Archive for in performance

in performance: christian mcbride’s new jawn

Christian McBride. Photo by Anna Webber.

Having put his fellow members of the New Jawn quartet through the paces, either with generous solo passages or ensemble skirmishes that continually juggled elements of swing, blues and playfully scattered bop, Christian McBride stood alone on the stage of the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center last night with his longtime musical weapon of choice – the double bass.

An inventive composer, bandleader, sideman and all around jazz entrepreneur, this was what his storied career boiled down to – a few incredibly wondrous minutes by himself creating a solo full of classically designed depth, compositional drama and even a bit of artful showmanship, especially when his hands met and crossed each other on the instrument’s neck as the solo gathered momentum.

But what defined McBride during this brief passage wasn’t his technical command or even his improvisational prowess, although both were in remarkable form. No, the secret was how the solo was really a catalyst, a set up, for “Brother Malcolm,” a spacious McBride original from the aptly named “Christian McBride’s New Jawn” album that was released on Friday. As the bass subsided to join forces with drummer Justin Faulkner’s rumbling backdrop, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and trumpeter Josh Evans let the tune unfold like a meditation, much like a vintage John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders album might. As a result, this sublime blend of intro solo and ensemble prayer didn’t just highlight McBride the soloist, but McBride the band man, as well

The rest of the one hour, 50 minute performance – a major booking coup for the Origin Jazz Series’ second season – utilized the same formula but with a slightly different batting order. Strickland, for instance, switched to bass clarinet several times during the evening. He created an especially lustrous blues accent on the instrument that colored the Thelonious Monk-inspired “The Ballad of Ernie Washington” before switching back to sax to directly honor Monk with a suitably playful reading of “Misterioso.”

Sometimes the feel and tempos stayed cool and blue as on the McBride original “John Day.” In other instances, the bass and brass came in more punctuated stabs, as on a lively take on Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing.”  In the end, though, it was McBride who got in the last word with a woozy bass line during an encore tune that would drive, jerk backward and repeat. The bandleader told the audience the line was designed as a sort of drunken stroll. The tune’s name? “Walking Funny.”

in performance: chris stapleton/marty stuart and his fabulous superlatives/brent cobb

Chris Stapleton performing last night at Rupp Arena. Herald-Leader staff photograph by Rich Copley.

“I met 1,200 people tonight who claimed they were your cousin,” said Marty Stuart to Chris Stapleton onstage last night at Rupp Arena.

The Lexington-born Stapleton, in town for his first headlining performance as a solo artist, simply motioned to the sold out crowd of 17,000-plus before him and replied, “They’re all my cousins.”

One has to suppose from such a remark that this four-hour, three act country/Americana summit was, in fact, a family affair. Certainly, Stapleton, Stuart and show opener Brent Cobb did their utmost to uphold such a feeling. The lineup had the potential to be the strongest top-to-bottom country bill Rupp has hosted in years, maybe even decades. The good news? All three artists made good on the promise and then some by eschewing the pop-laden concessions and excesses that have, sadly, become standard fare at arena country shows for a roots music mix that upheld tradition without staying anchored to it.

Stapleton’s set was a true embarrassment of riches, beginning with his band, which last night boasted such all stars as guitarist/producer Dave Cobb, steel guitar great Paul Franklin and longtime Willie Nelson harmonica ace Mickey Raphael as well as the return of the singer’s wife Morgane Stapleton as harmony vocalist. But in the end, it was still Stapleton’s ability to craft a sound that struck a hearty balance between country tradition and Muscle Shoals-style soul, whether it was through his own expert songs or a generous roundup of interpretations and covers, that commanded the evening.

Opening with a chunky, electric take on “Midnight Train to Memphis,” Stapleton’s two hour set was a lesson in dynamics. Late into the evening, the program ran through, in succession, a playful cover of “I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” with Stuart, a lone duet with Morgane on “Where Rainbows Never Die” (an unexpected nugget from Stapleton’s bluegrass days with the SteelDrivers), a riveting and unaccompanied reading of “Whiskey and You,” a country-folk flavored “Broken Halos” and a riff-heavy and rockish “Second One to Know.”

