Archive for February, 2016

in performance: warren haynes

warren haynes, photo by danny clinch.

warren haynes. photo by danny clinch.

Warren Haynes wasn’t much for words last night at the Lexington Opera House. But prior to the last number of a stylistically restless two and a half hour performance, he told a story about his one and only experience playing the Grand Ole Opry. The recollection tied into a finale version of Two of a Kind (Working on a Full House), a 1991 charttopping hit for Garth Brooks. Haynes explained how a befuddled Nashville fan asked him why he was playing “a Garth song.” The guitarist’s reply was succinct. “Because I wrote it.” Then came the footnote explaining why the 1987 tune was being resurrected on Haynes’ current tour.

“So we can do it a little differently.”

With that, what was once a dose of pop-savvy honky tonk morphed into a blues romp with Haynes’ sweaty guitar lines leading a loose, rootsy charge. That was essentially the game plan for the entire evening. Haynes utilized a progressive Nashville string troupe called ChessBoxer for a largely acoustic/Americana backdrop. To that he added drummer Jeff Sipe, a wildly resourceful veteran of numerous jam bands (the Aquarium Rescue Unit being perhaps the most noted) who provided a flexible and often jazz-like sensibility to the music. Then there was Haynes himself, a solidly electric player who shifted gears regularly according the emotive and stylistic whims of the material.

That proved to be an unending task. While Haynes is still touring in support of his fine 2015 solo album, Ashes & Dust, the concert was a essentially a career retrospective covering favorites and obscurities from his lengthy tenures in the Allman Brothers Band (Blue Sky, a revamped Jessica and a wonderful, swing-savvy Instrumental Illness that revolved as much around Royal Massat’s rolling bass lines as Haynes’ leads), his own guitar rich Gov’t Mule band (the mournful odes Banks of the Deep End and No Consolation), the Grateful Dead spinoff unit Phil Lesh and Friends (the Jerry Garcia remembrance Patchwork Quilt) and a few choice covers (a riotous groove-savvy take on Little Feat’s Skin it Back, a suitably cryptic view of Radiohead’s Karma Police and a harmony-heavy encore of the spiritual Angel Band that bled into a slower, more solemn recasting of the Haynes favorite Soulshine). The Ashes & Dust material, however, certainly set the stage for such time tripping, from Sipe’s jazzy underpinning and Haynes’ hearty slide guitar colors during the show opening Is It Me or You to the coal mining requiem Coal Tattoo that hammered down the often spacious fusion runs by the full company into sheets of sobering, earthy cool.

in performance: delbert mcclinton

delbert McClinton.

delbert mcclinton.

Around the halfway point of his sold out performance last night at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort, Delbert McClinton offered a new song about some old experiences. During Bad Haircut, the veteran Texas roadhouse and roots music stylist reflected on some wilder extracurricular activities from years gone by with keyboardist Kevin McKendree. “We used to go into outer space on occasion,” the singer remarked. But the tune was more than idle (and possibly dramatically enhanced) boasting. It was also a crisp Americana joyride that started off as a playful piano blues before erupting into the sort of sly raconteur-ing that has made McClinton a concert favorite of Kentucky audiences for over four decades.

But last night proved to be something of mixed performance blessing with the already pronounced scratch of McClinton’s vocals sounding noticeably coarser and more worn than in recent years. A product of aging? Perhaps. McClinton turned 75 in November. Was the culprit something more fleeting, like a simple cold or throat ailment? Maybe. But from the instant the first syllables were sung during the show opening cover of Al Green’s Take Me to the River, McClinton seemed content to perform with a vocal range that was noticeably compromised. What was on display was a more tentative roar that, while missing much of its high end, was still capable of conveying several shades of his Lone Star blues and R&B roots.

The vocal harnessing certainly did not do the show in. As usual, McClinton came armed with a wonderfully versed band steeped in the traditions of Muscle Shoals soul (on Going Back to Louisiana, which was further colored with Creole accents of percussion and brass), Lone Star country blues (Gotta Get It Worked On) and rich roots-directed balladry (the delicious encore of Sending Me Angels). Credit McKendree, tenor saxophonist Dana Robbins and guitarist Bob Britt for much of the ensemble’s buoyancy and invention.

