stuck in traffic

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dave mason. photo by chris jensen.

At the heart of the near 50 year career of Dave Mason – a remarkable run that has included collaborations with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac in addition to a successful and extensive solo career – sits the sound of Traffic.

It was with the legendary British band that Mason’s musical teeth were cut. It was with that troupe, alongside fellow members Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and the late Chris Wood that Mason was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. And it is the music of Traffic that the singer, guitarist and songsmith returned to this year for a concert program called Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam.

On more of a Kentucky bend, the Traffic Jam tour will mark Mason’s first Central Kentucky performance since a 1978 performance at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum. He performs Friday at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort.

“I look back on Traffic and regard it as one of the original alternative bands,” Mason said. “I didn’t start writing until Traffic started. There were a lot of diverse tastes in that band, which in the end led to me having to go solo. But during the time of it, I was 19 or 20 years old. When you’re that age, there is nothing really you can’t do.”

Mason cut two psychedelic albums with Traffic before the band initially disintegrated in 1969. A critically acclaimed 1970 solo album Alone Together followed interspersed with guest guitar work on such landmark records as Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, the Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet and Harrison’s All Thing Must Pass. Mason reteamed with Traffic for a small handful of 1971 concerts (chronicled on the live album Welcome to the Canteen), but quickly parted ways again to resume a solo career that would eventually yield the hit 1977 album, Let it Flow.

“The show is, I guess, kind of a condensed history of my music from Traffic all the way up to today.” Mason said. “It’s just a travelogue of my career.

“The show is in two parts. The Traffic set has a cool, reworked Dear Mr. Fantasy, (the title tune to Traffic’s 1967 debut album). You Can All Join In and Pearly Queen (the first two songs from the band’s self-titled 1968 sophomore recording) are in there. Then there are things like Medicated Goo (a December 1968 single that wound up on the 1969 compilation Last Exit). Mostly I’m sticking to stuff that was done when I was with the band, but I also worked up my own arrangement of The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (from the 1972 album of the same name), even though that was not part of my time with Traffic. Usually, we take a break after that and come back to do stuff from Alone Together, Let It Flow and then some new stuff.”

The “new stuff” leans to Future’s Past, a 2014 recording fashioned very much along the lines of the Traffic Jam shows. There are new tunes (including Good 2 U and How Do I Get to Heaven) along with retooled Traffic and Alone Together songs.

“It’s more a collection of what I considered to be really cool sounding tracks,” Mason said. “I put them together in the hopes that people would enjoy it, obviously. But it’s also for people who maybe have never heard anything by me before. To a lot of them, all this music is going to be new.

“But to other audiences, there is a whole different scenario going on. I am part of the soundtrack of their lives. So a certain song will trigger certain memories for them on where they were, what they were doing. There are a lot of ways the music touches people on a very deep level that, to me, is very interesting.”

critic’s pick 247: daniel lanois, ‘flesh and machine’

lanoisFlesh and Machine is the record long time enthusiasts of Daniel Lanois always hoped he would make. After three decades of applying his stylistic ambience to other artists – namely, albums that heightened or reignited the careers of U2, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris, The Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and a host of others – the producer/guitarist/song stylist now turns his sonic invention to his own music on a gorgeously textured instrumental recording.

Lanois is no stranger to solo sessions. He has been cutting them since the late ‘80s, but they have mostly yielded song oriented works rich with a mix of rootsy sparseness, rockish immediacy and atmospheric invitation. The focus of Flesh and Machine seems to be exclusively on sound – specifically, a wash of guitar, voice and contributions from a few longtime pals processed into an often orchestral whole.

In some instances, recognizing the actual source music is impossible. In others, we hear fragments of melody, beat and groove, but they are seldom sustained. It seems Lanois was intent on creating an instrumental moodpiece for the modern age that discouraged any close consideration of the sum of its parts.

The most dominate and most recognizable inspirations are the early ‘80s recordings Lanois helped design with his foremost mentor, Brian Eno.