That each revealed varying shades of Stapleton’s glorious, soul-scratched vocals is probably not big news. What was surprising, though, was how the show also revealed Stapleton to be a monster guitarist. Cementing that assessment was a lengthy revision of the “From a Room, Volume 1” country torch lament “I Was Wrong.” Performed as a trio piece by Stapleton, bassist (and Elkhorn City native) J.T. Cure and drummer Derek Mixon, the tune and the extended jam that grew out of it sounded less like traditionalist country and more like the kind of elemental psychedelia conjured by Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.

Though not an extensive talker onstage, Stapleton made clear his excitement at performing at the same arena where he saw Bon Jovi perform in 1987.

Fabulous Superlatives guitarist Kenny Vaughan and Marty Stuart onstage at Rupp Arena. Herald-Leader staff photograph by Rich Copley.

Stuart, rightly dubbed a “steward of country music” by Stapleton, preceded the headliner with a 45-minute set that operated as a roots music primer, via expert covers of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard staples, as well as an Americana mix that touched on bluegrass, rockabilly and, remarkably, surf music.

The country veteran sounded fully in charge when on his own, as shown by a riveting take on “Orange Blossom Special” played not on fiddle, but solo mandolin. But what ignited the set was the resourceful and joyous sound of Stuart’s longtime Fabulous Superlatives band. Whether it was through the twin guitar sound created when Stuart locked horns with Kenny Vaughan on the set-opening “Lesson in Love,” bassist Chris Scruggs’ high tenor pleading on an apropos “Blue Moon of Kentucky” or drummer Harry Stinson’s faithful update of Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” Stuart and the Superlatives served up a vital history lesson on country roots essentials. Hearing him egging the Rupp crowd on to sing along on the band’s version of “Ring of Fire” gives one a sliver of hope for the music’s future in a Florida-Georgia Line world.

Brent Cobb during his opening set at Rupp Arena. Herald-Leader staff photograph by Rich Copley.

Cobb’s half hour opening set was a blast, as well, from the a capella intro to “Diggin’ Holes” through the rural comeuppance of “Down in the Gulley” to the country-funk conclusion of “If I Don’t See Ya.” The Georgia songsmith had no problem playing on Wildcat turf, either. He honored his host audience with a fiery version of Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars Cadillacs,” a wonderful channeling of one country roots generation by another.

in performance: brent cobb

Brent Cobb.

After easing out of “King of Alabama,” a rootsy but vivid remembrance of songsmith Wayne Mills, who was shot to death in a Nashville bar/barbeque joint, Brent Cobb wound down with guitarist Mike Harris bringing the tune to a wiry electric conclusion. “That’ll do,” Harris remarked. Yes, indeed. It did nicely.

As a warm-up for tonight’s sold out Rupp Arena performance with Chris Stapleton, Cobb offered a nine song in-store set with Harris this afternoon at CD Central that will likely prove, given the modest stage time opening acts are afforded at arena shows, as long as his Rupp outing.

Cobb packed a lot into his 35 minutes at CD Central. The expected priority of in-store shows is to promote new product, which he did with five songs from his splendid 2018 album, “Providence Canyon” that ranged from the hangover prayer “Mornin’s Gonna Come” to a plain-speaking warning to rural intruders called “.30-06.” But the program, brief as it seemed, was loose and unstructured enough for other fine surprises to surface.  Among them, a rewind to “Down in the Gulley” (a wild account from 2016’s “Shine On Rainy Day” of Cobb’s grandfather’s pump house being mistakenly raided as a moonshine distillery), a suitably rustic cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Swamp Music” and even a soundcheck snippet of the oddly nostalgic “Back When Daddy Smoked,” a tune Cobb said he composed the previous evening.

The advantage of an in-store show over an arena outing? In Cobb’s case, it was a chance to examine the striking rural sentiments within his narratives, especially in ballads like “Lorene.” But it was also a kick to hear Harris lightly unload a solo full of blues-savvy soul at the end of “.30-06” that underscored the tune’s rebel heart as well as Cobb’s acoustic accompaniment and Muscle Shoals-style singing.
All in all, a fun, intimate and insightful view of an Americana original. Now, on to the big house.

in performance: the wood brothers/nicole atkins

The Wood Brothers, from left: Jano Rix, Oliver Wood and Chris Wood. Photo by Alysse Gafkjen.

After nearly an hour’s worth of tunes that began as a rootsy acoustic incantation and ended with a rhythm-savvy charge worthy of a New Orleans street parade, the Wood Brothers all but shut the show down last night at the Kentucky Theatre. With the trio huddled around a single microphone, the music was pared down to an almost primordial level of folk aesthetics.

