Archive for misc.

bob’s back

sammy shelor

sammy shelor will perform a BOB concert with the lonesome river band at natasha’s on june 9.

Your best local concert festival buddy is returning for a second year. Yes indeed, BOB is back.

Short for Best of Bluegrass, the weeklong series of predominantly free concerts debuted in 2013 as a celebratory prelude to the 40th annual Festival of the Bluegrass. BOB proved an immediate hit in bringing patrons downtown to a variety of venues before passing the ball to the Festival of the Bluegrass over the weekend.

This year, BOB is bigger in scope with a broader performance schedule that will include free shows by such established national bluegrass acts as Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain and the Lonesome River Band.

At a press conference yesterday at Natasha’s that announced in the initial BOB lineup, Mayor Jim Gray said the event helps preserve and fortify one of Lexington’s most enduring cultural traditions.

“We use the words potential and possibility when we think about our rich legacy and history,” Gray said. “We’re one year short of 240 years of being a city and this music is so much a part of it. Continuing and embracing that legacy and strengthening that fabric is a very good deal.”

While several of the performers at BOB are still to be announced, one the biggest confirmed concerts will kick off the festival on June 9 – a double-bill featuring the traditionally inclined North Carolina troupe Town Mountain and the veteran Lonesome River Band, still with multi-award winning banjoist Sammy Shelor, at Natasha’s. A bluegrass themed program for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour will precede the show at the Lyric Theatre.

Another heavyweight act, the Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Ranges (which just released a concert recording with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell) brings BOB to Pauley’s Toasted Barrel on June 11 following a Red Barn Radio program at ArtsPlace with the Misty Mountain String Band. Three-time reigning International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, takes BOB to the heart of downtown with a Thursday Night Live performance on June 12.

All of the shows, save for the WoodSongs and Red Barn Radio tapings, will be free. Still to be announced will be BOB shows on June 10 at Southland Jamboree, Willie’s Locally Known and Al’s Bar.

This year’s roster at the ticketed Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park, which runs from June 12-15, includes The Grascals, Seldom Scene, Mountain Heart and the current IBMA Vocal Group and Entertainer of the Year Gibson Brothers.

A joint venture between the Lexington Area Music Alliance and numerous local sponsors and organizers, BOB is welcoming the involvement of LexTran this year, which will help transport patrons from the Horse Park (especially campers arriving earlier in the week) to downtown.

“What we are about to present is some of the best bluegrass music in America, if not the world, for free,” said LAMA president Tom Martin.

For more information on BOB, go to www.bluegrasslex.com. For the Festival of the Bluegrass, go to www.festivalofthebluegrass.com.

grammy post mortem 2014

daft punk

night of the ‘bots: daft punk rules at the grammys.

The top awards went to the French born “robots” of Daft Punk who, in a refreshingly change for an awards show, didn’t utter a word of acceptance all night long. But, as has been the case in most Grammy telecasts in recent years, all points of interest went to the performances.

While ‘who won what’ was largely beside the point, The Musical Box decided to distribute 10 mock awards of our own for our annual Grammy post mortem

+ Best power couple: Beyonce and Jay-Z. Together, they could probably buy and sell the entire pop universe. Onstage, during the show-opening Drunk in Love, they were just your everyday husband and wife in heat. Jay-Z also got bonus points for the best acceptance speech later in the evening, which he directed to daughter Blue Ivy: “Look, daddy’s got a gold sippy cup for you.”

+ Best dexterity: Pink, for bends, twirls and contortions while being suspended over the Grammy audience. When the singer was earthbound again to sing Just Give Me a Reason, she looked like she could snap duet partner Nate Ruess in two like a twig.

+ Best nostalgia moment: Ringo Starr. The much ballyhooed duet with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney was good fun. But Ringo’s delivery of his 1973 hit Photograph was full of such simple, effective pageantry that one almost forgot how devastatingly sad the song was.

+ Best party moment: Daft Punk with Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williamsand Nile Rodgers. The Daft Punk dance hit Get Lucky took Record of the Year honors, but last night’s live version threw ageless pop-soul legend Wonder into the mix. Everybody in the all-star audience seemed to get their groove on.

+ Best utility man: Lang Lang. The celebrated pianist turned rock star and cranked up the histronics to perform One with Metallica and then returned to his classical security base with a brief but solemn tribute to the late Van Cliburn.

+ Best sisterhood: Carole King and Sara Bareilles. Representatives of two pop generations, each possessed with boundless vitality, squared off with nothing but two pianos and obvious mutual admiration to back them up.

