Archive for October, 2015

cory wells, 1941-2015

three dog night, circa 1969. from left: cory wells, danny hutton and chuck negron.

three dog night, circa 1969. from left: cory wells, danny hutton and chuck negron.

It’s understandable that discussions centering on any lasting cultural impact of late ‘60s/early ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll would bypass Three Dog Night. In its heyday, the band was always a greater commercial force than a critical darling – meaning a Three Dog Night record was never far away from the airwaves, and, as a result, decidedly unhip. I didn’t care. My most trusted companion at the time was a transistor radio – a device that dispensed Three Dog Night music frequently and plentifully.

The group’s novelty was that it delegated vocal duties between three male singers. They didn’t write much of their music. They didn’t need to. In a rare sense of artistic foresight within commercial pop circles, Three Dog Night and its overseers selected tunes from the generation’s most gifted songsmiths. So, without even knowing it, I was introduced to the songs of Randy Newman (Mama Told Me Not to Come), Laura Nyro (Eli’s Coming), Harry Nilssen (One), Hoyt Axton (Joy to the World), Argent (Liar) and even Elton John (Lady Samantha) through Three Dog Night.

The finest of the group’s vocalists, Cory Wells, died yesterday at age 74. Where Hutton and Negron were more overtly pop leaning in their delivery, Wells was the rock and soul-driven center of Three Dog Night. His sang lead on Mama Told Me Not Come and Eli’s Coming, arguably the band’s two finest singles.

Three Dog Night began to fracture in 1976 with the exit of Negron. Wells and Hutton maintained a touring version of the band until recently, but the magic really started to dissolve in 1972. Maybe I grew up and moved on. Maybe Three Dog Night simply had its creative day. But those early recordings served as a gateway, a primer for those of my generation to the kind of songcraft deemed unfit for pop radio – unfit, that is, until Wells and Three Dog Night took it to the masses.

in performance: taylor swift/vance joy

 

taylor swift literally lights up a sold out crowd of 18,000 last night at rupp arena. staff photograph by rich copley.

taylor swift literally lights up a sold out crowd of 18,000 last night at rupp arena. staff photograph by rich Copley.

At the half point of a sold out dance-pop blitzkrieg last night at Rupp Arena that encouraged everyone to party like it was 1989, Taylor Swift addressed a crowd of 18,000 as only a true pop mogul could – from atop a platform runaway that rose and tipped upward like the bow of a ship so the singer could address the upper decks eye-to-eye.

It was a moment that was visually quite arresting, regardless of how one viewed the often formulaic music that dominated the nearly two hour show surrounding it. Here was a former teen sensation whose stardom and bankability should have dwindled years ago. But last night, at age 25, she was a bigger deal than ever, a performer with a shrewd business sense that reached into every crevice of the production, making her arguably the most popular and image savvy female performer to rule the pop marketplace since Madonna.

The ballyhoo about Swift’s current tour is that it, like her quadruple platinum album 1989 (a reference to her birth year; it was actually released in 2014), jettisons the country-pop formulas that first brought her to stardom. Truth to tell, the country accents have been gone for years. Last night’s show simply underscored the transformation by ditching the bulk of her back catalogue. With the exception of perhaps four songs, the entire program was devoted to music from 1989 – from the show-opening parade of Welcome to New York (a curious intro when you’re expecting a greeting in Lexington) to the pop celebration of the mega-hit Shake It Off, which was saved for the end of the night.

Unlike her previous three Rupp outings, which treated then-current songs like re-enactments of music videos, Swift streamlined her current show into a more dance-friendly setting to suit the groove of the 1989 music.

There was some choreographed sexual tension at times, like when a pack of shirtless male dancers backed Swift’s chanteuse posing during I Knew You Were Trouble (one of the few older songs that made the cut for the setlist) and the singer’s curious brandishing of a golf club like a riding crop during Blank Space. This was still pretty tame stuff, though, especially when contrasted to live displays by contemporaries like Miley Cyrus or even Katy Perry. Last night’s audience was heavily female and loaded with kids, which shifted any suggestion of sexual politics to good old fashioned romantic confession.

Throughout the evening, Swift would sing one or two tunes, pop down through a trap door in the stage to change costumes and let video screens come to life with pre-recorded chat from star gal pals like Lena Dunham and Selena Gomez to fill the transition time.