There, vocalist Oliver Wood, sibling bassist Chris Wood and percussionist Jano Rix (doubling, at this moment, on melodica) stood playing the faintest of music in the faintest of light. Specifically, what was summoned was the title tune to the 2013 album “The Muse.” The overall feel, though, was that of a decades-old séance, a mood Chris Wood dubbed “O, Wood Brothers, Where Art Thou?” The song also served as the eye of a hurricane, one that merrily slapped together blues, folk, pop, a hint of country and a touch of jazz for a sound that rolled with the assurance of a freight train for just under two hours. Not coincidentally, a cover of the 60-plus year old Elizabeth Cotton folk gem “Freight Train” was later served as a lullaby-like encore before a barnstorming blues-rock mash-up of “Honey Jar” closed the performance for real.

What continually made the Wood Brothers such a distinct and intriguing combo was, ironically, a very familiar formula – a strong, unified sound made up of three distinct components, all of which were in top form last night.

Oliver Wood proved the unassuming frontman, an artist whose singing was as focused and unfussy as his playing. He served as the soulful carnival barker for the Crescent City-flavored “One More Day” but also folded the music into darker yet ultimately warmer corners for the campfire-like confessional “Sing About It.”

While his guitar work, especially wiry steel guitar leads utilized throughout the show, served as functional color for the music, the trio’s pilot was clearly Chris Wood. Playing the first half of the program by applying an atypically jazzy dexterity to the upright bass (atypical, at least, for a non-jazz outing) and then adding thunderous leads and grooves to the second half on an electric Hofner bass, brother Chris underscored the show’s impressive rhythmic and stylistic dexterity. He also took an absorbing vocal lead on “The Shore,” a groove parade built from a bass/harmonica framework that remained spacious enough for a few shades of guitar psychedelia to shine through.

Riding shotgun throughout all of this was Rix, a stand-up percussionist (on the guitar-shaped percussion device dubbed the shuitar) as well as a sit down drummer that regularly doubled on keyboards. From his Rhodes-like keyboard runs during a cover of “Big Boss Man” late in the set to the mix of ragged keys and drums that produced a sound nicely reminiscent of The Band on “Sparkling Wine,” Rix was the fire that fueled the Wood Brothers’ inventive engine room.

An especially nice bonus to last night’s performance was a 35 minute opening set by Nashville-by-way-of-New Jersey songstress Nicole Atkins. An artist with an almost cinematic feel for pop tradition, as well as a voice capable of showing off numerous shades from such a scope, Atkins worked her way into a sense of pop grandeur with “Cry, Cry, Cry,” sang with the reach and aim of Roy Orbison on “A Little Crazy” and echoed numerous girl group sensibilities from the 1960s on the set-closing “Listen Up.” A commanding introduction to an especially fine performance evening.

in performance: noam pikelny and stuart duncan

noam pikelny (left) and stuart duncan.

“We walked all the way from Nashville,” remarked Noam Pikelny as he and Stuart Duncan entered The Burl last night with their instruments – at least, the ones not already awaiting them onstage – still packed in cases as if they were carting around luggage. But the two quickly made themselves at home with their first banjo/fiddle duet concert in Lexington and their first collaborative show of any kind in two years.

The resulting display of sterling acoustic music prided itself in genre juggling. Bluegrass may have sat the heart of their playing, especially in the instrumental runs that distinguished the show-opening medley of “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek” and “Mason’s Apron.” But even there, the two peeled any grassy intent back to a sense of traditional Celtic fancy.

Another medley paired the Shetland fiddle inspirations of “Laird O’Drumblair” with the more New Grass flavored Pikelny original “My Mother Thinks I’m a Lawyer.” The merger was so playfully but deftly executed that the two tunes sounded like they grew up around the block from each other.

From there, the banjo/fiddle combination appropriated music previously excavated by John Hartford, Merle Haggard, Tommy Jarrell and, perhaps expectedly, Bill Monroe. But for all of the sense of tradition that surrounded the music of the latter, Pikelny and Duncan chose a decidedly unobvious route to travel – namely one that took them to works interpreted four decades ago by the maverick Monroe fiddler Kenny Baker. But the arrangements, by Pikelny, of “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” and “Wheel Hoss” transposed much of the fiddle charm of Baker’s versions to banjo. Still, the resulting dialogue with fiddler Duncan gave both players ample room to survey the compositional depth of Monroe’s music as well as the invention within Baker’s playing.