On Two Bushas , in particularly, the music flows in as if from the cosmos – chilled and spacious at one moment, lush but cautious the next. The comparisons to the Eno years become more intentional during the album closing Forest City, a luscious, sustained celestial hum peppered by what seems like synthesized fairy dust that recalls the music of Japanese keyboardist Isao Tomita. It is a tune beautifully designed to get lost in.

But Flesh and Machine is far more than an Eno-esque tribute. After the ethereal, vocally processed album intro of Rocco (named for Rocco DeLuca, who provided the source singing), the album explodes into the The End (an ironic title for Flesh and Machine’s second track) with a squall line of ruptured guitar speak from Lanois and free form bashing from longstanding drummer/compadre Brian Blade. The album quickly cools after that, but the attack of The End provides a balance that makes the grace and calm that pervades the rest of the album all the more striking.

There are loads of other delights, as well, including the brief cosmic pop reverie of My First Love, the techno chatter of percussion and keyboards or vocals (or possibly both) on Opera and the waves of what sound like heavily processed pedal or lap steel guitar that dance about on Aquatic.

All of this makes Flesh and Machine a sort of 36 minute sonic vacation. For full effect, put your life on hold as you listen, turn off the lights and let Lanois’ fabric of earthy unrest and otherworldly calm envelop you.

in performance: joe ely and joel guzman

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joe ely.

Among the stories Joe Ely told last night before a capacity crowd at Natasha’s was a yarn about his musical tutelage in West Texas. It dealt with weekend gigs outside Lubbock with early bandmates Jesse Taylor and Lloyd Maines that gradually grew from audiences of 25 to about 100. That was before a local preacher gave a Sunday morning sermon about the sins of Saturday night, mentioning Ely’s name “about seven or eight times” as an example. Convinced he would have to move his band out of town, the champion songsmith and roots rocker decided to finished his commitment of remaining performances, only to find a crowd of 800 awaiting him the following Saturday.

“I sent the preacher two tickets to our next show,” Ely said. “It was a ‘thank you’ for the free advertising.”

Last night, the fervor was perhaps less obvious with Ely, now 67, resetting his high-strung rock ‘n’ roll to an acoustic duo setting with accordionist Joel Guzman. But that simply offered a more intimate setting for the musical stories he has penned over a four decade recording career as well as several prime choices from a few of his Lone Star pals.

The show opening Run Little Pony (an original tune from 2000’s Streets of Sin album), set a blues narrative in motion of a hapless blue collar-ite who blows his track earnings on celebration only to wind up behind bars. “Ain’t got a brain in my head,” Ely sang with dry cunning. “Guess I never will.”

The song also introduced the remarkable support Guzman provided the 1 ¾ hour performance. Though his stage demeanor was reserved, Guzman’s playing was continually joyous as he provided Ely’s everything from orchestral color to rockish punctuation to, in the show’s finest moments, a rich Tex Mex accent.

All of those aspects alternately came into play during I Had My Hopes Up High, the first song from Ely’s self-titled 1977 debut album. A cheerful roots rock performance piece in decades past, Guzman helped this new acoustic version find its own unique footing.

Ely also gave plenty of stage time to tunes by his bandmates in the long running Texas troika The Flatlanders. From the pen of Butch Hancock came the lonesome wail of Boxcars with a spirited jam initiated by Guzman. The other Flatlander, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, was recognized with a light, luscious reading of the plaintive Tonight I’m Gonna Go Downtown. But perhaps Ely’s greatest Texas cover belonged to an elegant but still conversational version of the great Billy Joe Shaver affirmation Live Forever.

Tom Russell’s brilliantly constructed Gailo del Cielo (the most honestly heartbreaking song about a fighting rooster referencing Poncho Villa that you will ever hear) wound the evening down along with Randy Banks’ show-closing Where is My Love.
Ely remarked he first heard Russell’s version of the former blasting from a jukebox in Norway. How fortunate the song, along with all of Ely’s Texas treats, found their way to Lexington last night in such vital, regal and revealing form.

tales from the big emptiness

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joe ely.