Some of the songs were undeniably infectious, as displayed by the massive pop hooks that fortified Style. Others seemed a little lead-footed in the groove department (I Wish You Would) and came off as generic backdrops for the dancing. Two of the non-1989 tunes – Love Story and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – even received sonic facelifts to make them more welcoming to the show’s party environment.

The half-hour opening set by Aussie pop-folk star Vance Joy was, in contrast, a lesson in simplicity – a sampler of seven songs with acoustic leanings, cleverly syncopated grooves and earnest though unremarkable singing. The efficiently melodic Fire and the Flood was the highlight with a cover of the Sam Smith hit Stay With Me serving as an unimaginative bid for a level of pop familiarity his own songs refreshingly lacked.

But the night clearly belonged to CEO Swift, whose command of the proceedings extended to one of the show’s most novel props – wrist bracelets given to audience patrons that would light up with various colors and blink in dramatic accordance with the music. But the bracelets’ effects were triggered by the tech crew, allowing the gadgetry to glow in unison.

It was a clever but somewhat creepy idea, when you think about it. The audience was encouraged to let loose and join the dance party around them. But it was ultimately Swift who would control when her fans would, quite literally, lighten up.

(Click here for a full gallery of Rich Copley’s photos from the concert.)

critic’s pick 297: joe ely, ‘panhandle rambler’

joe ely panhandle ramblerAs skilled as Joe Ely has been as a songwriter through the years, from the barroom air of his country roots records to the unassuming drive of his most ribald rock ‘n’ roll recordings, nothing quite beats the music that gathers the dirt of his West Texas heritage and tosses it into the prairie wind.

That happens time and time again on his splendid new Panhandle Rambler album. The album’s 12 tunes (10 of which are originals) are neither as honky tonk in nature as the elemental country works he fashioned in the ‘70s or as broadly assertive as his rock outings from the’80s. Panhandle Rambler is instead the work of a Lone Star storyteller who, at age 68, approaches his music with a sage-like subtlety. Every crease, every hard won tale and every slice of unease is translated not in sounds as obvious as country or rock, but with stark folk narratives, a flourish of flamenco or strains of Tex Mex mischievousness. It makes for some Ely’s most contemplative but deliciously unsettling music.

You hear it at once in the album opening Wounded Creek, a song that, lyrically, bears a construction similar to a traditional British Isles ballad. But instead of “walking one morning in May,” as the Celts were prone to do, Ely goes “out one afternoon for a walk down Wounded Creek.” From there, there is no mistaking where we have landed. Showers of flamenco guitar and strains of pedal steel guitar that seem to cry out from another county tell a story of misery and mystery so vivid that you practically feel the arid West Texas sun beating down and the red dust rising as doors slam and cars tear off in the distance.

That’s not to say Panhandle Rambler is all darkness and regret. Early in the Morning is a rise-and-shine parable with a lazy bones attitude. The relaxed accordion strains of Joel Guzman adds a cantina air to the wry detail of Ely’s vocals and, especially, the carefree feel of his lyrics. “I take a bus downtown, early in the morning,” Ely sings with wily reverence. “Then I just walk around.”

Ely covers a pair of tunes by two major contemporaries (and pals) – Guy Clark and Butch Hancock. But as a West Texas song stylist, he is without peer for eying the human detail buried within the bustle of slow yet unsettled Lubbock area life. His tales present Texas-style mood swings – from the busted giddiness of Four Ol’ Brokes to the perilous Cold Black Hammer to the country affirmation of Here’s to the Weary (one of the few instances on the album where the Texas winds blow in with a sense of honest cheer). But all are served with unassuming honesty by a champion rambler who is never at a loss when comes to spinning a golden Lone Star yarn.

in performance: emmylou harris and rodney crowell

rodney crowell and emmylou harris.

rodney crowell and emmylou harris.

Emmylou Harris almost sheepishly admitted the order for the evening last night at the Opera House was to be a program of “sad, depressing songs.” Before such an estimation could be construed as deflating, though, performance partner Rodney Crowell elaborated.

“It’s kind of our forte.”

That it is – and was. For the closing night of their current tour, the two Americana song stylists, whose professional histories extend back over four decades, turned what they might view as an arsenal of songs rich in traditional country music misery into a performance of relaxed, roots-conscious elegance.