+ Best affirmation: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Trombone Shorty, Mary Lambert, Queen Latifah and Madonna. The occasion stole the show in a faith-driven version of One Love that served as a live backdrop for the simultaneous marriage of over 30 mixed and same sex couples.

+ Best surprise: Kasey Musgraves. Continuing a tradition of upsets in the Best Country Album category, Musgraves’ smart, open and uncompromising Same Trailer Different Park beat out cookie-cutter top sellers by Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton.

+ Best simplicity: John Legend. As with the King/Bariellies duet, pop-soul star Legend performed All of Me by accompanying himself on piano. The simple beauty was underscored when Taylor Swift followed by turning the piano-fueled All Too Well into a bombastic, self-involved mess.

+ Best parting shot: Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Lindesy Buckingham and Dave Grohl. Daft Punk won top honors for Album of the Year with a surprisingly touching acceptance speech by ‘70s popster Paul Williams. But Buckingham and NIN chieftain Trent Reznor made sure everyone went home with their ears ringing.

saturday night with jason and neko

neko case

neko case performs with jason isbell tonight for ‘austin city limits.’

Set the recorders to PBS if you’re heading out this evening. Tonight’s installment of the champion Lone Star performance series Austin City Limits looks to be a fine one. Splitting the bill will be Jason Isbell and Neko Case. Both released killer recordings last year that made my Top 10 album list for 2013.

Isbell is the ex-Drive By Trucker whose songs have regularly reflected soul shadings of his Alabama heritage. His recent Southeastern album is an affirmation of a life changed by sobriety and marriage even though the demons that have been shed leave a decisive mark on the songs.

Case remains one of the most uncompromising songstresses of her generation. Her sixth and newest album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, is also an affirmation – which becomes almost anthemic on songs like Man – in the wake of loss. As always, one of modern pop’s most exact, distinct and pure singing voices leads the charge.

Spoiler alert. Here are the setlists for each artist:

Isbell: Flying Over Water, Cover Me Up, Live Oak, Elephant, Alabama Pines, Super 8.

Case: Night Still Comes, Red Tide, Calling Cards, Hold On Hold On, I Wish I Was the Moon; Ragtime; Man.

Austin City Limits aits at 11:30 p.m. tonight on KET-TV.

2013 concert scrapbook

avett brothers-paul-hooper

scott and seth avett performing at rupp arena in november. photo by paul-hooper.

If you had nothing but television to guide you, 2013 would go down as a year where country music ruled the commercial roost and the artistic advancement of contemporary pop was halted by something called twerking.Luckily, live music is just that – a performance art that was ignited not on TV screens, but in venues throughout Lexington over the past 12 months. Some concerts played to arena size crowds in the thousands while others had only handfuls of die-hards and the simply curious at dance studios and theatres to cheer them on. All were equally vital.

Here is a scrapbook of recollections from a few of the finer moments. It’s not a Top 10 list, mind you, but a simply an overview of 10 outstanding concerts that took place in 10 different performance venues within Lexington during 2013.

+ Richard Thompson Electric Trio at the Kentucky Theatre (April) – When Thompson chooses to favor electric music in a performance setting, one can be easily overwhelmed by his remarkably versed guitar play, especially when he evokes Jimi Hendrix by playing a cover of Hey Joe. Luckily, the veteran songsmith’s extraordinary compositions remained at the helm of this keen mix of vintage British folk-rock and contemporary Americana.

+ The Engines at Mecca (April) – The ongoing Outside the Spotlight Series of free jazz and improvisational music performances finished off its 12th season this fall. But its strongest outing of the year came in the spring when The Engines – a quartet of Chicago instrumentalists that have all performed here previously in other ensembles – convened for music that shifted from cool balladry to blasts of improvisational immediacy.

+ Sturgill Simpson at Cosmic Charlie’s (May) – The modest indie awareness generated around the roots country musings of Breathitt County native Simpson was one of Kentucky’s great unsung breakthroughs of 2013. The former vocalist for the Lexington alt-country troupe Sunday Valley channeled several epic inspirations (Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley) but still offered a rustic, restless country voice that was very much his own.

+ Alison Brown at Willie’s Locally Known (June) – A masterful instrumentalist, as well as the chieftain of Compass Records, Brown continues to use banjo-based bluegrass as a springboard for explorations into folk, pop and jazz. But this return outing at Willie’s also bolstered a week-long celebration leading up to the Festival of the Bluegrass called Best of Bluegrass (BOB). It became one of the year’s great music outreach events.