Mostly, though, the performance was a relaxed acoustic evening with a pair of unassuming virtuosos. Banjoist Pikelny makes his way to the region every few years, either with his day-job band Punch Brothers or his solo work. Duncan, however, almost never performs in Central Kentucky in such an intimate setting. Worth the walk from Nashville? Absolutely. What’s a bit of lost shoe leather when the music was this fine?


in performance: brandon seabrook trio/quin kirchner quartet

Quin Kirchner.

Just a few songs into his set last night at the University of Kentucky’s Niles Gallery, Brandon Seabrook shared a story of a chance encounter at a gas station with saxophonist and vanguard free jazz ambassador Anthony Braxton.

“It was like meeting the Pope,” the guitarist said.

Given their respective performance fields, that’s understandable. The level of immediacy and abstraction favored by guitarist Seabrook, cellist Daniel Levin and bassist Henry Fraser would have probably pleased Braxton, an artist a generation removed from Seabrook, to no end. Stylistically, though the rhythmic shards and brittle electric riffs better resembled the more experimental music of Marc Ribot. In other words, the Brooklyn-based Seabrook employed pace, rhythmic displacement, pedal-induced echo effects and ensemble phrases that often became stuttering arpeggios to fuel the tunes from his new “Convulsionaries” albums. The album’s six compositions constituted the entirety of the Seabrook Trio’s set.

The selling point to such purposeful disharmony, though, was watching how visibly involved Seabrook was as he tore through the jagged edges of “Crux Accumulator” and the set-opening “Bovicidal.” These were not easy avenues to navigate for timid ears. But if the resulting music wasn’t immediately accessible, it became, thanks to Seabook’s very outward performance demeanor, quite inviting.

This Outside the Spotlight performance was a double-bill closed by out by the Quin Kirchner Quintet, which was reduced to a four-piece unit following the single-evening recruitment of trombonist Nick Broste by pop maverick Bonnie Prince Billy.

That hardly cut into the orchestrated colors Chicago drummer Kirchner created. Operating with the novel front line instrumentation of tenor saxophonist Nate Lepine and bass clarinetist Jason Stein, the group often recalled the late ‘60s recordings of Pharoah Sanders in the way percussion and winds created dense and almost danceable grooves.

The nods to the past weren’t coincidental. The bulk of the set was devoted to works by such cross generational stylists as Kelan Phil Cohran (a sleek reading of “Sahara” assuredly piloted by bassist Matt Ulery but initiated by Kirchner on what seemed to be an amplified kalimba), Andrew Hill and Charles Mingus (a regally rhythmic mash-up of “Limbo” and “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife are Some Jive Ass Slippers”) and Paul Motian (whose “Mumbo Jumbo” became a showcase for Lepine and Stein but ultimately a set-up piece for the only drum solo of the evening).

The curiosity in Kirchner’s set was the occasional use of sampled effects and electronics, most notably on the piano mimicry that introduced the original “Together We Can Explore the Furthest Beyond” (which screamed Sanders just in its title). But such augmentation was modestly utilized to enhance rather than puncture the group’s rich and retro feel.

in performance: thomas rhett/brett young/midland

Thomas Rhett. Photo by John Shearer.

Within the space of about 15 minutes last night at Rupp Arena, Thomas Rhett offered up two songs, both metaphorical nods to fashionable attire that, whether intentional or not, spoke to the stylistic preferences of his modern minded, but quite appealing performance.

The first was “T-Shirt,” a blast of hook-heavy pop largely devoid of country sentiment save for its almost requisite thematic promiscuity. The garment in question, of course, is admired most when it’s being worn by someone other than its owner.

The other was a pert cover of “Suit and Tie,” a tune that was also paraded at Rupp two weeks earlier by its originator, Justin Timberlake. Last night, though, it possessed a pop formality that served as a coda to the 2013 Rhett party piece “Make Me Wanna.”

It was an intriguing dichotomy. Rhett, donning a t-shirt onstage like the one detailed in the former tune while embracing a country-less pop exuberance the Timberlake song strived for.

