Archive for this just in…

calling his own tune

chris stapleton.

chris stapleton.

Lexington native and country music revivalist Chris Stapleton will celebrate the release of his debut solo album Traveller with a free in-store acoustic performance at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone at 1 p.m. May 10. For more information, call (859) 233-3472 or go to

Standing on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre two weeks ago, Chris Stapleton couldn’t have looked less like a country music star.

His face buried beneath a healthy crop of hat, hair and beard, the Lexington born, Paintsville/Staffordsville reared songwriter resembled less the Nashville of today and more the Central Texas of 40 years ago. That pretty much held true for the music, too, as Stapleton and an unfussy combo that included his wife as a singing partner casually sailed through the weary but worldly title tune to his debut album Traveller.

The setting was telling, as well. Despite a songwriting career that has spun No. 1 country hits for Luke Bryan (the recent Academy of Country Music Song of the Year nominee Drink a Beer), Kenny Chesney (Never Wanted Nothing More) and George Strait (Love’s Gonna Make It Alright), Stapleton wasn’t making his network television out of Nashville. He was instead in a cherished New York theatre as a music guest during the final weeks of The Late Show with David Letterman.

“It was a surreal thing,” Stapleton said. “It’s one thing to get to stand there in the Ed Sullivan Theatre and be on that show, but to be in the last home stretch of what has become a real iconic thing – man, that was really a wonderful honor.”

New York and Nashville were obviously removed from Stapleton’s Eastern Kentucky roots. While his mother and coal mining father could “hold a tune,” they were especially encouraging as active listeners of the country artists that emerged from the region around them.

“It’s just part of the fabric of being from Kentucky,” Stapleton said. “Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless, the list goes on and on. Those names are just part of life in Kentucky. You can’t help but be aware of them and be influenced by them. It’s almost genetic in the sense that you don’t have an existence that doesn’t involve their music.”

A recommendation by Jesse Wells from the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead State University introduced Stapleton to songsmith Steve Leslie. The latter, in turn, helped connect Stapleton with the Nashville songwriting community.

“There was nothing frightening about it at all,” Stapleton said of his move to Nashville. “I tried college and that didn’t take. I tried various other jobs that didn’t really take just because of the disinterest in all things but music.

“Boy, as soon as I found out someone would pay you to write songs and play, I said, ‘That’s the job for me. I’ve got to figure out how to do that.’ So I was lucky enough to meet some of the right people fairly early in town. I had a publishing deal about four days after moving to Nashville.”

Four days? In one the most competitive music markets anywhere, Stapleton’s songwriting career was up and running in four days?

“That’s not most people’s story,” Stapleton said with a laugh. “But that’s mine.”

Two very different performance projects soon surfaced to plant the possibility of an eventual solo career. The first was a stint as vocalist and co-guitarist with the Steeldrivers, a progressive bluegrass troupe made up of Nashville A-list players.

“The Steeldrivers certainly challenged me as a player because I never saw myself as a bluegrass flatpicking guitar player. Neither did bluegrass flatpicking guitar players, but I still got to test myself. I got better as a musician because all the other members of the band were hot shot players that were very well respected.”

The second was a cranky, highly electric rock ‘n’ roll outfit called the Jompson Brothers that returned Stapleton to Lexington for several performances at Cosmic Charlie’s.

“We went out with the songs, played some rock ‘n’ roll shows and did it all for the love of it, really. The Steeldrivers were the same way. I try to operate from that place at all times. I don’t like that opportunist kind of musical mentality. But it was a wonderful thing. We were loud and playing rock ‘n’ roll. We learned the hard way there wasn’t much rock radio left, but we sure had a lot of fun. It was just a lot of self-indulgent guitar madness. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that at all.”

With this week’s release of Traveller (produced by Dave Cobb, who has overseen the recent solo records of another newly celebrated Kentucky country stylist, Sturgill Simpson), Stapleton has emerged as an artist finally singing his own songs under his own name.

“Regardless of commercial reception or whatever, I just can’t imagine being any prouder of this record. I hope people give it a listen – as in a hard listen. I hope they listen to it actively, engage in the music and not treat it as some kind of background noise. That’s my hope, anyway.”

black keys, avett brothers to headline bunbury

the black keys, dan auebach and patrick carney, will headline this summer's bunbury music festival in cincinnati.

the black keys, dan auerbach and patrick carney, will headline this summer’s bunbury music festival in cincinnati.

Another sign of summertime revealed itself yesterday. Specifically, the initial performance lineup of the Bunbury Music Festival was announced along with concert dates for the event that are a month earlier than in recent years.