There were also instances when McClinton’s singing was serviceable and soulful enough to keep the party moving. But it was also a little disheartening watching the singer having to scale back at times from his once-tireless Lone Star tenor and play some of the songs safe – a point underscored during Bad Haircut.

“I don’t want to make a fuss,” he sang with subtle but struggling command as the song concluded. What a shame. A fuss was always what McClinton was best at.

staying busy with warren haynes

warren Haynes. photo by danny clinch.

warren Haynes. photo by danny clinch.

By now, a new stylistic shift in the career of Warren Haynes should be viewed as standard operating procedure.

For the past three decades, the heralded guitarist and songwriter has maintained a seemingly restless artistic course that has weaved in and out of two mainstay ensembles – the legendary Allman Brothers Band (which dissolved in 2014) and his own long running Gov’t Mule. There have also been several high profile moonlighting projects (the newest being an orchestral tribute to Jerry Garcia) and a solo career.

Haynes’ solo work has been an adventure just unto itself. He embraced soul and blues tradition on 2011’s Man in Motion but altered course for bluegrass and roots rock-oriented instrumentation on 2015’s Ashes and Dust. The latter record brings Haynes back to Lexington for a Saturday concert at the Opera House.

“I love being busy,” Haynes said. “There are a lot of songs that I’ve written that I haven’t recorded yet and a lot of projects that I want to do that haven’t come to fruition yet. So I just kind of continue plowing ahead to see what happens.”

The mix of Haynes’ electric guitar expression and the predominantly acoustic roots framework on Ashes and Dust circles back to an elemental form of songwriting he has long enjoyed, as well as to a previous project that was never realized.

“I was going to make a record seven or eight years ago before I made Man in Motion. I was going to make a record with Levon Helm, Leon Russell and a bass player named T-Bone Wolk (a longtime bandmate of Hall & Oates with a distinguished studio career). Then T-Bone passed away and then Levon passed away, so that record kind of disintegrated. I turned around at that point and made Man in Motion because I had written a lot of songs in that soul music meets blues direction, as well, and wasn’t exactly sure how to continue with the songs I had prepared for the record we never made.

“So after Man in Motion, we made another Gov’t Mule record called Shout! Then I thought, ‘Well, I should start thinking about revisiting some of those other songs.’ I had been writing a lot of new songs in that direction, as well. I just started recording as many songs as possible in that direction and picked 13 that I felt worked together to make the most cohesive statement.”

Ashes and Dust was recorded with Railroad Earth, the celebrated bluegrass-inspired jam unit, as his support band. There was initial touring together after the album’s release last summer. But Haynes quickly saw the need for a group more specific and exclusive to handle a longer trek of touring.

“I did the record with Railroad Earth, but we realized that our touring schedules weren’t going to mesh beyond doing two or three weeks, which we did early on. So I put together a whole other band, starting with my friend Jeff Sipe (whose credits include the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon and Kentucky performances with Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin). Jeff is one of my favorite drummers. Then I reached out to Bela Fleck, who turned me on to these guys in a (Nashville) trio call ChessBoxer. It’s fiddle, banjo and upright bass group that I checked out and really loved. In addition to the stuff from Ashes and Dust, we’re doing a lot of material that spans my career or that I’m connected to in one way or another, and just putting our own spin on it. It’s really been a blast.

“I feel like I’m surrounded by so many incredible musicians and have my hands in a lot of wonderful projects. It’s a great feeling to have these kinds of opportunities.”

Warren Haynes performs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. Tickets are $44.50. Call 800-745-3000, 859-233-3535 or got to ticketmaster.com.

grammy suspect

highly suspect. from left: ryan meyer, johnny stevens and rich meyer. photo by shervin lainez.

highly suspect. from left: ryan meyer, johnny stevens and rich meyer. photo by shervin lainez.

Imagine this. You’re a member of an established New York rock troupe riding a crest of attention garnered by a critically lauded 2015 album. Since mainstream appeal still remains at bay, you begin a December morning by readying yourself, your bandmates – which in this case includes your twin brother – and, perhaps most importantly, your van, for another road trip in hopes of hoisting your artistic and commercial visibility a little higher.

Then you get a bit of news that changes everything. That’s what happened to the guitar rock power trio Highly Suspect on the day it received two Grammy nominations (for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song). Such recognition stunned audiences and critics alike, especially ones unfamiliar with the band. But no one was in greater shock than trio members Johnny Stevens, bassist Rich Meyer and sibling drummer Ryan Meyer.