He has shared international stages and recordings with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Chieftains and Bruce Springsteen. But delve into the fascinating Americana music Joe Ely has made on his own over the last four decades and you will find all roads lead to Texas.

They might wind up in his birthplace of Amarillo, where Ely was introduced to the possibilities of rock ‘n’ roll. It could be Lubbock, where he discovered how the union of music and culture could transform a town. Then again, his music might take to his current home of Austin, or just outside of it as the veteran songsmith and champion roots rocker still describes himself, at age 67, as an upstart of sorts.

“I’m kind of a noisy neighbor,” said Ely, who performs a duo concert tonight with accordionist/keyboardist Joel Guzman at Natasha’s. “So I live outside of town a little bit. I had to find a spot where I didn’t have anybody within half a mile of me.”

Take in his recordings, from the Tex Mex pageantry of West Texas Waltz to the roadhouse rock and soul of Musta Notta Gotta Lotta to the proud folk balladry of Gallo del Cielo and you get an idea of how Ely could easily wake up the neighbors. But his love of music first took hold during childhood in the heart of a duststorm.

“One of the earliest memories I had of seeing rock ‘n’roll was going with my parents to a Pontiac dealership in a raging duststorm in Amarillo. This was before we moved to Lubbock. There was the stage with a madman wearing a bandana around his nose who was pounding on a piano. The wind was blowing so hard his microphone kept falling over. It was Jerry Lee Lewis. I just thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen.”

Ely admitted live music was far from prevalent when his family relocated to Lubbock. Instead, he and soon-to-be singer-songwriter pals Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (who continue to perform together as The Flatlanders) absorbed the blues that came barreling through the airwaves via high wattage radio stations out of Mexico. The live music that did exist in Lubbock tended to indigenous and spontaneous.

“When I was growing up in West Texas, my daddy had a used clothing store,” Ely said. “On the weekends, the migrant workers would come in from the fields and buy work clothes. Lubbock would increase by 50,000 people when the cotton was ripe. All of the migrant workers brought their musical instruments and filled the streets, and what generally was old, drab downtown Lubbock all of a sudden was completely alive with trumpet players and accordions and (guitar-like) bajo sextos. It was really a great time.”

While Ely formed some of his first bands in Lubbock, it was the fertile music community of Austin that gave his music a lasting home. That helped forge an expansive career with a catalogue of roughly 20 albums (including the newly released B484, an archival record cut as a precursor to 1984’s synth-savvy Hi Res) and an increased visibility as both author (he recently published his first novel, Reverb) and visual artist.

“Everytime I start a new record these days, I tend to go back outside of Lubbock and just drive up and down those old two lane roads and seeing absolutely nothing in every direction. That’s somehow inspiring to me. I don’t know why.

“There is just this big emptiness that hits you when you get out of Lubbock. Look in every direction and there’s just flatness. There is something about that giant sky that makes me want to fill it up. I’ve had my ups and downs in the town itself. But that area…I just like that big emptiness.”

Joe Ely and Joel Guzman perform at 8 tonight at Natasha’s Bistro. 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $20. Warren Byrom Call (859) 259-2754 or go to www.beetnik.com.

in performance: garth brooks/trisha yearwood

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garth brooks performing at rupp arena on friday. he played a total of four concerts there this weekend. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

“You better slow things down,” said Garth Brooks last night to the third of the four Rupp Arena audiences he played to this weekend. “Some of you are a little older than the last time we were here.”

At 52, age seemed to be no impediment to the country star with his initial Saturday show clocking in at 2 ¼ hours. While he appeared understandably but unapologetically winded after several songs, the brisk pace of the performance, his vocal might and, most of all, a stage persona fortified by an almost childlike giddiness never wavered.