Confirmed Bunbury acts in 2015 include The Black Keys, The Avett Brothers, Snoop Dogg, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, Father John Misty, Walk the Moon, Manchester Orchestra, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and many others. Performance times are to be announced.

As in its three previous years, Bunbury will be presented on multiple stages throughout Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove along the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. But for 2015, the festival has been moved from mid July to June 5, 6 and 7. That distances it further from the competing Forecastle in Louisville, which has already announced a lineup that includes Sam Smith, Modest Mouse, Widespread Panic and the city’s own My Morning Jacket and Houndmouth on July 17, 18 and 19.

The Buckle-Up Festival, Bunbury’s country/Americana sister event, won’t be back this year. According to its website, the event will return in 2016. Both festivals were acquired by PromoWest Productions last fall.

Tickets for Bunbury and Forecastle are on sale through For additional info on each event, along with full lists of confirmed acts, go to or forecastlefestcom.

stevie wonder to bring ‘keys of life’ to louisville.

stevie wonder.

stevie wonder.

One of the most celebrated pop-soul sounds of any generation is heading to Kentucky. On March 27, Stevie Wonder will play the KFC Yum! Center for a very rare Bluegrass area concert appearance.

The show is one of 11 spring dates that extends Wonder’s 2014 Songs in the Key of Life Performance Tour. As the title suggests, the tour is built around a full concert performance of the singer’s multi-Grammy-winning 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. But reviews of last year’s shows reveal the setlist also includes other celebrated Wonder classics, including Superstition, Living for the City and Higher Ground.

Tickets for the Louisville show go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 24 through,, the KFC Yum! Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and phone at (800) 745-3000. Tickets will cost $36.50-$144.50.

Released in the fall of 1976, Songs in the Key of Life is widely considered the critical and commercial zenith of Wonder’s career, having been the last of four albums (1972’s Talking Book, 1973’s Inner Visions and 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale were the others) that modernized his popular Motown pop sound of the ‘60s to include a more urban-embracing urgency for the ‘70s. Still, it produced several huge pop hits, including Isn’t She Lovely, I Wish and As. The album also won four Grammys in 1977, including Album of the Year (where it beat out Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive, Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees, George Benson’s Breezin’ and Chicago’s Chicago X).

Wonder has infrequently played Louisville over the decades. He performed in Lexington at Rupp Arena only once, in September 1986.

Miranda Lambert returning to Rupp

miranda lambert

Miranda Lambert

Fresh off victories earlier this week at the County Music Association Awards, Miranda Lambert has confirmed a return concert date at Rupp Arena for Jan. 16 with Justin Moore, RaeLynn and Jukebox Mafia opening.

Tickets, at $29.75 and $54.75 each (excluding fees), go on sale at 10 a.m. Nov. 14 through and or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Lambert took top honors on Wednesday for album of the year (for Platinum) and female vocalist of the year at the CMA Awards. She also served up the ceremony’s coolest non-country moment, a bull’s-eye duet of All About That Bass with Meghan Trainor.

The Texas-born singer is no stranger to Lexington. She began performing here as an unknown as part of the annual Red, White & Boom festival shortly after her debut album, Kerosene, was released in 2005. Her most recent Rupp outing, which included an unannounced mini set by her part-time trio Pistol Annies, was in February 2012. Lambert and Moore also played on a Rupp bill with Brad Paisley in 2010.


zach brock concert moved to DAC

Just a quick update for anyone planning on taking in tonight’s performance by New York-by-way-of Lexington jazz violinist Zach Brock. The concert is still on but the location has changed.

The thunderstorms and heavy rains that hit Lexington just after 6 p.m. made the show a no-go at its original outdoor location of Moondance Amphitheatre. The concert has now been moved indoors to the Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main. Showtime is tentatively slated between 9 and 9:30 or when the sound equipment originally set up at Moondance can be transported downtown. (The original start time at Moondance was 7 p.m.)

The performance is still free, too.

no boomslang for 2014; festival’s future in question

boomslangSad news from WRFL-FM this morning: the student-run University of Kentucky radio station has called off its annual Boomslang festival, leaving its future in limbo.

A statement issued this morning by WRFL’s board of directors said, “The decision follows a careful assessment and review by the station’s leadership of the current festival model and its impact on our regular station operations. In light of WRFL’s mission to bring diverse, educational, and independent music to its listeners, WRFL will continue to pursue and program more individual live music concerts and other events throughout the 2014-2015 season, rather than in the concentrated, festival format.