“It was a complete shock,” said Rich Meyer. “I didn’t even know the Grammy nominees were being announced that day. It wasn’t a thing that I was thinking about in any way. I was thinking about the tour, the merch, the songs, the gear and all the people involved, you know? I was working.

“Then all of a sudden, I think it was 7:30 in the morning. I had maybe gotten three or four hours of sleep and was trying to get my laundry done before we got back on the road again. So I was kind of sitting over my coffee and all of sudden Ryan came over to me and gave me a hug said we got a Grammy nomination. I didn’t believe him. I had to look it up on the internet, but there it was. I was kind of in a daze. Then I packed up all of my stuff, got in the van and hit the road. But that was all were talking about in the van. It was like, ‘Seriously?’ It was ridiculous.”

Hardly Suspect didn’t take home any Grammys last week (Muse won Best Rock Album while Alabama Shakes won for Best Rock Song). But for the trio, the experience gave immediate credibility to the phrase “It was an honor just to be nominated.”

“It was, absolutely, especially when the bands we were in there with were Florence and the Machine and Muse and Slipknot. We couldn’t believe it.

“Everything about this was certainly surreal. I’m sure everyone says that about their first Grammy experience, but that’s what it was, though. It doesn’t seem real when you’re walking down a red carpet, looking at all the celebrities. It’s just hard to accept that that is what’s really happening.”

The records that triggered all the Grammy fuss for Highly Suspect were the 2015 album Mister Asylum and its intensely electric lead single Lydia. The music is a continuation away from the more relaxed, reggae/ska sound that began when the band formed in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts in 2009. The eventual move to New York coincided with a search for songs with a tougher – or, at least, different – edge.

“There had really been a change in our life experience from what was a kind of sedated, blue collar, chilled out, easygoing lifestyle to all of a sudden this fast paced existence where you’re dealing with massive business and the competition from other bands. We really, really work to stick out. The life experiences we were having were intense – nights out on the town, struggling with huge business decisions, stuff like that. The inspiration for the songs, all of a sudden, was much different than the inspirations from back in the hometown.

“We’re inspired to write about how we feel and what our feelings were. What comes out of that is what it is. At the time, it was some pretty heavy rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not heavily produced commercial rock music. It’s raw and it’s real.”

Highly Suspect, And the Kids and/Audiodamn! Perform at 9 p.m. Feb 28 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets: $15 – $18. Call 859-309-9499 or go to cosmic-charlies.com.

critic’s pick 314: lake street dive, ‘side pony’

lakestreetdivelead1Listening to Lake Street Dive, especially the wonderful new Side Pony album, is akin to spinning a wheel labeled with differing song styles and genres.

Spin it once and it might land on vintage pop, although even that could mean anything from British Merseybeat inspiration (So Long) to ’60s style girl group harmonies (Hell Yeah). Give it another whirl and the results might run more to lingering, autumnal pop laced with jazzy cool (Mistakes). On at least one lucky spin of Side Pony, you might find yourself back in the mid ‘70s with a pumped up beat that falls somewhere between Philly soul and disco (Can’t Stop).

Such a such vast pop vocabulary, though obviously retro inclined, never sounds coerced on the quartet’s first studio effort since the breakthrough of its 2014 indie pop feast Bad Self Portraits. The stories shift between the fun, the rueful and the twisted but the sheer sense of vibrant pop cheer, despite all the musical shapeshifting, remains a happy constant.

With help from producer-of-the-moment Dave Cobb (whose client list includes Jason Isbell along with Kentucky faves Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson), Side Pony swims the pop waters like a shark. For all its ‘60s and ‘70s inferences, the songs possess an ominous drive that never sits still. During Hell Yeah, the guitar twang of Michael “McDuck” Olson and the big beat hullabaloo of drummer Michael Calabrese come drenched in distortion and reverb to counter the pop abandon with a dark alley air. Then when the record decidedly steps into the Soul Train groove of Call Off Your Dogs and So Long, the years mesh up even more. On the surface, it’s disco-fueled dance era innocence. But bassist Bridget Kearney’s lyrics on both songs reveal a tinge of regret and reflection that runs upstream against the beat-savvy currents. “This is what I get,” goes the narrative in Call Off Your Dogs, “for being civilized.”