The repertoire reached out to tunes written by Townes Van Zandt, Susanna Clark, Matraca Berg, Lucinda Williams and others. But no writer figured more prominently in the mix than Crowell, an original member of Harris’ famed Hot Band and a songsmith whose music she has continually mined on recordings throughout her career. The focus of the concert may have been on the two co-billed recordings the pair have recently issued – 2013’s Old Yellow Moon and 2015’s The Traveling Kind – but the setlist also scanned the separate careers of both artists, uncovering a treasure trove of great Crowell songs along the way.

One of the first offered last night was the devastating Till I Gain Control Again, cut by Harris on her second Warner Bros. album, 1976’s Elite Hotel, but performed last night by Crowell with quiet, sobering intensity. By show’s end, though, the spirits turned jubilant with a pair of Crowell tunes recorded by Harris on 1977’s Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town that summoned a blend of Cajun invitation (Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight) and roadhouse jubilation (I Ain’t Living Long Like This).

With Crowell’s songs dominating the set, it was perhaps easy to view Harris strictly as a vocal stylist. While her original tunes were in shorter supply last night, they were still every bit as emotive – especially the funereal Boulder to Birmingham – as Crowell’s darker works. Their collaborative songs were potent, too, from 1976’s regally plaintive Tulsa Queen to the conversational and confessional title tune to The Traveling Kind.

While much of the concert delved into collaborative music both vintage and new, two of the most lasting highlights were presented back to back in the middle of the show by featuring the performers separately. The songs also scoped out a slightly more recent past.

The first, the title tune to Harris’ 2000 album, Red Dirt Girl, was a gorgeous ambient affirmation of life and hope beyond an isolated upbringing (“One of these days I’m gonna swing my hammer down away from this red dirt town; I’m gonna make a joyful sound”). That was followed by Crowell’s The Rock of My Soul, from 2001’s The Houston Kid. It outlined a childhood from (literally) similar terrain but sported far less forgiving parentage (“The rock of my soul didn’t have much charm with the lack of education on a red dirt farm”) and a groove of gospel-esque intensity.

For all the back and forth between these two, the evening’s last word went to another songwriting giant that remains Harris’ prime musical mentor. Wrapping up the festivities, refashioning the blues into a welcoming prayer, was Gram Parsons’ Return of the Grievous Angel. Led, perhaps fittingly, by Crowell, the finale wasn’t a case of musical revision, just renewal.

take two for rodney and emmylou

rodney crowell and emmylou harris. photo by amy sussman — amy sussman/invision/AP

rodney crowell and emmylou harris. photo by amy sussman — amy sussman/invision/AP

As Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell were in the midst of touring behind their first fully collaborative album after a decades-long personal and artistic friendship, the inevitable question surfaced.

Would Old Yellow Moon, their debut record as a duo and a 2013 Grammy winner for Best Americana Album, be a one-off adventure before the two resumed active solo careers or the catalyst for perhaps a second project together.

“I think it was Emmy’s birthday,” Crowell said by phone earlier this week. “We were having a band dinner in Charleston or Savannah – somewhere. We were celebrating and Emmy turns to me and says, ‘This is so much fun. Let’s make another record.’”

That set in motion a follow-up. But Crowell sought to rattle the game plan for the album that became 2015’s The Traveling Kind.

Where Old Yellow Moon leaned more toward covers of country-inspired tunes both vintage (Roger Miller’s Invitation to the Blues and Crowell’s own Bluebird Wine, which also served as the first song on Harris’ 1975 Warner Bros. debut album, Pieces of the Sky) and comparatively contemporary (Matraca Berg’s Back When We Were Beautiful and Patti Scialfa’s Spanish Dancer), the new record was to stress original songs – new original songs. Crowell anticipated some hesitation on Harris’ part on that front and got it.

“The one thing I know about Emmy, and she’ll be the first to say this, is I was the one who got her into the studio and into the writing for this record. I knew all I had to do was get her in there. That took a little bit of, ‘Okay, let’s do this. We’ve got to write these songs.’ But I knew what would happen. Once Emmy gets into the room and gets down into the work, the other responsibilities she has fall away. Then you can’t get her out of there. Once that faucet’s on, she is a source.”