What was his answer to slowing things down? Try a jubilant version of the 1993 motormouth hit Ain’t Goin’ Down (Till the Sun Comes Up). It wasn’t until the solo acoustic reading of 1990’s Unanswered Prayers, where the audience essentially sang the song back to him, that Brooks allowed himself anything resembling a breather.

The apparent differences between this outing and Friday’s shows were minute. In terms of the setlist, the only adjustments came from allowing Trisha Yearwood a slightly longer cameo set in the middle of the concert (one that gave her time to fit in Georgia Rain and She’s in Love With the Boy), while Brooks saved Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old) and the Kenny Chesney-friendly Two Pina Coladas for the end of the show. He also snuck in acoustic revisions of Alabama Clay and The Change as encores.

What was different was the audience tally. Box office estimates for Friday were 19,000 for the first performance and 14,000 for the late show. As expected, last night’s numbers were higher – 21,000 for the early concert and 20,000 for the second.

Through it all, Brooks served as much as a cheerleader of his show as he did as the star, ripping through the more traditional country flavored Rodeo and The Beaches of Cheyenne with the same vigor he gave to his hit covers of Billy Joel’s Shameless and especially Aerosmith’s The Fever.

It was also great to see Leitchfield fiddler Jimmy Mattingly back onstage with Brooks (since his last Rupp show with the singer in 1998, he co-founded the popular bluegrass band The Grascals). A strong instrumental presence for the entire concert, Mattingly was the Cajun-inspired catalyst for the festive encore of Callin’ Baton Rouge.

The only real misstep was the show’s contrived Terminator-esque opening, which was set to the bland title tune from Brooks’ forthcoming Man Against Machine album. For a production seemingly steeped in performance humility (the singer at one point admitted the acoustic guitar he played was mostly a prop to “hide my gut”), the Matrix-style hijinx just seemed silly.

Luckily, by the time Brooks and band were knee deep in the honky tonk charm of Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House two songs later, the machines of the future were at bay as the country comfort of Brooks’ mega-popular past moved in to stay.

in performance: leo kottke

Leo Color

leo kottke.

Simply put, there is no m usical presence today as instrumentally virtuosic yet as unassumingly distinctive as Leo Kottke.

Last night at the Clifton Center in Louisville, he placed all manner of wiry m ischief on display through unaccompanied performances on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars along with a collection of wonderfully askew between-song stories. Of course, that is hardly a revolutionary gam e plan for Kottke. He has designed his solo concerts in pretty m uch the same way for over four decades. But his shows today, and last night’s was no exception, still possess a danger elem ent that make his guitar abilities all the more arresting.

As always, Kottke operated without a setlist, but used a well-worn favorite from the early ‘70s, Pamela Brown, as a show opener. The tune possessed a harder, more punctuated sound here than in recent years. In fact, the rumbling introduction on 12 string made you think he was about to soar into another catalog staple, Vaseline Machine Gun (which, ironically, turned up as an encore). Kottke’s conversational baritone singing, which took on a sagely sense of cunning, cooled the guitar fury but not after the tune had taken a whole new stylistic life.

From another stylistic environment altogether cam e a comparatively newer work, 2004’s Gewerbegebiet (“the most beautiful word in the Germ an language”) that unveiled a pastiche of contrasting tempos – a light, spacious intro that melted into a darker, almost percussive midsection before concluding with a ballet of vibrant instrumental harm onies.

For sheer melodic beauty, though, nothing beat the blues nugget Corrina, Corrina, which Kottke long ago made his own through an almost-pop inspired arrangement that sounded like it could have easily skipped off into the instrumental classic Sleepwalk had the guitarist been so inclined.

As always, Kottke’s askew storytelling was as original as his playing. During the course of the 90 minute show, the guitarist discussed two major regrets from his days in the Navy (not being able to tolerate torpedo fuel as a beverage and not mastering the art of shooting light bulbs tossed from submarines with a machine gun), his opinion of the Clifton Center’s lighting (“Can we get it any darker in here? I can see m ore than I really want to”) and the apparent widespread reluctance, especially from orchestras, to embrace major third intervals (“My m ission in life is to drill the m ajor third into your head and out of mine”).