The catalyst for all of these retro-happy, soul searching tunes is Rachael Price, who remains a singer with a potent set of pipes that effortlessly leads the charge of the more outwardly expressive pop outbursts yet stews deliciously went the sentiments and melodies chill over.

In a similar instance of pop role reversal, the album-opening Godawful Things suggests doomsday just in its title. But as the chirpy melody unfolds and Price’s commanding vocal work asserts itself, the sun beams in with a blast of Jackie Wilson-style soul – a sound Lake Street Dive knows like the back of its collective hand but gives a respectful redressing to. Like so many of the influences on Side Pony that relish in the familiar, what you hear is the call of pop’s past detonated with an ingenuity that can only come from new generation adventurers.

in performance: bruce springsteen and the e street band

steve van zandt, bruce springsteen and patti scialfa last night at the kfc yum! center in louisville. photos by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

steve van zandt, bruce springsteen and patti scialfa last night at the kfc yum! center in louisville. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

At about the halfway point of a three hour-plus marathon concert last night at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Bruce Springsteen stated the obvious. At age 66, he was grinning, wailing and leaping in place on a platform that took him deep into the arena floor crowd. The exhibition, perhaps typical of Springsteen’s tireless performance stance, was a blast of pure rock ‘n’ roll exaltation. The tune fanning the performance flames: I’m a Rocker.

Never mind that everything that came before this moment would have likely winded artists one-third his age. Springsteen was on a mission. The impetus for his current tour is to resurrect, in its entirety, the masterful 1980 double album The River, a record he introduced early into the program as a “coming of age” work. But as the often volcanic performance underscored, The River encapsulated everything that makes Springsteen a rock pioneer of such epic stature.

The album’s 20 songs, played in sequence, rode a trail of complex and severe disparity. Some of the tunes are among Springsteen’s most outwardly loose and joyous creations, including the frat rock anthem Sherry Darling, the piledriving party ode You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) and the wildly elative Out in the Street, arguably the happiest composition in The Boss’ canon. All were delivered with a drive and abandon by Springsteen’s long-running E Street Band (whittled down to 10 members last night from the orchestra-sized troupes convened on previous tours) that sounded earnestly youthful.

But The River is also an album of dreams broken and unrealized, veering eventually into views of mortality. Several of those songs have been absent from Springsteen’s concerts for decades, including the plaintive Independence Day and it’s quiet portrayal of a troubled father-son relationship, and the album’s disquieting finale, Wreck on the Highway, which prizes love mightily after a glimpse of death. Both were unassumingly dramatic highpoints of the concert.

Together with the show opening Meet Me in the City (an outtake featured on The Ties That Bind, the recent box set chronicling the album’s recording sessions and subsequent tour), The River’s contrasts were regularly underscored during the performance. No sooner did the unsettling, neo-tango rhythm of Point Black fade than the full E Street alliance erupted with the celebratory Cadillac Ranch. Similarly, the calliope boardwalk bliss of I Wanna Marry You (introduced as a song of “love in all its imagined glory”) faded into the title tune from The River, a tale of lost innocence and its stark, sobering aftermath.

Taken as a whole, it was a remarkable performance piece colored by the E Streeters’ inexhaustible drive and invention as well as Springsteen’s own performance daring. The latter even included a bit of body surfing during Hungry Heart not recommended for your everyday rock ‘n’ roll elder.

But the performance roared on for over an hour without an intermission after The River suite concluded with a freight train of favorites (a suitably anthemic Badlands and a Bo Diddley-friendly She’s the One), comparatively newer pieces (Lonesome Day and The Rising, both delivered as crisp affirmations) and a still-venomous Born in the U.S.A. as an encore, complete with drummer Max Weinberg’s implosive coda. The latter nicely enforced the fact that raging waters within Springsteen’s most potent tunes extend far beyond the River-bank.

in performance: use your voice tour featuring patty griffin, sara watkins and anais mitchell

 

patty griffin.

patty griffin.

Folk stylist Anais Mitchell almost playfully dubbed her performance last night with Patty Griffin and Sara Watkins at the Singletary Center for the Arts as “Wing It Night No. 3.” That meant this installment of the week-old Use Your Voice Tour scrapped the formal notion of a set list so the three songstresses could emphasize an impromptu folk attitude, ably assisted by guitarist David Pulkingham.