What resulted were a string of new tunes the two co-wrote that included the chiming Cajun charmer La Danse de la Joie, the bluesy environmental call-to-arms The Weight of the World and the delicate tale of spiritual wanderlust within The Traveling Kind’s title song. Also new was the aid of a master pop stylist as producer who more than knew his way through a graceful, roots-friendly Americana session – Joe Henry. That ensured The Traveling Kind would be a true collaborative work and not just a cumulative array of songs largely fashioned by the artists on their own.

“That was very much the intent with Old Yellow Moon, too,” Crowell said. “A lot of the time we spent getting that record to the place it got to involved Emmy and I making sure what we were doing was a conversation rather than so much of the ‘me, me, me’ and ‘I, I, I’ stuff. That’s why we decided to do Dreaming My Dreams (an Allen Reynolds song of love outlasting loneliness previously covered by such stylistic disparate artists as Waylon Jennings and Cowboy Junkies). It’s a conversation. It’s not necessarily a conversation between two people trying to work out a romantic relationship, but two old friends trying to work out life’s ups and downs.

“There is this tendency for men and women to come together and present this image of being lovers. Emmy and I never had to do that. First of all, it would have been a fake pose. What we were aiming for was using our sensibilities as one.”

That sensibility underscores the longevity of their friendship, which extends back to 1974. Crowell would become a key member of Harris’ initial Hot Band lineup before leaving in 1977 to pursue his own music. Through the years, though, Harris would record and popularize numerous Crowell’s songs (Till I Gain Control, Ashes By Now and I Ain’t Living Long Like This – all gems from her Warner records) and well as co-write with him (Wrecking Ball’s Waltz Across Texas Tonight and Red Dirt Girl’s Tragedy).

“On a personal level, what we’re doing now is an expansion and a deepening of a love I already had for a really good friend of mine,” Crowell said. “I love Emmylou. We sometime joke and say, ‘We were smart enough not to try and get romantically involved.’ As a result, we bring no baggage to this collaboration. And that’s a shared experience.

“On an artistic level, to work night after night with one of the great vocalists of our time has helped me grow a great deal as a singer. There are things I can do now – reaching those notes and finding that feeling – without having to labor. Before, it just took a great deal of effort. The beauty of that for me is I’m now moving closer to the music I’ve always wanted to make.”

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 Short St. Tickets are $85.50. Call (800) 745-3000, (859) 233-3535 or got to ticketmaster.com.

critic’s pick 296: ryan adams, ‘1989’

RyanAdams1989Ryan Adams has decided on his costume for Halloween. Judging by his newest album, he will be making the rounds as Taylor Swift.

His latest rabbit-out-of-a-hat recording is a song-for-song remake of Swift’s most recent multi-platinum epic, 1989. But anyone dismissing what Adams has done as a joke is missing out on one of the fall’s more intriguing pop experiments.

Known largely as an Americana stylist, Adams has dabbled in practically every genre at his disposal, including metal, country, grunge, folk and pop. The latter shouldn’t be all that surprisingly. After all, he was married for over five years to pop princess/actress Mandy Moore. But to interpret a megahit work that was a stylistic departure for the artist who recorded it as recently as last year is something of a first, especially when you consider that artist is still out on tour promoting it (witness Swift’s Rupp Arena return next week).

For much of the record, Adams doesn’t so much reinvent Swift’s songs as fiddle with their temperament. Given the general introspective and often downcast tones of his solo work, Adams treats the jubilancy of 1989 with suspect ears. In short, he de-chirps these tunes.

Style is an arresting case in point. The tune snaps to attention with a battering electric riff, is sung with a kind of withdrawn circumspection and runs its course along an unsettled melodic shoreline. But once it hits the chorus, there is no mistaking who penned the song. Swift’s bright, anthemic hooks may sound weightier in Adams’ hands, but the sense of pop priority is unwavering.

Then there are songs like Wildest Dreams, a product of pure pop abandon when Swift sings it. But Adams takes a different highway with a jangly Byrds/R.E.M. accent and vocal delivery that is decidedly wistful. Later, I Know Places is an altogether dark tango when compared to what Swift imagined, but again the pop immediacy still glistens.

The big curiosity surrounding the album, outside of its very existence, is the treatment of the pop vocabulary that had Swift shutting the door on the country allegiance that brought her to stardom. Such a lexicon sounds largely retro when Adams addresses it.