Such were the rum inations of the modern day guitar virtuoso, still as wonderfully restless with as life as he is with m usic.

(Note: Kottke’s Clifton Center perform ance was reviewed in lieu of his Tuesday concert here at the Lyric Theatre so The Musical Box could report back on Paul McCartney’s show the same night at Louisville’s KFC Yum ! Center.)

in performance: paul mccartney

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paul mccartey performing last night at the kfc yum! center in louisville. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

“We’ve been waiting for you, Paul,” shouted an eager fan to Paul McCartney early into his marathon concert last night at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

“Hey, I’ve been waiting for you, pal,” replied the one time Beatle and lasting pop icon. In a way, McCartney wasn’t kidding. This was his first show ever in Louisville and only his second in Kentucky (the first being a February 1990 stop at Rupp Arena). Given he has been playing shows on North American soil for over a half century, it was perhaps understandable that expectations for artist and audience alike were high. But McCartney offered quite the icebreaker for bringing both parties together. He served up a tireless three hour, 39 song performance that began with the Beatles classic Eight Days a Week and ended just after 11:30 with the Golden Slumbers medley from Abbey Road. In between there were hits and album tracks from his ‘70s recordings with Wings and a generous sampling of solo material, which together encompassed some 43 years worth of recordings outside of the Beatles.

The big joy of it all was that McCartney, an elder pop statesman at age 72, made it all look remarkably easy. A lot of that had to do with the fact he appeared vocally and physically fit. Sure, there were a few cracks and blemishes in his singing to remind you he is not the 20-something Beatle of yore. But there were far more instances – the Band on the Run rocker Let Me Roll It, a joyous and semi-acoustic We Can Work It Out and the 2013 tune Queenie Eye (one of four songs pulled from the album New, which, ironically, is now a year old) – that were rich with vocal stamina and intent.

But show’s other primary attribute was its design. For the last 12 years, McCartney has worked with the same four member band (which has now lasted longer than The Beatles and Wings) with concert programs rooted in simplicity. Yes, he still rolls out the pyrotechnics for Live and Let Die and afterwards feigns deafness from the commotion they cause. But the majority of the program wasn’t fussy or excessive at all. In fact, some of its most fascinating moments were also its quietest, from a lovely and faithful reading of And I Love Her, complete with woodblocks and hand percussion, and a solo version of Blackbird that was full of stark grace.

How much nostalgia played into one’s appreciation of the concert probably depended on their age. The 2012 song My Valentine was presented along a split screen video of Natalie Portman and Johnny Deep interpreting the lyrics in sign language. That was about as concessionary to modern times as the show got. The rest of the program used the Beatles’ still-brilliant catalog as its backbone. When those songs commenced, it was pretty much impossible to not go reeling through the years, whether it was with the backdrop of clips from A Hard Day’s Night that were shown as the band played All My Loving early into the performance or the especially moving montage of George Harrison photos shown when McCartney covered one of his late bandmate’s most popular songs (Something) on one of his favored instruments (ukulele).

You could go on about the rarities (the Sgt. Pepper gem Lovely Rita), the total surprises (Pepper’s Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which was originally sung by John Lennon) and all the expected classics that you hoped would still pack an emotive punch and did (Hey Jude, Back in the U.S.S.R. and the always devastating Eleanor Rigby).

All in all, it was an exhilarating, exhaustive pop joyride, not to mention a grand effort by one of rock music’s most endearing and defining artists in getting back to the Kentucky roots he probably never knew he had.

Take a look at Mark Cornelison’s photo gallery from last night’s concert here.

in performance: ian mclagan/janiva magness

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ian mclagan.

Ian McLagan has always been a crafty devil. As far back as his early ‘70s albums with The Faces, the pianist was dishing out the bawdiest of boogie woogie breaks one minute and constructing a serene pop melody line the next.