The pace was leisurely, the music sounded serenely rich and the overall vibe proved inviting and loose. Sure, that meant the three would usually huddle a bit in deciding on a tune to perform. Watkins seemed especially game for the approach, taking one request from the audience and another from Griffin.

Though there wasn’t a specified headliner among the three, Griffin was unquestionably the marquee act and the clear matriarch of this onstage folk alliance. Though each singer exchanged tunes round-robin style, Griffin’s Truth #2, with its casual but commanding group harmonies, and her popular grandmotherly tribute Mary began and ended the set. In between, there were a pair of lightly luminous songs from her recent Servant of Love album (the jaggedly rocking There Isn’t One Way and the spacious 250,000 Miles), a serving of original gospel (Standing, which sounded notably stronger minus the studio ambience that ran through the song’s original version on the 2004 album Impossible Dream) and the Spanish sung Caminito de la Sierra, which was as much a vehicle for Pulkingham’s guitar work as for Griffin’s lovely, poetic reading of the Mexican revolutionary saga.

Watkins and Mitchell were often just as compelling. The former reached back to her Nickel Creek days for Anthony, turning the tune into an audience participation round of whistling, while Take Up Your Spade was full of churchy affirmation. Mitchell offered perhaps the show’s most emotively varied set of songs, shifting from the quiet sentimentality of Your Fonder Heart to the social time piece Why We Build the Wall. The latter was steeped in a sense of paranoia and exclusion that seems as sadly timely now as it did when she recorded the song for her Hadestown album in 2010.

Use Your Voice allowed the three artists do just that during the curious encore cover of Moon River, where lead duties were traded as readily as songs were earlier in the evening. As a performance coda, the tune sounded elegant, unforced, and in its sense of simple romantic longing, gleefully unapologetic.

raising their voices

patty griffin.

patty griffin.

The day after the Use Your Voice Tour opened in the decidedly non-wintry Florida climate of St. Petersburg, Patty Griffin seemed content if not encouraged.

“We’re having a great time,” she remarked. “There is a lot of love out there.”

The love, in this instance, is two fold. Much of it comes from collaborating with her co-billed songsmiths – fiddler, vocalist and Nickel Creek alum Sara Watkins and new generation folk champion Anais Mitchell. Then there is also the mission that gives the Use Your Voice Tour its name – specifically, an alliance with the League of Women Voters that hopes to help encourage participation in elections among female voters.

First, there is the sisterhood and the music Griffin is creating with Watkins and Mitchell. The teaming recalls the last time Griffin performed in Lexington – a 2008 outing with Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin. Like that earlier performance, the trio was augmented by a celebrity guitarist (the earlier show featured Buddy Miller where Saturday’s bill will boast David Pulkingham, who has played Lexington previously with Alejandro Escovedo) with the three headliners swapping songs and stories.

“They are really, really brilliant,” Griffin said of Watkins and Mitchell. “I think Sara is one of the most beautiful singers I’ve ever heard in my life on top of being a pretty incredible instrumentalist. Her songs are sort of otherworldly. People say that a lot about singers and their songs, but to me, her sense of timing and placement of words is so incredibly unique, delicate and beautiful. Anais, to me, is one of the finest lyric writers that we have out there right now. I think she is really outstanding that way. Within the folk tradition, she is a leader.”

anais Mitchell.

anais Mitchell.

The feeling turns out to be more than mutual. The Vermont-based Mitchell, who opens a fully staged theatrical presentation Off Broadway  this spring of music from her 2010 album Hadestown, sites Griffin’s 1996 demo-style debut album Living with Ghosts, as a pivotal piece of inspiration.

Living with Ghosts is sort of lodged deep in my psyche,” Mitchell said. “When I first started writing songs, I was very influenced by that album. I love how its sound was so stripped back. So it’s so wonderful to get to hear Patty every night and, even more than that, to get to sing with her and play with her.”

Though Griffin’s recordings – specifically newer works like 2013’s American Kid and 2015’s Servant of Love – have unfolded with an almost orchestral ambience, the overtly acoustic setting of the Use Your Voice Tour reflects the folk roots all three headliners share.

“I think it is pretty much home for all of us,” Griffin said. “I’m always gunning to get out there and do things that are a little more stripped down. I love doing it this way. There are things that are actually quite cool sounding with everybody chipping in on different things they don’t normally play. We even we’re having some fun trying to figure out how to become a drummer when we have to.”