Shake It Off, for instance, now sounds like a kissing cousin to Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire, shaking off all of Swift’s synth-pop perkiness while Bad Blood possesses a lean but outward sadness that defies all the Kendrick Lamar dance accents of the Swift original.

Call it different strokes by different folks. Yet Adams’ 1989 is likely to achieve something else. It will get Swift’s music to ears that would have never willingly test-driven it before. What a relief. The poor dear really needed some exposure.

(Adams’ 1989 is currently available digitally. The CD version will be released on Oct. 30 with the vinyl edition scheduled for December.)

radio waves

debraun thomas this week at the break room at pepper. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

debraun thomas this week at the break room at pepper. herald-leader staff photo by rich Copley.

Debraun Thomas has made radio his livelihood for much of the seven years he has spent in Lexington. But that didn’t exactly brace him for the experience of hearing his own music on the very station that serves as his employer.

“I’ve been getting some airplay on WUKY, which in itself has been an interesting thing because I do work there,” Thomas said. “So I understand how some folks might look at that as favoritism, but it really isn’t.

“I was sitting in my car when the station played the first song on the album. As the music started, it really hit me what was happening. Over the years I’ve been in radio, I have played thousands upon thousands of songs. But I didn’t know that was going to be what it felt like to have your song played on the radio.”

The album in question is All My Colors Are Blind and the tune Thomas heard played back on WUKY was Bedroom Stranger, a propulsive blast of funk-driven rock ‘n’ roll with Thomas’ meaty vocals leading the charge with waves of churchy organ and horns at his back. The tune – and the entire album, for that matter – also sports a guitar voice as commanding as his singing.

“I think Solomon Burke actually coined this phrase, but I call the music I do rock and soul. It’s rock, it’s roll, but it’s full of everything in between. As an artist of color, I think it’s easy for me, because I play guitar, to get lumped into a blues category. While blues is very much a basis of American music and is the very basis of the music I grew up listening to, that’s not really all it is. Each song on the album characteristically sounds different from one another.”

Though his mother is from Adair County with several other family members hailing from Kentucky, Thomas is a native of the San Francisco Bay area. He moved to Lexington to study journalism at the University of Kentucky (he graduated in 2012) and has been working regularly at WUKY since then in various capacities. There he hosts Local Music Mondays, a weekly series that profiles Lexington artists.

“The Bay Area is filled with a lot of really great music,” Thomas said. “But the one thing I find really special about Lexington, perhaps because it is so centralized, is this really large and concentrated talent pool of musicians. When I moved here, I found there were a lot of people in this particular city that are super, ridiculously talented. That’s just been another thing I love about Lexington. I get to jam with really great people and learn from them.”

Having performed with the local hip hop ensemble A Tribe Called Lex, the soul/R&B cover band Soul Funkin Dangerous and a semi-regular Funkadelic tribute troupe called Freak of the Weekend (“That’s another really fun thing I love about Lexington. There are a lot of people here who love Funkadelic.”), Thomas most frequently appears with a trio that includes bassist Smith Donaldson and drummer Daniel Mohler. All My Colors are Blind, however, also sports help from a who’s-who of local music faves, many of whom are planning on joining Thomas for his album release show this weekend at Cosmic Charlie’s.

“The CD is a culmination of the last five years of my life where I was trying to figure out musically what I wanted to do. I’m still dealing with the fact that I can hold one of these things in my hand. The great thing, though, is each one of these songs still means a lot to me. The fact I can finally share them with everybody is tremendous.”

Debraun Thomas performs at 10 p.m. Oct. 17 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Admission is $7. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to www.cosmic-charlies.com.

in performance: motley crue/alice cooper

alice cooper performing last night at rupp arena. herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

alice cooper performing last night at rupp arena. herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

You can tell a lot about the performance a band is about to engage in by the pre-show recordings played just before the stage event begins.

For Motley Crue and its much ballyhooed farewell tour stop last night at Rupp Arena, that music was Rodger & Hammerstein’s So Long, Farewell. It was a kitschy tip-off for what we already knew – that this was going to be the Los Angeles’ pop-metal troupe’s final Kentucky outing before disbanding at the end of the year.