The repertoire McLagan favored for last night’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre was vastly lighter and considerably more reflective. Still, that same mix of fire and beauty was present. The humble pop meditation Shalalala, one of three tunes performed from his recent United States album, was a wonderful case in point. The song was a stately affirmation aided by bassist Jon Notarthomas. Then as the music modestly drew to a close, the left hand rumbles started and a hint of barrelhouse mischief revealed itself before subsiding without overstaying its welcome.

At 69, what McLagan may have lost in terms of recklessness he has gained in pure performance taste. Enforcing that notion was another United States tune, I’m Your Baby Now. McLagan and Notarthomas colored the song with an arrangement that functioned like a pressure cooker in that the groove within the melody line was repeated with a simmering intensity the duo purposely did not allow to boil over.

Curiously, the biggest nostalgia moment came with a 2008 tune called An Innocent Man. But it wasn’t McLagan’s spirited keyboard work that peeled back the years. It was instead a warm, disarming vocal performance that recalled the hapless singing of his late Faces bandmate, Ronnie Lane.

janiva magess

janiva magess.

Detroit blues-soul diva Janiva Magness, a veteran of several previous WoodSongs shows, shared the bill last night with singing that was as commanding and concise as McLagan’s keyboard playing.

Promoting her first album of self-penned songs (hence the title – Original), Magness nicely meshed with the smokey r&b groove of Let Me Breathe, the torchy stride of When You Were My King and the rockish cool that fueled I Need a Man.

Magness clearly possessed the vocal pipes that could have turned any of those tunes into shriekfests. But her phrasing (and, again like McLagan’s playing, taste) never allowed such grandstanding to ignite.

Ian McLagan and Jon Notarthomas perform again on Oct. 28 at Parlay Social 257 W. Short. (8 p.m.; $15, $20). Call (859) 244-1932.

Jack Bruce, 1943-2012

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Jack Bruce

For a bassist best known for the three tumultuous years he scorched the rock and roll world with Cream, Jack Bruce sure got around.

He played jazz. He played blues. He was a master collaborator and a headstrong bandleader. He was also, if we bought into the hedonistic tales of his 2010 autobiography Composing Himself, a complete maniac prone to a level of self-abuse that should have claimed his life a generation or two ago.

The Scottish born Bruce was a composer, a potent singer and, above all, an absolutely soaring electric bassist. He was, in short, the consummate rock artist at a time in pop history when artistic discovery was everywhere.

He died Saturday at the age of 71 and left a library of music so stylistically far reaching that whittling it down to even a few highlights is impossible. But let’s try anyway.

From the Cream days, I’ll take 1968’s mighty Wheels of Fire over everything else the band did, even the psychedelic studio masterwork Disraeli Gears. A double album divided evenly between studio and concert recordings, this was the sound of Cream unleashed – a volcanic blues mutation that knew no boundaries.

But there was so much more. Bruce’s first three solo records were all classics. 1969’s Songs for a Tailor showed off his songcraft, 1970’s Things We Like echoed the thunderous jazz extremes Bruce briefly explored in Tony Williams’ Lifetime and 1971’s Harmony Row radically reinvented Cream’s power trio design.

There were scores of other delights, as well, including his recordings with guitarist Robin Trower, the 2012 self-titled album from fusion supergroup Spectrum Road and the fine 2014 solo work Silver Rails.

But the record I reached for last night though was a sleeper, a 1974 solo session called Out of the Storm. It was cut on American shores during the aftermath of the short-lived West, Bruce & Lang trio (which teamed the bassist with two thirds of Mountain). It was a true FM classic, a mix of prog and jazz drenched melodies iced by some of the most otherworldly singing Bruce ever committed to a recording.