A suit-and-tie guy in a t-shirt world – that was essentially the profile Rhett adopted for his Rupp debut.

One could dismiss such an identity crisis as the by-product of just another country crossover wannabe were it not for the fact that Rhett navigated the pop highways and boulevards of his music with such assuredness that it was hard not getting swept up in the fun, whether it was through the broad dance-pop assertions within “Gimme Some of That,” the summery bounce bolstering the title tune to his 2017 album “Life Changes” or the lighter and abundantly radio-savvy feel of “Star of the Show.”

Add to that an audience-friendly demeanor that seemed quite genuine and generous and you had a rather winning pop presentation, even if its design seemed more indicative of, say, Los Angeles, than Nashville.

Speaking of Southern California, that was the pre-Nashville homeland of Brett Young, who preceded Rhett at Rupp last night. He operated from the same stylistic plateau as the headliner, but appeared nowhere near as comfortable onstage. In fact, it’s a safe bet, judging by his often stiff and choreographed movements, Young is likely very new to this kind of performance setting.

That was underscored by the fact that the singer seemed most relaxed when he sat down to sing the hit ballads “Mercy” and “In Case You Didn’t Know.” The very youngish Rupp crowd of 11,000 (an impressive turnout for a “country” show on a Thursday night) didn’t mind, though, as they awarded Young with a kind of American Idol-level zeal.

In all honesty, the hit of the evening was opening act Midland, an Austin, Tx. trio (augmented by a guitarist and drummer) whose members dressed like they stepped out of 1971 and sounded like they stepped out of 1981.

A little bit retro, a little Lone Star honky tonk and largely unassuming in their presentation of tunes like “Check Cashin’ Country” (song title of the year there, folks) and “Burn Out,” Midland mainstays Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy made the most daring statement of the evening – that it was cool to actually sound like a country band.

in performance: justin timberlake

Justin Timberlake.

A certain irony revealed itself last night at Rupp Arena, triggered by the fact Justin Timberlake named his current tour after his recent “Man of the Woods” album. After all, the title conjures all sorts of naturalistic images, many of which became artfully visible through the use of multiple see-through video screens that rolled up and down during the two-hour concert, making these living postcards seem more like dancing holograms.

But that came later in the set. When Timberlake and his 20-plus member posse of singers, dancers and band members entered amid a light show that would have made Pink Floyd envious, the feel was almost space age. Then when the pop celebrity took to dancing amid showers of lasers for the show-opening “Filthy,” the concept of a man of the woods didn’t just seem foreign. It seemed non-existent.

Timberlake would, in time, slow the show down to a modestly more relaxed pace that played more to his tour and album’s stated theme – as in an acoustic sit down set around a makeshift campfire that meshed amiable hits like “Until the End of Time” with covers of tunes by Fleetwood Mac, Lauryn Hill and even John Denver that were assigned to his backup singers.

All of this woodsy congeniality was essentially a diversion from a program that began like shot from a cannon with a dance-pop party drive that didn’t even remotely dissipate until Timberlake formally greeted the crowd of 18,000 nearly an hour into the show.

From a visual standpoint, the concert was a stunner that played out on a series of three stages utilizing the entire arena floor to create an in-the-round feel. But audiences members were also planted in and around the ‘S’ formation of the stages, including one near the middle of the floor that included, no joke, its own bar.

Through that, Timberlake and his entourage moved and grooved through the beat-heavy bravado of “SexyBack,” the Marvin Gaye-ish pop-soul of “Suit and Tie” and the blasting synth-savvy orchestration of “Cry Me a River.” What unraveled was a masterful pop display with a visual aptitude that proved fashionable and functional for Timberlake’s tireless workouts.

Go beyond that, however, and things were a little problematic. For all of his physicality and good-natured exuberance, Timberlake never really caught fire as a vocalist last night. His appealing high tenor vocals were noticeably thin and, ultimately, little match for the musical weight of such a massive band. There were a few intriguing moments, like the acoustic revelry summoned during “Drink You Away” and the very focused and organically anthemic delivery of “Say Something” (far and away the best of the “Man of the Woods” tunes). But for a sizable portion of the show, Timberlake relegated himself to chief cheerleader and dance captain by letting his backup singers – and, at times, even the audience – tackle much of the heavy vocal lifting.

