. The first artist recordings were done that May. So I think by the time we run this weekend’s gig and some other select shows I would like to put on around town, it will end up covering a couple of years.”

While the finished 10 in 20 album (available digitally at bandcamp.com) presents the project’s final product, nearly every step of the music’s construction at Shangri-la has been chronicled in video entries on its website, 10in20.net. Through those postings, the project has received some national exposure. The most prominent came from the indie music magazine Paste, which ran a feature story titled “10 Kentucky Bands You Should Listen to Now.”

“I think that the feel of the project got us the national attention with Paste and with a couple other blog things that were happening. Philosophically, though, the idea of the project was focused on giving me an opportunity to work with these parameters and these artists and that we would take it from there. The only thing I knew was that we were going to have the 10 artists and that we were going to put it out on vinyl. The rest of it was just ‘let’s just sort of see where we go from there.’

Already planned after Saturday’s record release party are a series of smaller local performance events that would, in essence, promote the project the same way a formal concert tour would promote most album releases. Those later shows are still to be finalized. But for now, Lundy is encouraged by the support that artists and patrons have shown 10 in 20 through all of its stages of development.

“I was on a bit of a rant the other night about the music industry as a whole, which is easy to get me going on. But I feel completely the opposite about this project. I’m really uplifted about the whole thing. I think it shows that if you take a bunch of talented people who are focused and have the right sort of frame of mind, good things can happen.”

10 in 20 Record Release Party will be held at 10 p.m. Nov. 10 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Cover charge is $12. Call (859) 309-9499.

critic’s pick 253

On the night after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, Andrew Bird and Tift Merritt gathered around a single microphone at NewYork’s Ed Sullivan Theatre for a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman. Given the city’s post-storm trauma, there was no studio audience. Still, the two, with help from Bird bassist Alan Hampton, harmonized on a stark, lustrous version of the Townes Van Zandt staple If I Needed You. Between the wonderfully antique flavor of Bird’s violin lead, the trio’s similarly roots-directed singing and the theater’s eerie stillness, the music suggested a scenario of significantly greater calm than what undoubtedly pervaded in New York that night.

If I Needed You is just one of the stylistic delights from Hands of Glory, a 35-minute EP disc cut as a sort of postscript to Bird’s fine full-length album from earlier this year, Break It Yourself.

This rootsy persona is yet another side to Bird’s expansive and growing musical profile. Along with the traditional yarn Railroad Bill, it presents Bird in an altogether looser context, one that is free of the loop effects that orchestrate his concerts and more formal albums.

But Hand of Glory also is something of a grab bag. The opening Three White Horses comes saturated in Ryan Adams-style Americana, with plaintive, autumnal harmonies and deep melodic hooks. The tune is reprised at the record’s close as Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses, a nine-minute deconstruction that is more in line with the atmospheric folk fracture that has come to define Bird’s music over the past decade. Falling somewhere between is a cover of the Handsome Family’s When That Helicopter Comes, a mix of gypsy style fancy and jagged, noir-style ambience.

Cut entirely by Bird and the road band he brought to Lexington in September, Hand of Glory might be designed as something of an interlude between more proper album projects. But it also reflects the rapid stylistic growth and vocal/instrumental maturity that continues to distinguish the music of this folk/pop original.

Merritt’s new Traveling Alone is perhaps less of a surprise, but it is no less satisfying. Its fine songs veer to confessions of cool resolve (the title tune), Americana meditations of isolation and hope (Small Talk Relations) and some righteously spry rock ‘n’ roll with guitar great Marc Ribot (Still Not Home).

Topping them all is the album-closing Marks, a wintry confessional of romantic uncertainly brought to life by Merritt’s hushed singing and Eric Heywood’s lush pedal steel orchestration.

A tasty duet with Bird (delivering a credible Roy Orbison falsetto) called Drifted Apart is an additional highlight. But as the album title suggests, Merritt’s finest traveling companion here is her own artistic intuition.

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