Archive for misc.

another new morning for chris stapleton

chris stapleton at last night's CMA awards. photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

chris stapleton at last night’s CMA awards. photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

Like many Kentuckians, I’m all smiles today over the multiple wins by our own Chris Stapleton last night at the 49th Country Music Association Awards. But it’s not for perhaps obvious reasons.

Stapleton’s music runs against almost every commercial trend Nashville otherwise celebrated at the ceremony – so much so that victories for his highly traditional music in the album, new artist and male vocalist of the year categories are genuinely shocking for a genre that has turned its back so shamelessly on its past.

Maybe there are a few old souls left at the CMA that recall when country music wasn’t just another faceless form of poster boy pop (which is likely). Maybe Nashville is finally ready to return to its roots and get behind songs that are genuinely country in feel and narrative (which is highly unlikely). Maybe it’s all a fluke – meaning Stapleton has been picked out as a novelty by Nashville to promote a reflection of faith in tradition that will be purposely short lived (which is extremely likely).

None of this takes away from the grand night Stapleton had. Awards shows offer some of the best publicity – and, to many industry ears, validity – for an artist largely shunned by radio. To airwave kings like Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean, stylistic polar opposites of Stapleton, a CMA win translates into little more than bigger bragging rights. Given also the frequency of country awards programs, their impact on a career is usually just another notch in the proverbial belt.

But for Stapleton, still a new find for mainstream audiences despite years as an established songwriter, the impact of these wins will be considerable. What it means firstly is this morning many eager fans have woken up to what we knew here in Kentucky all along – that in a country world ruled by chart numbers, image and pop accessibility, Stapleton isn’t some contrived, corporate Nashville foot soldier. He’s a real deal singer and writer championing true country songcraft more than any commercially visible artist since Dwight Yoakam. That should make enthusiasts of all Kentucky grown music feel justifiably proud.

last of the hot burritos

wrflOne of the guiding local voices in Americana music makes its final bow this weekend. The Hot Burrito Show, WRFL-FM’s weekly serving of indie and roots driven country and more (sounds it has regularly dubbed “cosmic American music”) airs for the final time on Sunday (Aug. 23) from noon to 2 p.m.

The program, which has run continually for the past 25 years, has traced an entire generation of new and indie Americana sounds, running from the rise of so-called “alt-country” in the ‘90s to the music’s acceptance as a genre unto itself over the past decade.

Rob Franklin has been at the helm for the program’s entire run, aided by several knowledgeable co-hosts. For many, Hot Burrito has become a Sunday brunch time roots music tradition. Imagining weekends without it is a sad prospect indeed, although WRFL said in a press release last weekend it plans to carry on with a new, reformatted Americana music program. The release also said halting the show was the decision of the show’s hosts, not the station itself.

WRFL has been honoring Hot Burrito all week with each of the programs on its broadcast schedule playing one Americana track in tribute to the show.


dead again

trey anastasio, phil lesh and bob weir performing at the grateful dead's june 28 concert at levi's stadium in santa clara. photo by jay blakesberg/invision for the grateful dead.

trey anastasio, phil lesh and bob weir performing at the grateful dead’s june 28 concert at levi’s stadium in santa clara. photo by jay blakesberg/invision for the grateful dead.

The holiday weekend’s most prominent musical happening, at least from an historical pop perspective, will be the much ballyhooed finale concerts of the Grateful Dead at Soldier’s Field in Chicago.

The distinction of such an event isn’t so much the career coda itself, but how it is being marketed. In lieu of the standardized farewell tour, the surviving members – guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann – are playing a mere five concerts in two cities. The first were held last weekend at Santa Clara, Ca., near where the iconic psychedelic band got its start 50 years ago. The Chicago shows take place tonight through Sunday, almost two decades to the day (and at the same location) where the band played its last concerts with Jerry Garcia.

The figurehead guitarist died that August. For all intentions, the band dissolved with him. The four core members have toured as an ensemble a few times since then under the moniker of The Dead and, without Kreutzmann, as The Other Ones. These finale shows mark the first time they have performed as the Grateful Dead since 1995. While the members have stated these will be their final shows together, all will maintain separate careers.

Here is where the marketing savvy kicks in. This weekend’s performances – which generated over 350,000 ticket requests through advance sales – are being made available to fans worldwide through almost every media outlet available. There will be pay-for-view webcasts, on-demand viewing on satellite and cable television and even live simulcasts in over 1,110 movie theaters. For a full rundown of options, go to

Locally, the Dead’s performances will be shown at the Cinemark Fayette Mall tonight, Saturday and Sunday.