“We can’t say with certainty whether or not the festival will continue in the future, but please be assured that WRFL will continue to provide a platform for non-commercial, all-the-way-to-the-left music and programming, and that we will explore what we feel are the best and most feasible ways to do so with the resources that we have.”

Billed as “A Celebration of Sound and Art,” Boomslang began in 2009 as a weekend long event that incorporated performances at various locations throughout the downtown area. Top-billed acts included Os Mutantes, The Psychedelic Furs, The Tom Tom Club, Death and Jeff Magnum. But Boomslang’s biggest charm was the sense of discovery it offered patrons willing to take a chance on little known, multi-genre indie acts from around the nation.

Last year’s Boomslang became part of a major concert traffic jam that had nearly every club venue in Lexington, along with Rupp Arena, the Singletary Center for the Arts, the Christ the King Oktoberfest and Crave Lexington staging live music on the same late September weekend.

“So many individuals have made Boomslang possible,” the WRFL release stated. “The festival would never have taken place without our amazing community of DJs, listeners, supporters, and friends. We’ve all enjoyed the amazing energy the festival has brought to Lexington.”

Lyle Lovett to play the Opera House

lyle lovett

Lyle Lovett

This just in: it looks as if Lyle Lovett will have one less night off this summer. The famed Texas song stylist has just been confirmed for an Aug. 27 performance at the Opera House with his long running Large Band. Tickets will go on sale Friday.

Lovett hasn’t performed in Lexington since the closing ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games in 2010. His first local concert, also with the Large Band, was at the long-since defunct Rhinestone’s on St. Patrick’s Day of 1987.

Essentially a country artist, Lovett’s music is seldom genre-specific. His love of Long Star songwriting tradition is considerable. He devoted one of his finest albums, 1998’s Step Inside This House, exclusively to the songs of fellow Texas scribes Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen and others. But in certain performance situations, especially Large Band concerts, his music steers into swing, soul and jazz.

Lovett’s newest album is 2012’s Release Me, a record split evenly between original tunes and more Lone Star covers.

One of Lovett’s more notable radio hits was the 1995 Toy Story favorite You’ve Got a Friend in Me. He recorded it as a duet with the song’s composer, Randy Newman, who performs at the Opera House on Friday. The Newman and Lovett shows are being presented by the Troubadour Concert Series.

Tickets for Lovett’s 7:30 p.m. performance on Aug. 27 will be $55.50. They will go on sale at 10 a.m. Aug. 9 through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000, and the Lexington Center ticket office at (859) 233-3535.

television blackout: richard lloyd cancels cosmic charlie’s concert

richard lloyd

Received word last night that Richard Lloyd has cancelled his June 19 performance at Cosmic Charlie’s and has scrapped the remaining dates of his summer tour due to “health reasons.”

I interviewed Lloyd a few days ago for a story that was scheduled to run on Sunday to advance the concert. Though polite and welcoming throughout the conversation, Lloyd was a frustrating interviewee, offering only outlines of remembrances, observations and comments before latching onto entirely unrelated topics and running at length with them. But here is what was hammered out of the fractured pieces of that discussion.

* * * * *

Long before he became co-guitarist in the long-celebrated New York post-punk band Television – in fact, prior to taking up the guitar at all – Richard Lloyd was a drummer. And when he played, he saw colors.

Now, what comes next in this ongoing saga of an acclaimed musical journeyman might seem a little fanciful. That’s because, like his guitarwork, Lloyd’s sense of conversation doesn’t operate on a constant or conventional plain. Not surprisingly, he referred to himself in a recent phone interview as an alchemist as much as a musician. Nonetheless, when the colors he saw as he played started to fade, his true musical path was revealed.

“Sometimes when I heard tones, I heard colors,” said Lloyd, 60. “So one day I was practicing on the drums and all the color went out. That’s when I had a psychedelic experience, an auditory hallucination.

“A voice came. It has come to me before from time to time and has never told me anything that was incorrect. This time, it said, ‘You will need to play a stringed melody instrument – the guitar.”

And so Lloyd was diverted from potentially joining his cousins in a rockabilly band based out of his native Pittsburgh. Ahead instead was a booming club scene in New York that used a soon-to-be-famous Bowery club by the name of CBGB’s as it de-facto performance headquarters.

Out of a scene that cultivated garage rock, punk and eventually New Wave came The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Patti Smith Group and a quartet that teamed Lloyd with fellow guitar pioneer Tom Verlaine, Lexington-born bassist Richard Hell (soon replaced by Fred Smith) and drummer Billy Ficca. The band became known as Television. In 1977, it released a debut album, Marquee Moon, that remains a cornerstone work of the punk era even though its music reflected a dual guitar sound that was artful and harmonically progressive. Today, Marquee Moon sits at No. 123 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest all-time rock recordings.