The other difficulty was the sound. The was one of the weakest, muddiest sound mixes for a major Rupp concert in recent memory with bass drowning out much the brass and percussive finesse of Timberlake’s band – a surprise indeed given how sharp the visual presentation of the performance was.

Such was life last night for pop music’s man of the woods – a performance star with energy to burn and audience-friendly charm by the truckload, but also with a surprising hesitancy of letting loose on the dance floor, or the pseudo-great outdoors, with a commanding howl.

in performance: cortex

Cortex. From left: Kristoffer Berre Alberts, Gard Nilssen, Ola Hoyer and Thomas Johansson. Photo by Peter Gannushkin

The Norwegian quartet Cortex set a quiet precedent when it first played the Outside the Spotlight series three years ago this week. It displayed the kind of improvisatory prowess favored by many of the more abstract minded free jazz units that have been guests of the series over the years. But what distinguished Cortex in 2015 was its sense of balance, its ability to embrace composition and groove as complimentary vehicles for the wilder improvs.

That kind of cunning was placed on abundant and appealing display again earlier tonight for an OTS return at the University of Kentucky’s Niles Gallery. Here, Cortex used foundations of blues, bop and coarse swing as enticements for more corrosive mischief.

The show opening “Standby” placed the band’s stylistic extremes in motion, locking in a unison melody line established by trumpeter Thomas Johansson and tenor saxophonist Kristoffer Berre Alberts. Once the very Mingus-like cool of bassist Ola Hoyer was added in, the tune embraced an almost deceptive sense of swing. But the momentum remained spacious enough for drummer Gard Nilssen to guide the sound through rougher melodic waters and back to safe harbor again.

On “Chaos,” one of two tunes played from Cortex’s recent “Avant Garde Party Music” album, the sound turned more turbulent with a cyclical horn phrase by Johansson and Albert that summoned the band’s disparate melodic strategies like a reveille before dispersing them again.

There were appealing variations of these excursions, as well. “Lament” simmered the music to a slow blues boil while the set closing “Legal Tender” let the rhythm section loose with a fun, rubbery groove that Albert took several deconstructed swipes at on alto sax.

Topping it all was the new “I 797 B,” a tune named after the visa forms the band members had to contend with for its current United States tour (a trek that has already had two canceled dates due to Hurricane Florence). Like all of Cortex’s music, there was brightness to the melodic construction but also enough trap doors for various solos to break with the sense of musical order and, for a few bars, bust the room up.

in performance: ross hammond

Ross Hammond.

So what does an industrious solo guitarist with jazz, folk-blues and world music leanings do when a week’s worth of gigs get scrubbed? He heads homeward and plays for the faithful there.

That’s what Lexington-born, Sacramento, Calif.-bred Ross Hammond did this week. After a string of concert dates in Carolinas were cancelled due to the uninvited presence of Hurricane Florence, the guitarist landed some last minute pick-gigs in Central Kentucky. This afternoon’s set at CD Central was the only appearance out of Hammond’s last five scheduled shows that didn’t fall to Florence.

With the remains of the storm not due to reach Kentucky until late tonight, the guitarist created an attractive living room ambience for the South Limestone music store during a set of instrumental tunes played on steel and 6 string acoustic guitar.

The jazz accents within this performance were present in Hammond’s almost conversational sense of improvisation. But, as a whole, the set operated from a more roots-conscious, folk-blues base. The opening “Codes,” for instance, used the resonator guitar – in this case, an instrument built in Sacramento out of a vintage turkey roasting pan (seriously; check out for details) – as a slide savvy vehicle for a wiry, but relaxed blues melody that gradually opened itself up to a bit of Eastern intrigue.

This was a game plan that played out more boldly as the set progressed. While a steel guitar reading of the blues chestnut “Sitting on Top of the World” steered to appealing back porch gospel and the nimble “McDowelling” (on the 6 string) relished in more ruggedly textured folk-blues, the title tune to Hammond’s 2017 album “Follow Your Heart” (also on the 6 string) let in another pronounced breeze from the East.

That set the stage for “May You Be Happy,” a work recorded with Indian singer and vocal improviser Jay Nair but presented here as a solo mash-up of Hindustani spiritualism and antique Western blues. The feel was very raga-esque in its contemplative stance but also folk-rooted given the steel’s expressive range and vibrancy.

All in all, an immensely inviting homecoming from a Kentucky guitar pro seeking shelter from the storm.

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