For those intrigued by this final chorus from the Dead, but feel less compelled to take part in all the revelry, recordings of the shows will be released on CD, DVD and Blue-Ray by Rhino Records as Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead. They are scheduled for release on Nov. 20.

This may well be the first time an official, formal concert recording (not a quickly produced, indie-manufactured “bootleg”) has earned a confirmed release date before the performances making up those recordings even took place.

Appraisals of last weekend’s Santa Clara performances – with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, pianist and longtime Dead co-hort Bruce Hornsby and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti augmenting the Dead quartet – were largely favorable. An Associated Press review by Lisa Leff of the opening concert on June 27 gave specific praise to a 20 minute version of Viola Lee Blues (cut originally for the band’s 1967 self-titled debut album) and the way it made Anastasio a key player in this brief Dead revival.

If you’re headed to Cinemark, be prepared for a long night. The June 27 concert lasted 3 ½ hours. The Fandango site said this weekend’s revelry could last as much as five hours each evening.

“I’m not sure we’re going to last five hours,” Weir told The New Yorker earlier in June. “Even back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, we didn’t play for five hours on many nights, despite being famous for doing that. You do it one time and you get famous for it.”

‘Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead’ will be simulcast at 8 p.m. July 3-5 at Cinemark Fayette Mall, 3800 Mall Rd. Tickets are $12-$14. Call (859) 971-0718 or go to

back to BoB

billy joe shaver kicks off BoB on june 9.

billy joe shaver kicks off BoB on june 9.

What would summertime be without a visit from our ol’ pal BoB?

While word on this year’s Best of Bluegrass festival has been long overdue, the wait will pay a substantial dividend. Organized and produced by the Lexington Area Music Alliance, BoB will again preface the Festival of the Bluegrass, as it has the last two years, and return for a second visit this fall ahead of the 2015 Breeder’s Cup.

This month’s three day Bob-fest, dubbed Lil’ BoB so as to differentiate the two events, kicks off June 9 with the return of Billy Joe Shaver to Willie’s Locally Known, 805 N. Broadway. While definitely not a bluegrass act, Shaver is a champion Texas songwriter and a long-heralded country/Americana stylist with strong cross generational appeal. For ticket info, call (859) 281-1116 or go to The Kentucky Hoss Cats will open.

The rest of Lil’ BoB emphasizes local and regional bluegrass. June 10 brings Custom Made Bluegrass to Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. The same evening Arthur Hancock and the Wooks with Kati Penn and Junior Williams of Newtown will perform a free show at Parlay Social.

On June 11, Canyon Collected headlines at Willie’s Locally Known while Shotgun Holler holds a CD release party at Parlay Social, 249 W. Short

For reservations and admission details on the Natasha’s shows, call (859) 259-2754 or go to. For the Parlay Social performances, call (859) 244-1932 or go to

That leads to the opening of the 42nd Festival of the Bluegrass, which runs June 11-14 at the Kentucky Horse Park (

But wait. There’s more BoB to go around. The event takes to the great outdoors this fall as a warm-up for the Breeder’s Cup.

Titled Big BoB, the fall installment brings in two white hot new generation national acts, Town Mountain and The Traveling McCourys, to a downtown stage at Courthouse Plaza on Oct. 28. Arthur Hancock and the Wooks will complete the bill.

happy trails, dave

david letterman's final "late show" airs tonight.

david letterman’s final “late show” airs tonight.

So it has all come down to this. After 33 years of stupid pet tricks, Top 10 lists and flying pencils, David Letterman will host his very last Late Show tonight. In all ways, a television era – perhaps the last of its kind – will end when the program signs off around 12:35 tomorrow morning.

As someone who watches very little TV (the local news, Modern Family reruns, that’s about it), The Late Show with David Letterman was a broadcast oasis presided over by an Olympian smart ass. He took shots at everyone, especially himself, and seemed to love nothing more than when a guest he had previously skewered (Bill O’Reilly, Martha Stewart, Dr. Phil) took the humor as exactly that.

He could be merciless when he sensed a guest was being opportunistic. Ages ago, when Jane Seymour was promoting a coffee table book designed as “a guide to romantic living,” he asked how the actress would encourage the romantic side of a garbage collector. The interviewed nosedived from there.