“There were times when Television would play and I would come offstage and think to myself, ‘Four human beings cannot do what we just did.’ The synergy was so profound because the music always involved the audience. All that energy was reciprocated.”

While so many punk followers were rebelling against music of the past, Lloyd embraced it. His teen years included a diet of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and The Allman Brothers Band. Lloyd also proudly declared himself an attendee of Woodstock that stayed awake for the entire three-day festival save for a nodding-off period during Sly and the Family Stone’s set (“They were singing I Want to Take You Higher and I just kept going lower”).

“You know what the gloaming is? It’s that very strange, beautiful blur between daylight and night time. Well, a lot of us growing up at the time were caught in the gloaming between the beatniks and the hippies.”

Among those who shared his musical likes was a Brooklyn youth Lloyd befriended named Velvert Turner.  Turner was unusually connected. He was a protégé of Jimi Hendrix and was given permission to pass on to Lloyd what he learned on guitar from the legendary artist. As a memoriam to Turner, Lloyd recorded a striking selection of Hendrix tunes for his 2009 solo album The Jamie Neverts Story (Neverts was an alias Hendrix sometimes used while touring).

“Velvert and I used to follow Jimi Hendrix around,” Lloyd recalled. “We would also go see The Chambers Brothers and Buddy Guy a lot. We were always backstage at the Fillmore (East). I remember one day the supermarket next door caught fire and everybody left the building except Velvert and I. He said, ‘You smell smoke?’ I said, ‘Nope.’ He said, ‘You want to leave?’ I said, ‘Nope.’ That was part of our adventures together. So I made that record to kind of pay off my debt to him.’

Lloyd’s current tour with Danny Tamberelli on bass and longtime Television mate Ficca on drums will feature songs off of the seven solo albums he has recorded over the last 33 years (from 1979’s Alchemy to the recent rarities compilation Lodestones). But unlike the Television years, Lloyd will be the only guitar voice on display.

“Jimi was once asked in an interview, ‘Why do you play so loud?’ And his reply was, ‘Man, we’re just trying to get a message across. But there are so many sleeping people.’ I think there still are.” 

bombs away: b52s to hit the singletary center

the b52s: kate pierson, fred schneider, keith strickland and cindy wilson.

b52s kate pierson, fred schneider, keith strickland and cindy wilson

Wow. Here is one that came out of nowhere. The Singletary Center for the Arts will be bringing in The B52s for a performance on Aug. 12. Showtime will be 7:30 p.m.

Tickets, to be priced at $27, $35 and $45, go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at the Singletary box office and online at  For more info, call (859) 257-4929.

Initially darlings of the ‘80s New Wave thanks to dark dance-pop hits like Rock Lobster and Dance This Mess Around, the Athens, Ga.-bred B-52s have maintained a three decade-long career that included a huge late ‘80s renaissance by way of its biggest charting single, Love Shack. Its newest album is 2008’s Funplex.

Save for guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died in 1985, the current B52s lineup consists of all original members: Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Keith Strickland.

We’re stilling digging to find out for sure, but it looks like the Singletary date will be the group’s first ever Lexington show. Look for more from The Musical Box on this as the concert date approaches.

get your mofro working

jj grey performs tonight at buster's

jj grey and mofro performs tonight at buster's.

Just a quickie item here to remind you about a show tonight that kind of snuck in under the radar. It’s the return of J.J. Grey and Mofro at Buster’s.

Admittedly, Florida songsmith Grey and his band of soul/swamp rockers have become semi-regulars around these parts in recent years. But in a summer season that has a good chunk of the coolest concert action taking place out of town, it’s great to have Grey help usher in the holiday weekend.

Mofro introduced itself to Lexington in early 2002 by playing Lynagh’s Music Club during its last few months of operation. Word quickly spread on the band’s earthy funk and soul sound and Grey’s equally R&B savvy but folk infused songs.  A Kentucky fanbase grew, but it was primarily centered in Louisville. It wasn’t until Grey played a solo set for WoodSongs in early 2009 and subsequent performances at The Dame that the Mofro following began to firmly take hold in Lexington.

The bottom line: tonight will be a guaranteed grand time. Soul, funk and jam band fans will dig Mofro’s groove in a big way. But novice fans can also expect an evening of no-frills, unforced Southern soul.  Even if the holiday weekend wasn’t at hand, Mofro’s return is something of a little summertime oasis for Lexington concert-goers. Soak it in.
JJ Grey and Mofro performs at 8:30 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 368-8871.

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