I saw Bruce play only once. He played a December 1989 concert at Bogart’s in Cincinnati with Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Unwilling to play anything but old Cream material, Baker sat out the entire first half of the show. But Bruce, who was promoting another underappreciated gem of an album (A Question of Time) carried on with unflinching joy and confidence. In a way, his performance stance approximated that magnificent sound he summoned from the bass. Both were bold, distinct and fearless.

big mac

Ian McLagan by Jim Chapin

ian mclagan. photo by jim chapin.

The name he attaches to an extensive list of rock ‘n’ roll credentials, from founding membership in The Small Faces and The Faces to extensive work with The Rolling Stones to a reputation as one of the most jubilant keyboardists in the business, is Ian McLagan.

But to fans, contemporaries, protégés – everyone, really – he forever goes by a simple, endearing nickname: Mac. That’s the name the native Brit and transplanted Texan has happily answered to in a career that stretches back a half century.

“I’m the luckiest guy I know because I love what I do, and I can still do it,” said McLagan, 69. “People still come out just to hear the music, too. That’s a blessing, you know? What else am I going to do but play the piano and sing?”

McLagan’s performances Monday for the WoodSongs Old-Time Hour and Tuesday at Parlay Social will be his first Lexington performances promoting his own music. He will be accompanied both evenings by bassist Jon Notarthomas, a member of the keyboardist’s long running Bump Band, now based in Austin. But McLagan has played twice at Rupp Arena with two acts that have helped define his career – The Rolling Stones in December 1981 and Rod Stewart in October 1993.

The former performance was particularly telling as it paired McLagan with longtime Stones mentor and pianist Ian Stewart. The two shared similar tastes and inspirations. Stewart was a devotee of roots-driven piano music and boogie woogie. McLagan was fascinated by Muddy Waters blues records that featured pianist Otis Spann.

“Stu was a wonderful man,” McLagan said. “He had no ego at all. He wasn’t a showboater. I learned a lot from Stu just from watching him and listening to him.

“He would say to me sometimes, ‘I don’t understand what you’re doing. Your playing – it’s sounds right, but you do it strange.’ I said it was because I had no training. I had to fumble and figure it out for myself. Some things I do wrong, but I’ve got to get to the notes.”

The Stones figured heavily in McLagan’s performance education, as well – that, along with more informal serenading from within his family.

“It’s funny, my grandmother played the concertina. She was a fantastic player. She wasn’t a professional. She just happened to be brilliant. I think if there is any music to hit me from anywhere, that’s where it came from.

“But when I first started out, you just wanted to be inside of the music you heard. So when I saw the Stones play a little club in the West of London, I thought, ‘Okay, it’s possible.’ That encouraged a lot of young musicians in London to hear the Stones live, because they were a blues cover band back then. We thought, ‘Yeah, we love that music. Why can’t we do that?’”

The Stewart performance came on the heels of the singer’s 1993’s Unplugged… and Seated album. But his connection with McLagan goes back to the boozy rock and soul records the two cut with guitarist Ron Wood, bassist Ronnie Lane and drummer Kenny Jones in the early ‘70s as The Faces (the band began in 1965 as the more pop-directed Small Faces with McLagan, Lane, Jones and soon-to-be Humble Pie chieftain Steve Marriott).

“Rod’s voice was just a delight to play under. But I worked as hard as I ever did with The Faces. My fingers would be battered, my nails would be broken. I would get these big blisters. The music brought a lot out of me. It was pretty physical.

“We’re talking about getting together again next year. Rod is real interested. Ronnie (Wood), Kenney and I are interested. It’s looking real positive (Ronnie Lane died from multiple sclerosis in 1997).”

“It’s ridiculous to think that 50-some years on I’m still doing this. I mean, I’ve never had a job. I’ve never had to go to work. I always had to go to fun.”

Ian McLagan and Jon Notarthomas perform Oct. 27 at the Lyric Theatre, 300 E. Third for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour with Janiva Magness (6:45 p.m., $20) and 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Parlay Social, 249 W. Short with Willie Eames (8 p.m.; $15, $20). Call (859) 252-8888 for the WoodSongs taping and (859) 244-1932 for the Parlay Social performance.

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