“I’m always so overwhelmed by the power of just the human voice and very basic accompaniment,” Mitchell added. “I think part of it is just being able to be a storyteller and how to focus entirely on the story in that kind of a setting.”

There is also the more outwardly dutiful aspect to the Use Your Voice Tour, namely its hope of encouraging women to participate more vigorously in the selection of their elected officials. Griffin stressed, however, such a crusade is entirely non-partisan in its intent.

“We want you to come out and vote,” she said. “Whatever your point of view is at this moment, share it – or at least participate in the democracy with us and let’s see what happens.

“The fact that we’re doing this in a big presidential election year is not necessarily an accident, but it’s just a matter of timing. To me, a major, major deficit in voter turnout is in local elections. Single women will turn out for a presidential election a little more than they will for a local one. Local elections really affect issues that have to do with single women – for example, the public school system. We really want single working moms’ opinions on that and how that should work within our communities.

“We want everyone to feel welcome at our shows – male, female, all walks of life, whatever your political affiliation.”

As for life after the Use Your Voice Tour, Griffin remains open, relishing a sense of chance that seems to go hand-in-hand with her music.

“One of the things about my job that is awesome is that I never feel like I know what I’m doing. There are so many infinite things about being in this kind of work. There is such variety of music. It’s really all comes from the same source, I believe, but there are so many ways of expressing it. It’s endlessly inspiring, so I feel like I’m always learning even though I’m always slightly behind the game.”

Use Your Voice Tour featuring Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. Tickets: $32, $38, $45. Call: (859) 257-4929 or go to etix.com.

critic’s pick 314: vandaveer, ‘the wild mercury’

Vandaveer_TheWildMercury_1500x1500-_web-1024x1024“Like Bonaparte, I was bona fide,” sings Mark Charles Heidinger – aka folk-pop soldier Vandaveer – on one of the more arresting tunes from The Wild Mercury. This particular episode, The Final Word, reaches back to Napoleonic times for a rather unsettling bit of imagery to encapsulate love’s last chorus – the slice of a guillotine blade.

Yep, that’s pretty much the final word, alright.

Such a snapshot suggests The Wild Mercury is an altogether brutal affair, which it really isn’t. Lexington expatriate-turned-Louisville neighbor Heidinger, along with longtime cohort Rose Guerin, have come up with an inviting platter of relationship raconteur-ing, familial reflecting and worldly conversing. If anything The Wild Mercury, for all its flights of melodic fancy and occasionally dark sidesteps, is a very cordial affair, as well as Vandaveer’s most seamlessly constructed pop portfolio yet.

Vandaveer may be a Louisville attraction these days but The Wild Mercury bears a distinctively Lexington signature. Duane Lundy is again handling co-production chores, providing a lean but spacious sound to songs that bloom from the moment But Enough On That For Now opens the record in a psychedelic haze. The tune quickly dovetails into Heidinger’s luminous folk sensibility, his typically blissful harmonizing with Guerin and the deep melodic hooks that propel this parental rumination of a life “cruel and beautiful.” The chorus is pure pop pride, a catalyst that sets The Wild Mercury into a spin that seldom subsides.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few pensive moments. Holding Patterns embraces a more outwardly (and literally) autumnal feel with a tumbling melody colored by the pedal steel guitar echoes of another localite, J. Tom Hnatow, that reel around the sterling harmonies. Two more proven Lexington hands – drummer Robby Cosenza and multi-instrumentalist Justin Craig – further guide the song’s subtle drive.

Absolutely Over the Moon flips the music on its side with a boozy meditation that sounds like Bob Dylan singing a sea shanty. But the resulting confession, as well as the wandering soul delivering it (“a drifter and shapeshifter… mostly a boy without a clue”) is set beautifully adrift within an ethereal hum that sounds a vintage Daniel Lanois record unfolding.

There are loads of other delights, as well, including the plaintive folk-country contemplation A Pretty Thin Line (again with Hnatow’s pedal steel work nicely underscoring the plaintive singing) and the comparatively efficient and sunny reverie Love Is Melancholy, But It’s All We’ve Got.