Such a departure didn’t translate into huge news around Lexington. Motley Crue hasn’t played locally in well over two decades, so the show was as much a cause for reacquaintance as a bon voyage The audience turnout wasn’t so swift either – about 6,500 with all but the center section of the upper arena decks curtained off.

nikki six and mick mars of motley crue.

nikki six and mick mars of motley crue.

What followed, for all of the band’s bluster and volume, was fairly tame. It wasn’t the big carnival of sin we were led to believe it would dissolve into, but rather a proficient recitation of hits. There were lots of explosions (several were earsplitting), plenty of flames and lights and, in its primary nod to choreographed decadence, a pair of singer/dancers in biker gear that galloped about for a few tunes.

The rest was pretty by-the-numbers stuff for the Crue, with all its pluses and minuses from the past three decades intact. Singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee all waxed poetic about the occasion (poetic, of course, meant the requisite dropping of several dozen F bombs) and they enforced the celebratory mood with faithful reading of Girls Girls Girls (the show opener), Looks That Kill (with its clean, metal-esque chatter that sounded like it was lifted intact from the ‘80s) and Shout at the Devil (the tune with the sturdiest groove and most audience-friendly chorus).

What was rather remarkable was that the Crue’s massive stage, which sported long, snake like railings suspended from the Rupp roof to resemble an amusement park ride, was seemingly designed for no other purpose than as artillery for Lee’s solo spot. It was a visual spectacle, to be sure, with the drummer and his entire kit sailing up and over the crowd to and from the back of the arena, doing several 360 degree flips in the process. But musically, Lee was simply jamming to pre-recorded samples. In other words, the outward show of the hat trick amazed. The music underneath was pretty hollow.

As usual, the most inventive noisemaker was the one who largely zipped his lip. Guitarist Mick Mars, his face buried under a mound of hair and hat, lit a fuse with breaks during Primal Scream, the Crue’s hit cover of Brownsville Station’s Smokin’ in the Boys Room and Louder Than Hell (which his playing was). His extended solo was also fun, especially when he balanced the thud and thunder with a brief detour into Slim Harpo-style boogie.

In the end though, the Crue couldn’t hold a bloody axe to the co-billed Alice Cooper. Through the course of a near hour-long set, the veteran Detroit rocker laid on the theatrics with far more grandiosity than the headliners. That’s usually the kiss of death for a rock show, except that Cooper has been a sort of Goth version of a song-and-dance man for the past 40 years. So while the onstage antics were at a well-dispatched premium – his onstage beheading, the creation of a 10 foot tall Frankenstein monster, the skirmishes in a straight jacket – there was also a flow of serious Motor City-stewed rock ‘n’ roll fanning the flames.

You heard it in the parade of No More Mr. Nice Guy, Under My Wheels and Billion Dollar Babies, all Cooper chestnuts from the early ‘70s, that kicked the show into gear. After a brief run through comparatively recent decades for Poison, Dirty Diamonds and Feed My Frankenstein, the freak show really kicked in with a dancing nurse that looked like an extra from The Walking Dead and the guillotine execution (still a crafty parlor trick after all these years) at the end of the 1971 nugget Ballad of Dwight Fry.

Cooper has never been a Caruso, but his vocals were stronger and far more serviceable to the cause than Neil’s often buried, Sam Kinison-like wails with the Crue. And for all the pageantry, Cooper’s most effective stage prop was also his simplest – a crutch that the singer, at age 67, waved in the air during I’m Eighteen as though it were the Stanley Cup.

The pre-show recording was telling here, as well. It was Vincent Price’s recitation for Cooper’s 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare. Face it, when your show purposely goes to the ghouls with just under four weeks to go before Halloween, you might as well call on the best.

critic’s pick 295: david gilmour, ‘rattle that lock

david gilmourThere are three David Gilmours at work on Rattle That Lock. The first is the Pink Floyd chieftain, now self-relieved of duty, weaving his way through post-psychedelic ambience that regularly recalls his former group’s glories. The second seeks to flip that history on its side by shunning the deeper Floyd-ian abyss in favor of warmer, more hopeful temperaments. Having wife Polly Samson penning lyrics in place of Floyd narcissist emeritus Roger Waters helps with that. The third is a journeyman out for something different entirely – a pop turn here, a jazz twist there. Let them all lose and you have Gilmour’s most realized and, at times, surprising solo venture.