But when he was in the presence of greatness, he recognized it. One of the very few times Letterman was obviously star struck came during his NBC years when he interviewed a frail but feisty Bette Davis. His sentiments were similarly humble whenever he spoke of mentoring figures like Johnny Carson.

Then there was the humor. Sometimes the jokes were deliciously off center (my favorite Top 10 list remains “The Top 10 Amish Spring Break Pranks”). Sometimes it was unapologetically juvenile, like the dropping of everything from paint cans to pumpkins from the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Letterman’s Broadway home during his CBS years. Best of all, though, was the way he turned stage hands, interns, costume designers, carpenters, the deli owner next door and, for a time, his own mother into comics just by having them act like themselves.

To this date, nothing cracked me up more than a recurring bit where a pair of deadpan New York stage hands would read transcripts from Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show. On the other hand, nothing he aired was more unsentimentally touching than a program-long interview/performance with an ailing Warren Zevon done shortly before his death from lung cancer and the singer’s reciprocal comment that Letterman was “the best friend my music ever had.”

All of this came together over the past six weeks or so as Letterman neared retirement. A bit as recently as last week where he interviewed Tom Waits while being handcuffed to George Clooney deserves placement in Letterman’s personal hall of fame.

I got to see Letterman tape his programs a half-dozen times in New York over the years. I got to witness a skateboarding dog, exasperated offstage staffers recoiling as Joan Rivers spewed obscenities, The Pretenders in glorious performance and some sharp verbal jousting with Robert Downey, Jr. But it all came down to Dave doing what he did in his historic theatre, ending his pre-show greeting to the audience each time with the promise that “we’ll have you out of here in time for happy hour.”

So cheers, Dave. Thanks for the laughs, the music and the company. Broadway and television simply won’t be the same without you.

phoenix rising

the black cadillacs.

the black cadillacs.

One of summertime’s new concert traditions reconvenes tonight with the second season of WUKY-FM’s Phoenix Friday concert series.

After a strong inaugural season last year, the series of free monthly concerts at Phoenix Park, W. Main and S. Limestone, will again bring together established local artists with up-and-coming national acts.

Tonight’s performance features The Black Cadillacs, a rock troupe formed in Memphis by cousins Will Horton and Matthew Hyrka. Now operating out of Knoxville, the band has released a self-titled five-song EP produced by Wilco alumnus Ken Coomer. The Other Brothers and Larkin Poe round out the bill.

The music starts at 5:30 pm and should wrap up around 9:30. Food vendors will be on hand throughout the evening.

The summer’s other three Phoenix Fridays shows will include Lexington pop cello stylist Ben Sollee (who made his series debut last August in the midst of a monstrous thunderstorm) with Humming House and Twin Lamb on June 19, the Nashville indie rock outfit Kopecky (which releases its new Drug for the Modern Age album next week) with J.D. Ghent and The Wags on July 17 and a fourth concert teaming an as yet unannounced headliner with The Vespers and Coralee and the Townie on Aug. 21.

Showtimes for those performances will also be 5:30 pm.

For more information, call (859) 257-3221 or go to

the kentucky music hall of fame 2015 induction

montgomery gentry (troy gentry, left, and eddie montgomery) are amoing the 2015 inductees to the kentucky music hall of fame.

montgomery gentry (troy gentry, left, and eddie montgomery) are amoing the 2015 inductees to the kentucky music hall of fame.

The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame is proceeding with its 2015 induction tonight despite an abrupt change of leadership.

The organization fired executive director Robert Lawson in February. He was later arrested for stealing from the Hall of Fame and other Rockcastle County organizations.

A statement released by Roy Martin, chairman of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors, said, “The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame has terminated Robert Lawson as its Executive Director as of February 9, 2015. As part of its ongoing oversight, the Board of Directors detected several questionable financial transactions. Thankfully, we believe that the problem was detected quickly, before any more significant damage was done.”

The statement also said the Hall of Fame shared its findings with the County Attorney and Kentucky State Police and is co-operating with their investigations.

Lawson’s firing, however, will not derail tonight’s induction ceremony. The event, held every other year, will welcome six new groups of artists and music professionals at Lexington Center, including local members of the pop group Backstreet Boys and country duo Montgomery Gentry. Several of the inductees will also perform at tonight’s ceremony

Here is a look at the 2015 class of inductees.

Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson: Cousins born and raised in Lexington, Littrell and Richardson remain the Kentucky connection in one of the most commercially successful pop vocal groups of the ‘90s, the Backstreet Boys. While Richardson was absent from the group between 2006 and 2012, the Backstreet Boys remain active with recording projects and international touring.

Montgomery Gentry: After working for years locally in the band of John Michael Montgomery and on their own, Eddie Montgomery (John Michael’s older brother) and Troy Gentry established their own Southern rock-leaning country music career at the close of the ‘90s. Since the release of the duo’s debut album, Tattoos & Scars, Montgomery Gentry has chalked up numerous No. 1 country hits, including My Town.

Clarence Spalding: During the early ‘80s, Spalding was one of the managerial voices behind one of the most popular music clubs in Lexington, Breeding’s. But what sends him to the Hall of Fame is what he has accomplished since then. Over the past three decades, he has become one of the most respected managers in the country music industry with a client list that includes Jason Aldean and Brooks & Dunn.

Doc Hopkins: A native of Harlan County, Hopkins was introduced to banjo and steel guitar at an early age before a fascination with traveling medicine show acts hit after his family relocated to Rockcastle County nearly a century ago. During the 1940s, he was a regular performer on Chicago’s WLS Barn Dance and was rediscovered by a new folk generation taken with traditional and old-time music in the ’60s. Hopkins died in 1988.

Larry Cordle: Born in Lawrence County, Cordle was the songwriter behind several country hits for fellow Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs (most notably Highway 40 Blues). But he has also penned tunes that wound up on records by Garth Brooks, George Strait, Loretta Lynn and others. Curiously, Cordle’s anthem of Nashville commercialization, Murder on Music Row, was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2000.

The Moonglows: A pre-eminent pop vocal force during the 1950s thanks to the now-classic hits Ten Commandments of Love and Sincerely, the Moonglows cut much of their music after establishing a home base in Cleveland. The Kentucky connection comes from founding members Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester, who began singing together in Louisville as a duo around 1949. Lester died in 1980, Fugua in 2010.

Pete Stamper: A veritable country music entrepreneur, the Dawson Springs-born Stamper joined Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee in the ‘50s, had a rockabilly hit (Cheva-Kiser-Old-Mo-Laca-Stud-War-Linco-Baker) in the ’60s and served as Dolly Parton’s road manager in the ‘70s. But he is best known regionally as a performer/comedian at Renfro Valley with an affiliation that began in 1950. Stamper is also a veteran broadcaster.

The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame’s 2015 Induction Ceremony will be held at 7 tonight at the Bluegrass Ballroom at Lexington Center, 430 W. Vine. Call: (877) 356-3263, (606) or got to

stevie wonder in the key of life

stevie wonder performs  'songs in the key of life' tonight in louisville. photo by chris pizzello (chris pizzello/invision/AP).

stevie wonder performs
‘songs in the key of life’ tonight in louisville. photo by chris pizzello (chris pizzello/invision/AP).

The prospect of a veteran pop act playing a career-defining album in its entirety as the focus of repertoire for a concert tour is nothing new. But outside of Roger Waters and his recently completed performance revival of the Pink Floyd epic The Wall, few artists have taken the album concert concept to an arena level.

Enter Stevie Wonder, 64, perhaps the most enduring and progressively minded artist from the golden age of Motown. Tonight, he makes an ultra-rare regional concert return with a KFC! Yum Center show built around a full performance of the album that served as the zenith of his commercial and creative visibility, 1976’s Songs in the Key of Life.

To appreciate the potency of the popularity behind Songs in the Key of Life, you have to consider the stylistic and artistic growth achieved by the four albums that preceded it. Those recordings – Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale – were cut and issued in whirlwind fashion between March 1972 and July 1974.

While Music of My Mind was the least commercially prominent of the pack, it redefined Wonder’s music with a modernized keyboard vocabulary (he performed nearly every instrument on the record) and compositions that shied away from Motown’s cherished pop soul formulas of the ‘60s in favor of a more contemporary funk and R&B groove. Talking Book and Innervisions quickly weaved a much stronger social urgency into the lyrics, yielding some of the most commanding hits of Wonder’s career (Superstition, Higher Ground and especially Living for the City). Fulfillingness’ First Finale was, by comparison, a cool, sophisticated exhale of a record.

Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year in 1974 and 1975. Songs in the Key of Life was given the same honor in 1977 after spending nearly three months atop the Billboard all-genre album chart and scoring four hits (including the charttoppers I Wish and Sir Duke).

Songs in the Key of Life had it all. Released as a double album with a bonus five-song EP, it contained some of Wonder’s brightest pop (typlified by the uber-popular radio smash Isn’t She Lovely, which, amazingly, was never released as an official single) as well some of his keenest social observations (as shown by the way-underrated Black Man, which was equal parts global anthem, history lesson and funk manifesto).

Tonight, it all comes to life onstage for the first time on a Kentucky stage. Forget the fact this music is nearly four decades old. Songs in the Key of Life will forever be in tune and of the times.

Stevie Wonder performs Songs in the Key of Life at 8 tonight at the KFC Yum! Center, 1 Arena Plaza in Louisville. $36.50-$144.50. Call (800) 745-3000 or go,

zz x 3

zz top: frank beard, billy f. gibbons and dusty hill.

zz top: frank beard, billy f. gibbons and dusty hill.

“Same three guys. Same three chords.”

That’s the credo guitarist Billy F. Gibbons long ago adopted to describe the make-up of ZZ Top, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted Texas trio he has spearheaded with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard for over 45 years.

It’s also a simple, honest and ever-reliable summation of how three guys out of Houston took Lone Star blues and boogie tradition and re-fashioned it into an internationally popular sound of its own. For ZZ Top’s entire history, music has remained elemental – albeit, in often strikingly varied and distinctive ways.

The foundation of the band’s popularity is two-fold. Most fans either flocked to the trio’s lean boogie groove during the early ‘70s (defined in 1973 by the Tres Hombres album and its massive radio hit La Grange) or the MTV-savvy, electro-heavy hipster music that grabbed ears a decade later (1983’s Eliminator and its monster singles Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp Dressed Man and Legs).

Obviously, the Tres Hombres era is more overtly blues oriented (that album’s Hot, Blue and Righteous remains one of ZZ Top’s finest, most unadorned slow blues tunes). But all of the Elimintor hits were based around lean guitar hooks and Gibbons’ elegantly seedy way singing a lyric. Even when the band’s fascination with synths, sequencers and drum loops reached an apex with 1990’s Recycler album, the blues were never out of reach, as typlified by the record’s roots-iest song, My Head’s in Mississippi (“I’m shufflin’ through the Texas sand
/But my head’s in Mississippi”).

Still, the same three guys and their chords persisted. Their commercial visibility is considerably more modest these days, however, despite the Top 10 success of 2012’s Rick Rubin produced album La Futura (the band’s highest charting album since Recycler).

Of course, in the school of pop culture opinion, maintaining a level of commercial sustainability that equals the most earnest of artistic integrities is just about impossible. As such, the ZZ members, all of whom are now 65, have not had a radio hit capable of competing with younger pop generations since Sleeping Bag became a Top 10 single in 1985.

That’s certainly not a reflection of the band’s creative output. A decade-long tenure with RCA Records yielded a quartet of fine studio albums (culminating in 2004’s devilishly funky bordertown mash-up Mescalero) that quickly faded from fan memory. Only Pincushion, the lead single from 1994’s Antenna, remains in the band’s current concert repertoire from the RCA years.

But like so many of its still-active contemporaries, ZZ Top continues to thrive as a concert act. While it doesn’t headline arenas anymore (once a frequent Rupp Arena visitor, the band hasn’t played in Lexington since 1991), more consolidated sized venues – theatres and festival stages, especially – have become the new norm. That includes arts centers, which have brought the band back to Central Kentucky in recent years. The trio performed at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond in 2013. It will play the Norton Center for the Arts on Saturday.

This weekend’s show is a make-up for an originally scheduled date last fall that was postponed due to a hip injury Hill suffered after falling in a tour bus. The bassist has joked on ZZ Top’s website that the Slim Harpo blues classic Hip Shake, which already echoes within the guitar groove of La Grange, should be added to the band’s performance playlist.

What was striking about the EKU show was how ZZ Top was essentially perceived as a family act, with high numbers of parents and children attending together. Perhaps for them, ZZ Top exists as video representation of the ‘80s. Certainly, the waist-length whiskers and shades Gibbons and Hill still don onstage maintain a distinctive hipster profile that compliments the band’s stage presence.