+ Buddy Guy at the Lexington Opera House (June) – With only weeks to go before his 77th birthday, Chicago blues giant Guy returned to ignite the inspirations of musical forefathers like Muddy Waters and Little Walter with electric bravado. But the resulting music was more in keeping with ’60 psychedelic rock than traditional blues. As was Guy’s way, everything was served up with a joyous gospel-like fervor.

+ Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom (August) – In the eight months since his previous Buster’s show, Isbell released the finest album of his young solo career, Southeastern.  He performed the better part of it here with solemn vigor, along with favorites from his Drive-By Truckers days (Never Gonna Change) and a killer encore cover of the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.

+ California Guitar Trio at Natasha’s Bistro (October) – For its first Lexington sellout, guitarists Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya ran the gamut from Bach to (Dave) Brubeck but left room for fine original works (The Marsh) and hybrids (the cowboy infested Doors mesh-up Ghost Riders on the Storm). That the trio was so unassuming about the stylistic borders it crossed made the music even more fun.

+ Jerry Douglas at the Lyric Theatre (November) – Few artists have become as synonymous with the instrument they play as Jerry Douglas has with the dobro. For this rare visit to his former hometown outside of performances with Alison Krauss and Union Station, Douglas used the dobro as the lone instrumental color for an evening of  Leadbelly-based roots music, Chick Corea-inspired jazz and Josh Graves-directed bluegrass.

+ The Avett Brothers at Rupp Arena (November) – Throughout the past decade, when Lexington watched the Avetts grow from a novel club act to an arena sized hit, the level of songcraft within the group never seemed on par with its instrumental ingenuity. But with a strong new album (Magpie and the Dandelion) to promote, this Rupp return presented an Avetts outing that sounded, at long last, complete.

+ Arturo Sandoval and the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony at the Singletary Center for the Arts (December) – It started as a classically-dominated program. But the jazzman within Grammy winning trumpeter Sandoval couldn’t be harnessed. By the show’s conclusion, he was wailing away on Duke Ellington’s Caravan and playfully commandeering the UK Wind Symphony for an impromptu and jubilant master class on the art of jazz spontaneity.

kennedy center honors 2013

kennedy center honors

inductees for the 2013 kennedy center honors – (back): billy joel, carlos santana, herbie hancock; (front): shirley maclaine, martina arroyo.

One my favorite bits of post-Christmas holiday TV viewing occurs tonight with CBS-TV’s presentation of the 36th Kennedy Center Honors. It’s an awards program, of sorts, that celebrates career achievement in nearly every avenue of the performing arts.

Since it’s done with recipients announced ahead of time and performed in the company of the President of the United States, the usual industry hoopla is absent. What we are left with is a card of five honorees with extended and well-conceived tributes. The later is split between a sort of career highlights reel and a live performance tribute.

The performance section tends to be a tricky matter, especially since the honoree has to be content to sit in the audience and watch what others make of their work. Sometimes the results are a frightful mess, like a Bruce Springsteen tribute two years ago that hammered home the fact that no one matches the fervency of the Boss’ work better than the Boss himself. But some have been nothing short of transcendent, like Bettye LaVette’s torch song reinvention of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me that left Who mainstays Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey visibly slack jawed.

This year’s recipients are vanguard jazz/pop instrumentalist Herbie Hancock, stage and screen actress Shirley MacLaine, rock/pop pianist/composer Billy Joel, guitarist/bandleader Carlos Santana and opera legend Martina Arroyo.

Musically, the Hancock and Santana tributes hold the most promise. Steve Winwood and Buddy Guy have been announced as participants for the latter’s tribute (the show was actually taped in Washington on Dec. 8) while Joel’s salute will likely enlist high profile help that includes Garth Brooks, who earned one of his early hits with a cover of Joel’s Shameless.

But look for the presenters to be become the true surprises of the evening. Tony Bennett saluting Joel? Bill O’Reilly honoring Hancock? Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor praising Arroyo? That’s the scheduled lineup. Not even Hollywood could have conceived of a roster that wild.

keith at 70

keith richards

keith richards.

Greetings this day go out to Keith Richards, the third – and easily most improbable – of the Rolling Stones to reach 70.

It is a milestone that many once thought inconceivable. Here was Richards, once the poster child for rock ‘n’ roll’s darkest and most self-destructive extremes, now serving as one of its most distinguished elder statesmen.