The title track highlights Gilmour No. 3. It surfaces out of a keyboard riff that repeats like a mantra but coalesces into a surge of effervescent pop. The results are almost, dare we say, dance-worthy. Vocals ooze in and out in waves, promoting the song’s self-help chorus (“rattle that lock and lose those chains”) while splashes of still-sterling guitar color the soundscape. It may be the most commercial sounding thing Gilmour has ever put his name to, which may rattle the locks of Floyd fans still marooned on the dark side of the moon.

That’s not half as surprising as the after hours cocktail jazz of The Girl in the Yellow Dress. But Gilmour comes armed with top flight assistance for the mission, with Jools Holland adding suitably nocturnal piano rolls and fellow progressive warhorse Robert Wyatt serenading on cornet.

Gilmour No. 2 likes to rough things up. Dancing Right in Front of Me is like a sprint through late ‘60s British rock, from the opening, Kinks-like phrasing to its Procol Harum-inspired power chords. But the killer is Today, an affirmation at day’s end that bleeds into a funk-fortified riff that bounces about within the music (and, eventually, into your brain) to best define the musical path Gilmour travels today.

But so many roads on Rattle That Lock link with the past and Gilmour No. 1. The keyboard notes that drop like singular raindrops at the start of Faces of Stone, recall the late Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright by almost directly quoting the classic Echoes from 1971. Later, Roger Eno guests on the instrumental Beauty to offer a sunnier, more contemplative backdrop that takes its cue from the otherworldly orchestration Wright constructed for 1975’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

Best of all are two instrumentals – 5 A.M. and And Then… – that bookend this gloriously engineered and mixed album to spotlight Gilmour’s elegiac guitar reflections. Pastoral in design but still wild enough in tone to briefly summon the Floyd spirit, the tune cements the very solid ground on which Gilmour currently stands – a terrain that owes greatly to a legendary past but leads without hesitation into the future.

in performance: eileen ivers

eileen ivers.

eileen ivers.

It was with no small level of irony that Eileen Ivers, one of the more formidable Irish-American fiddlers of her generation, took to the stage at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium last night at essentially the same moment the contemporary ensemble Celtic Woman initiated an undoubtedly more flamboyant variation of Emerald Isle music a few blocks away at Rupp Arena.

Ivers made brief, polite and even encouraging notice of the coincidence and then got to work on her own Irish soundscape, one with less theatrical intent and greater global focus. Sure, traditional jigs, airs and reels were at the heart of her playing, but so were nods to more modern and stylistically varied artists by way of Scottish songsmith Dougie MacLean’s Feel So Near (a light and emotive ode to the “spirit of the land” sung with subtle grace by Battlefield Band/Karan Casey guitarist Alan Murray) and American folk-roots pioneer Olla Belle Reed’s I’ve Endured (sung with gusto by banjoist Deirdre Brennan as the stomping climax to an “Irish bluegrass” medley).

But the full breadth of Ivers’ performance vision – which viewed Irish music through migrant eyes as it traveled to the Americas, taking in echoes of Latin and African rhythms along the way – was unveiled through the exuberance and resourcefulness of her playing. She nailed pure tradition in a ghostly solo fiddle version of Lament for Staker Wallace (her contribution to the score of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York) that was bursting with elegant longing. Just before intermission time, though, Ivers went all Jean-Luc Ponty on the Transy crowd by incorporating pedal effects, loops and her band’s rockish ingenuity to summon a blast of fun electric fusion.

The global tides rose higher during the concert’s second half. Some sailed right through the Bluegrass with a nod to Clay County folk empress and activist Aunt Molly Jackson’s Hard Times in Coleman’s Mine. The playing shifted from the rootsy sway of bodhran and harmonica to roaring lines of accordion, fiddle and bass as the tune morphed from a protest lament into a union rally cry.

The kicker though was a merger of Irish jubilance and Soweto soul that led into a global jaunt called Paddy in Zululand. Where do you got from there? Try Georgia and the early Allman Brothers Band nugget Revival, which capped the show as an encore. The sound was still Irish in its fortitude but highly gospel-esque in its musical drive. Such was the final performance destination of the evening for this Americanized but boundlessly spirited Celtic woman.

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