But the music hasn’t changed. While several hits (La Grange, Tush, Pearl Necklace) are still saturated in a level of innuendo that likely seems more benign over time, the album track entries peppering concerts – from Tres Hombres’ tireless Waitin’ for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago medley to La Futura’s ultra-fun Chartreuse) still point to the three-guys/three chords mission statement – that, and a substantial amount of performance fun.

“It’s a dream job to get out there and play La Grange every night, singing ‘haw, haw, haw,'” Gibbons told me in an email interview prior to the 2013 concert. “Don’t get much better.”

ZZ Top and the Ben Miller Band perform at 8 p.m. March 21 at Newlin Hall, Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College, 600 West Walnut St. in Danville. Tickets: $85, $95. Call (877) 448-7469, (859) 236-4692 or go to

big belew nation

adrian belew 1

adrian belew

The ingredients were all there – the impending homecoming of Kentucky-born guitar hero Adrian Belew, a gray Saturday afternoon and a desperate need to place holiday madness on hold for a few hours. It all provided the ideal setting for me to become reacquainted with the sublime music Belew has created over the past 35 years.

To many, the Covington native is best known for the vocabulary of guitar sounds – from twang bar-happy solos to animalistic roars – that have colored his solo recordings (dating back to 1982’s The Lone Rhino) as well as the audacious works cut during a 33 year tenure with prog mainstay King Crimson (beginning with 1981’s Discipline).

Dig deeper, though, and all kinds of treasures reveal themselves, including seminal recordings with three of the pioneering acts Belew played with during the formative days of his career, specifically Frank Zappa (on 1979’s avant pop carnival record Sheik Yerbouti), David Bowie (the magnificent 1978 live set Stage) and Talking Heads (the progressive funk performances captured on the 1981 concert album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads).

But it was during and around King Crimson’s scattered periods of activity that the heart of Belew’s music fully revealed itself. The scorching nature of his guitar work had become a given. His compositions, however, began exhibiting strong echoes of Beatles-esque pop. While such inspiration was never imitative, you heard it powering through songs like Member of the Tribe (the joyous finale to 1992’s Inner Revolution album), I See You (the Lennon-esque power chord party piece off of 1994’s Here) and the Under the Radar (the rich psychedelic meditation from 2005’s Side One).

Belew has also remained very active over the decades as an instrumental composer and performer, stretching the pop inferences of his playing to more unexpected and sometimes abstract plains, as on The Gypsy Zurna (the one man Eastern safari tune from 1986’s Desire Caught by the Tail), Ring Around the Moon (an ambient slice of processed guitar music from 1995’s The Guitar as Orchestra) and b (a groove epic showcasing Belew’s Power Trio from 2009’s live-in-the-studio e).

Finally, there are the delicacies underscoring his gift as a collaborator. From that camp came Holy (one of Belew’s finest all around vocal performances featured on the 1989 Mike Oldfield album Earth Moving), Walking on Air (a gorgeously serene refection from the 1995 King Crimson reawakening record Thrak) and Life in a Nutshell (a powerhouse pop workout with his Cincinnati-based pals in The Bears from 2001’s Car Caught Fire).

The biggest rediscovery though was a bit of a revelation – a revision of The Rail Song, a bittersweet but anthemic remembrance of a lifelong fascination with trains originally featured on 1983’s Twang Bar King. But the version that hit me last weekend was an unadorned version from 1993’s The Acoustic Adrian Belew that stripped the tune down to a stark confessional while enhancing the song’s very natural sense of drama.

That was as much Belew as I could squeeze into a single afternoon. Left untested in this Belew review was Fuse, the new computer app he designed that delivers tunes in an infinite number of variations. That means the guitarist will have an especially keen job condensing a catalog of such masterful music into a single performance this weekend. His Sunday concert at the 20th Century Theatre will conclude a two month tour in his old Cincy stomping grounds with his comparatively newer Power Trio mates, bassist Julie Slick and drummer Tobias Ralph.

Then again, exploring the generous terrain existing between power pop accessibility and groundbreaking instrumental technique, composition and improvisation has always been the driving force behind the music of this Kentucky guitar pioneer.

In essence, that is Belew’s life in a nutshell.

Adrian Belew Power Trio with Saul Zonana perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 21 at the 20th Century Theatre, 3021 Madison Rd. in Cincinnati. $24, $28. Call (513) 731-8000, (800) 745-3000 or got to

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