Like so many rock pioneers, the mythology of Richards’ public persona has often overshadowed his artistic accomplishments. And his accomplishments have been huge. As a songwriter, he remains half of a team responsible for a British pop catalog that is second only to the Lennon-McCartney works of the Beatles, while as a musician he is perhaps the most imitated of any rock guitarist outside of Bo Diddley.

The latter isn’t due to any thrillseeking abilities as a soloist, even though he possesses plenty of them (seek out his white hot burst in the middle of Sad, Sad, Sad from the 1989 Stones album Steel Wheels as one especially neglected example). Richards’ legacy primarily stems from his gifts as a rhythm player. He has created an entire vocabulary out of the simple but intoxicating riffs that ignited Satisfaction, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up and any number of Stones classics.

Of course, the myth is also worn like a badge of honor, especially onstage. There, Richards continues to pilot an ageless battalion of hits. I remember thinking after the Stones last played Rupp Arena (32 years ago this month) that I was witnessing the last go-round for Richards, who resembled a wiry zombie at the time.

Today, looking more like a weathered pirate, he may wear every bit of his 70 years within the tufts of grey hair and crisscrossing lines that detail his face. Lucky for us, though, this devilish rock ‘n’ roll survivor still taps into some limitless wellspring of youth whenever he plays/

“The grind is never the stage performance,” Richard wrote in his 2010 autobiography, Life.. “I can play the same song again and again, year after year… The real release is getting on stage. Once we’re up there doing it, it’s sheer fun and joy.”

OTSX2

frode gjerstad

frode gjerstad returns to the outside the spotlight series with VC/DC tonight at mecca.

Forgive the late notice, but if you are at all a fan of the Outside the Spotlight series that has been bringing world class improvisational and free jazz-based concerts to Lexington since 2002, then set aside tonight and Sunday evening. OTS founder Ross Compton has two fine performances on tap that will likely close out the series for 2013.

Tonight brings Norwegian clarinetist Frode Gjerstad back to Lexington. This time, though, his band will be the industrious quartet VC/DC. It features cellist and OTS mainstay Fred Lonberg-Holm along with two additional ambassadors from Norway – drummer Stale Liavik Solberg and vocalist Stine Janvin Motland.

Don’t mistake the presence of a singer as any kind of mainstream concession. Motland is credited on VC/DC’s two albums, the newest of which is Insult, not with vocals but with “voice.” As such, her wordless singing works as a fourth instrument in the band’s majestically fractured improvisations.

On Tap Sunday will be the trio of reed player Keefe Jackson and cellist Tomeka Reid, both regulars of the same fruitful Chicago improvisational music community Holm currently calls home, and Swiss bass clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Christoph Erb.

Jackson has been a frequent OTS visitor over the years, having played here as a member of the Chicago Luzern Exchange, The Aram Shelton Quartet and Fast Citizens (the latter is a unique Chicago collective that alternates leadership roles with each album; Jackson led the debut lineup of the band). Erb, on the other hand, has devoted an entire series of recordings on his Veto label to summit projects between Chicago and Swiss artists.

The Jackson-Erb-Reid Trio is largely an outgrowth of a two cello/two bass clarinet group that recently issued a recording called Duope. Curiously the fourth ensemble member on the album is Holm.

Both concerts will be held at the Mecca dance studio at 948 Manchester St. Both have a start time of 8 p.m. Both come with a suggested donation admission of $5 (still a ridiculous bargain). Both are not to be missed.

‘WoodSongs’ in Ireland

Mary Black 2a

Mary Black will be among the guests of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour‘s live Internet broadcast from Ireland.

Clear your calendars for the rest of the day. We’re all going to Ireland – via cyberspace, that is.

The WoodSongs Old-Time Hour is set to tape two programs today from the Convention Center in Dublin. As with the shows taped in Lexington at the Lyric Theatre, the final results won’t officially air for a month or more. But both programs can viewed as they happen beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Folk-book.com.

Joining host Michael Johnathon in the second hour will be We Banjo Three and Niall Toner, ensembles that will blend elements of Celtic folk music and American bluegrass.

But the first hour enlists two members of Irish music royalty – vocalist Mary Black and singer-songwriter Paul Brady.

A veteran of the great Irish traditional music band De Dannan, Black devoted herself exclusively to a solo career beginning in 1986. Her stark, exact and powerfully emotive vocals have been featured on albums of contemporary as well as traditional songs, the best of which remains 1989’s career defining No Frontiers. She has since collaborated with such disparate American artists as Joan Baez and Steve Martin.

