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2016 grammy post mortem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘the river’ rises: bruce springsteen to play louisville on feb. 21

Bruce-Tour-EmailThe Boss is heading back in town – okay, a nearby city.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will return to the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on Feb. 21. Billed as part of a nine-week run dubbed The River Tour, the performance follows today’s release of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a multi-disc overview of recordings that yielded the 1980 double-album The River.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 11 through,,

the Yum! Center box office, all TicketMaster outlets or by calling (800) 745-3000.

While exact ticket prices haven’t been announced for the Louisville date, seats for other shows on the tour are going for $65 and $150.

Springsteen last played the Yum! Center in November 2012. His upcoming show coincides, to the month, with the 35 year anniversary of a Rupp Arena concert that promoted the original release of The River. He hasn’t performed at Rupp since 2002.

Fans can get a taste for the February show when Springsteen performs on Saturday Night Live on Dec. 19.

three nights of guitar stars

billy gibbons will perform at the opera house on jan. 22.

billy gibbons will perform at the opera house on jan. 22.

It’s a good season for guitar lovers. The Troubadour Concert Series is seeing to that with a trio of major performances that will run through the winter.

The first comes up this weekend. Grammy winning bluesman Robert Cray returns to the Lyric Theatre on Saturday fronting one of the strongest lineups of his longrunning Robert Cray Band. Cray himself will check in with The Musical Box to discuss his new 4 Nights of 40 Years Live album and more. We’ll post his remarks on Friday (7 p.m., $46.50).

The big news is the just announced Jan. 22 concert at the Opera House by Billy Gibbons and the BFGs. Gibbons, of course, is the guitar voice of the titan Texas trio ZZ Top, but this marks his first regional appearance as a solo artist and his first Lexington show of any kind in over two decades. Expect the music to lean to the Latin and Afro-Cuban sounds of his new Perfectamundo album (7:30 p.m., $65.50).

Finally, we have another returnee – Warren Haynes. Chieftain of Gov’t Mule, alumnus of the Allman Brothers Band and a prolific collaborator with numerous artists in scores of styles, the guitarist will be promoting progressive roots and neo-bluegrass songs of his recent Ashes and Dust album on Feb. 27 at the Opera House (7:30 p.m., $44.50).

Tickets for the Gibbons and Haynes concerts go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 and as well as through the Lexington Center Ticket Office at (859) 233-3535.

late night with chris stapleton

chris stapleton performing at forecastle in july. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

chris stapleton performing at forecastle in july. herald-leader staff photo by rich Copley.

It’s been a busy summer for Chris Stapleton.

The Kentucky country traditionalist, whose debut recording Traveller has been chosen by National Public Radio as one of NPR Music’s 25 Favorite Albums of the Year So Far, has shared concert dates in recent months with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams Jr., Alan Jackson, Warren Haynes and Jason Isbell as well has played sold out shows of his own in New York, Nashville, St. Louis and several other cities. He also served up a killer set at Forecastle in Louisville and took part in an all-star salute to Waylon Jennings for Austin City Limits Live during July.

On Tuesday – well, technically, Wednesday – Stapleton heads straight to your living room. He will perform Might As Well Get Stoned on NBC-TV’s Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:35 am Aug. 19 (after The Tonight Show on Tuesday, so no one gets confused).

For more info, go to

fall concert news

the avett brothers (joe kwon, scott avett, seth avett and bob crawford) will perform at rupp arena with jason isbell on oct. 1.

the avett brothers (joe kwon, scott avett, seth avett and bob crawford) will perform at rupp arena with jason isbell on oct. 1.

This fall concert news just in:

The Avett Brothers will return to Rupp Arena on Oct. 1 with Jason Isbell as show opener. This will mark the popular folk-fortfied jam troupe’s third Rupp outing and their first at the venue since November 2013. While the band has not released a new recording since that performance, it has spent much of the past year working on a follow-up album to the Rick Rubin-produced Magpie and the Dandelion.

Isbell played here earlier this summer as a surprise support guest of wife Amanda Shires for an opening set at a sold out Singletary Center for the Arts date by John Prine. Isbell’s new Something More Than Free album entered the Billboard Top 200 chart last month at No. 5.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance are $35-$59.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 through TicketMaster – (800) 735-3000 and

Also, the headline acts for this year’s Christ the King Oktoberfest have been announced. In keeping with its recent history of booking artists that enjoyed at least part of their commercial heyday during the ‘80s, the event will present The BoDeans (which made their Lexington debut by opening a Rupp Arena date for U2 in 1987) on Sept. 11 and British singer John Waite (best known for the 1984 Top 10 hit Missing You) on Sept. 12.

All CTK Oktoberfest shows are free, although exact performance times won’t be announced until closer to the show dates. For more info, go to

meghan trainor cancels state fair concert

meghan trainor.

meghan trainor.

Looks like the upcoming Kentucky State Fair will have to do without a stop by the M Train.

Pop singer Meghan Trainor has cancelled her Aug. 20 performance at Freedom Hall, the opening night concert for the fair, along with all remaining dates on the current North American leg of her M Train Tour. The reason is a vocal cord hemorrhage that will require surgery.

The singer, known for the mega hit All About That Bass, announced the cancellation earlier today through social media.

“I am devastated, scared and so sorry,” she posted on her website. “I love touring and seeing your beautiful faces every night. I am determined to do what it takes to get better and come back around stronger than ever.”

Trainor also thanked the two acts who shared her summer concert bill on Facebook.

“I’m sorry to my amazing openers that we had to cut it short. Charlie Puth and Life of Dillon, you guys put on great shows every night with big smiles and I will be forever grateful that you were a part of this experience, even though it was cut too soon. Thank you and your teams for everything.

While the cancellation leaves Freedom Hall without an opening night concert, the State Fair’s Turf Concert Series of free shows will begin on Aug. 20 with the pop metal bands Slaughter and Great White.

For more State Fair info, go to


robert earl keen reschedules lyric concert

robert earl keen.

robert earl keen.

Looks like you better put those muddy boots back on the porch. There will be no Texas troubadouring with Robert Earl Keen on Wednesday.

The popular Lone Star songsmith has postponed his July 22 concert at the Lyric Theatre. In an email notification sent out earlier tonight, the reason given was “last minute changes to Robert Earl Keen’s tour.”

The rescheduled date is Nov. 19 with a 7:30 start time. All tickets for this week’s originally scheduled show will be honored when Keen performs the bluegrass-inspired tunes from his new Happy Prisoner album this fall.

For more information, call (859) 280-2218.

staying out late with nikki lane

the green lantern has just booked country renegade nikki lane for a tuesday performance.

the green lantern has just booked country renegade nikki lane for a tuesday performance.

Start looking for a babysitter. The Green Lantern, 497 W. Third, has an 11th hour booking to boast of that will make (or, at least, should make) you want to stay out late on Tuesday night.

The club has landed a performance by country renegade Nikki Lane whose Dan Auerbach-produced recording All of Nothin’ was one of last year’s strongest albums.

From my June 2014 review of All of Nothin’: The first thing that grabs you is the singing – the product of a slight, imperfect, boozy voice that never oversells its sense of authority or defiance. On Good Man, it appears with a withdrawn drawl, a la Lucinda Williams. Then you take note of the accompanying music, a big beat girl group charge reminiscent of The Ronettes but spiked with ominous guitar twang and tremolo. Finally, the lyrics kick in – namely, a weary domestic reflection that hits the bullseye of a dovetailing, disrespectful romance (“The simplest thing that would make my heart ring… well, you don’t even think to do it”).

Cover charge for Tuesday’s 9 p.m. show is $10.

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.

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