Combine all this with The Wild Mercury’s place as the inaugural release on the Lexington-based WhiteSpace Records and you have a slice of folk serenity cultivated in our own backyard. Sure, Heidinger now belongs to Louisville. But wherever you spin it, The Wild Mercury is the sound of home.

2016 grammy post mortem

chris stapleton in the press room with awards for best country solo performance and best country album at the 58th annual grammy awards last night. photo by chris pizzello/invision/AP.

chris stapleton in the press room with awards for best country solo performance and best country album at the 58th annual grammy awards last night. photo by chris pizzello/invision/AP.

The good, the bad, the tacky and the sublime. It was all on display through three-and-a-half hours of live TV last night as the 58th Grammy Awards commenced. Here is The Musical Box’s annual Grammy post mortem of what happened as it unfolded

+ Taylor Swift opened the ceremony, full of requisite pomp, with Out of the Woods. Host LL Cool J proclaimed the performance “a new Grammy moment.” Same old pageantry.

+ The Weeknd: Unexpectedly straightforward performance of In the Night that proved there was a solid voice to go along with that Maltese Falcon hairdo.

+ Station break: Channel surfed to Fox during a commercial to watch Mulder line dancing to Achy Breaky Heart on The X Files in front of “some very frightened middle aged Texans.’ Don’t know about the truth, but this was definitely out there.

+ Best country album: Chris Stapleton won for Traveller and thanked Swift for glitter bombing him earlier  in the show. Kentucky rocks the house. Stapleton also won for Best Country Solo Performance.

+ Little Big Town singing Girl Crush: All about the lighting and camera angles. The song wanted to sound empowering, but it was just more Nashville Play-Doh.

+ John Legend: Modern day soul maestro served up a sterling and stirring version of Easy during an otherwise lacking Lionel Richie tribute. Did he die, too? Nope. Richie watched from the audience before joining in for All Night Long.

+ Steve Wonder and Pentatonix: A toast to Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire with an a cappella That’s the Way of the World. Simple, unforced and profoundly emotive.

+ The Eagles: Legendary California band honored Glenn Frey by performing Take It Easy with Jackson Browne, the artist who co-wrote the tune with the late vocalist, singing lead. A solemn, pokerfaced and understandably dour tribute.

+ Tori Kelly and James Bay. Nicely unadorned duet between two Best New Artist nominees, but their medley of Hollow and Let It Go was a generic heart-on-sleeve pop confessional snoozer

+ Hamilton: Live broadcast from Broadway of Alexander Hamilton, the opening number to the smash musical that was as wonderfully original and it was commercially improbable.

+ Kendrick Lamar: Introduced by Don Cheadle. Less hip hop and more like beat poetry until the groove commenced. A fascinating mash up of The Blacker the Berry and Alright that incorporated rock, jazz, worldbeat and a lot of pyrotechnics.

+ Best acceptance speech: Lin-Manuel Miranda, who rapped his entire speech after Hamilton’s win for Best Musical Theater Album. As joyous and refreshing as the musical itself.

+ Alabama Shakes: Best Rock Performance for Don’t Wanna Fight. ‘I promise we’re going to keep going,’ proclaimed lead singer Brittany Howard. The band’s live performance of the tune later in the show, complete with the piercing James Brown squeal, was psychedelic soul heaven.

+ Adele: A disappointing delivery of All I Ask. Brash, noticeably off-key at times and horribly mixed. And what was that noise that sounded like someone pounding on a screen door as she sang?

+ Meghan Trainor: “I’m a mess. I have to cry.” An honest reaction to winning Best New Artist, but a flat choice.

+ Lady Gaga: An overly glammed up but obviously heartfelt tribute to David Bowie that compacted 10 of the latter’s hits into an exhaustive medley, from Space Oddity to Heroes.

+ Performance highlight of the night: Chris Stapleton, Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark, Jr. paid homage to B.B. King with a patient, elegant and effortlessly reverential version of the latter’s signature song, The Thrill is Gone.

+ Hollywood Vampires: Long in the tooth teaming of Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp saluted Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister with a loud and proud Ace of Spades.

+ Album of the Year: 1989 by Taylor Swift. Completely expected. No Chris Stapleton upset. No Alabama Shakes upset. Just business as usual.

+ Record of the Year: Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. Seriously? The Grammys couldn’t find anything better than that to celebrate? It was nice the crew openly acknowledged George Clinton in the audience, but really. This was wallpaper funk.

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