What De Dannan was for Black, the even more traditionally minded Planxty was for Brady a decade earlier. Brady and fellow Planxty member Andy Irvine struck out as a duo after the band’s demise, issuing Andy Irvine and Paul Brady. To this day, the 1976 album remains among the finer works recorded by either artist. Brady’s own albums flirted with commercial aspirations after that, but the greatest attention his songs received came when a variety of celebs – with Tina Turner and Bonnie Raitt leading the pack – covered them.

For more info on the broadcast, go to www.woodsongs.com.

 

First hits from Boomslang 2013

adult

Detroit “electro-clash” duo Adult will perform this fall at Boomslang.

The initial lineup for WRFL-FM’s fifth annual Boomslang festival has been announced. As usual, the roster is ripe with decidedly off-the-radar sounds and styles.

Specific venues, dates, times and ticket prices are yet to be announced, but Boomslang will run through the weekend of Sept. 20-22. For more info, go to Boomslangfest.com.

Here is the first crop of confirmed acts:

+ Saul Willams: Poet, writer actor and hip-hop stylist from Paris by way of Newburgh, New York.

+ Adult:  Detroit ‘electro-clash’ duo of Jack Vulpine and Nicola Kuperus. ‘Electro-clash’ essentially is slightly downcast electronica with strong pop elements.

+ Jason Lescalleet and Graham Lambkin: Experimental duo that creates soundscapes of primitive sampling, found objects, electronics and more.

+ Marnie Stern: New York songstress and guitar stylist.

+ Dent May: Indie-pop craftsman from Oxford, Miss.

+ Ital: Dance/house music artist and producer from Brooklyn by way of Washington, D.C.

+ Locrian:  Darkly ambient, metal-enhanced drone artists from Chicago.

+ Jamaican Queens: Hard driving indie-pop from Detroit.

WRFL promises more lineup announcements in the coming weeks.

On the other side of Main Street

peter case

Peter Case

Let us now look deep into the heart of a downtown Tuesday.

At the Kentucky Theatre will be the return of veteran British songsmith Richard Thompson, who has become a semi-regular of the Troubadour Concerts Series. This outing will differ from past visits, though. Instead of a solo acoustic performance, Thompson – in keeping with the theme and title his newest album, Electric – will perform with an amped-up trio.

But what really – and quite unintentionally – distinguishes Thompson’s return is that his performance will fall so close, in terms of time and proximity, to another storied songsmith. Directly across the street from the Kentucky on Tuesday will be Peter Case.

Like Thompson, whose career ignited in the late ’60s during his tenure with the vanguard British folk-rock troupe Fairport Convention, Case’s career began to catch ears on the West Coast at the dawn of the ’80s in the post-punk pop brigade The Plimsouls. A solo career ensued in 1986 with a self-titled T Bone Burnett-produced recording. From there, the emphasis shifted more toward songcraft, whether it was through records of concert-performed cover tunes (1993’s Peter Case Sings Like Hell), more-folk derived sets of his own songs (2000’s extraordinary Flying Saucer Blues) or spirited blues reflections (2007’s Grammy-nominated Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John).

Case possesses a grand gift for storytelling, both in and out of his songs. In 2006, he published a paperback memoir of the earliest days of his career, concentrating on his move to California after spending his childhood and high school years in Buffalo, N.Y. The book, As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport, is loaded with characters and scenarios of an especially colorful youth.

“Johnny lives in a junkyard on the Bay in Sausalito,” Case writes in an early chapter called Yogananda Streetfights. “And he’s invited me to check it out sometime. It’s supposed to be a swell place to crash in a pinch.”

Case’s newest album is The Case Files, a hodgepodge of outtakes, demos, cover tunes and more, with a seemingly purposeful lack of credits and liner notes. A 2005 trio version of the roots classic Milk Cow Blues, for example, is listed as having been cut “live at some joint in Houston.”

Details and particulars notwithstanding, Case is simply one of the best: a writer as attuned to the mischievous nature of the human condition as he is to the boundless stylistic possibilities that are available to bring his storytelling to life.

Case’s concert is set to begin at 9. Let’s hope the good folks at Natasha’s hold showtime until about 9:30, which is a good estimate for when the Thompson concert should wind down at the Kentucky. These are performances that appeal to very like-minded audiences. It seems a shame not to let that fan base enjoy the full scope of all the wonderful music emanating from both sides of Main Street on Tuesday.

Peter Case performs at 9 p.m. April 9 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $15. Call (859) 259-2754 or got to Beetnik.com.

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