the musical box a live music blog at lexgo.com

Bolt for Son Volt

Bypassing Lexington yet again, the group plays Northern Kentucky

Contributing Music WriterAugust 6, 2009 

  • The week that was

    Cyril Neville and Rob Ickes at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour: Of the four tunes Cyril Neville offered from the new album Brand New Blues with his Tribe 13 band, which included son Omari on congas, Cheatin' and Lyin' best reflected the uprising attitude that has been missing from his Neville Brothers music of late. I Found Joy maintained that drive but turned the party lights on with a taste of carnival fun, as did the merry encore of Indians Got the Fire, from 2007's The Healing Dance. Between songs, though, Neville painted no rosy pictures of post-Katrina life in New Orleans. Having relocated to "physically live" in Austin, Texas, in the hurricane's wake, Neville admitted that he was still "spiritually living in New Orleans."

    For his set, dobro great Rob Ickes favored jazz explorations from his album Road Song over bluegrass. While a pair of Duke Ellington standards — Caravan and a country swing-fortified Take the "A" Train — were sublime duet vehicles for Ickes and pianist Michael Alvey, the 1964 Horace Silver classic Song for My Father let the dobro's inherent warmth mingle with the tune's infectious piano sway. Knoxville singer Robinella joined for Hank Williams' You Win Again, which downplayed country affection for aching blues, and the standard If I Had You. Robinella's phrasing again brought the great Billie Holiday to mind. But her tone was never imitative. She simply found her own spot within Ickes' wonderfully inventive string music and had a ball.

    Crosby, Stills and Nash at PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati: Two of the three charter members from this warhorse hippie folk-rock collective were in strong, vital form. David Crosby and Graham Nash, the prime components of the trio's storied harmonies, sang with sharp, knowing and ageless grace. They summoned honest drama out of the quietest of chestnut tunes (1969's Guinnevere), the most ornate of post-psychedelic meditations (1977's Cathedral) and electric tours de force that defined not only the times they were created in but the duo's still topical performance vigor (1970's endlessly fascinating Déjà Vu).

    That leaves us with Stephen Stills. Much has been noted of his deteriorating vocal ability in recent years. But it went further than that here. Though he still can play guitar like a demon —a trait displayed during the Buffalo Springfield relics Rock and Roll Woman and Bluebird — Stills just seemed disconnected from the proceedings. When the concert's first half concluded with his 1982 nautical reverie Southern Cross, Stills seemed involved and vocally assured. But when the second set began with his 1970 solo hit Love the One You're With, the show momentarily collapsed. The vocal lead became an indecipherable moan that left the singer visibly winded. The remainder of the program wasn't quite as severe. But Stills was nonetheless forced into playing catch-up with bandmates who have aged with noticeably greater drive, agility and unforced soulfulness.

Son Volt and Cary Hudson

8:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Southgate House, 23 East Third St. in Newport. $20, via www.ticketweb.com. (859) 431-2201. www.southgatehouse.com.

With a wonderfully dour new album called American Central Dust in stores, Jay Farrar and his newest Son Volt lineup head to Newport on Friday night.

Of course, this brings to mind the question of why the band has continually passed by Lexington the past few years. We managed to get one concert at The Dame out of Farrar and company after their comeback album, Okemah and the Melody of Riot, was released in 2005. But now with a realigned roster that features guitarist Mark Spencer, who accompanied Farrar during an acoustic set at the Christ the King Oktoberfest in 2006, and bassist Andrew Duplantis, last seen here playing behind Alejandro Escovedo at The Dame on the night of a January snowstorm, it seems you have to hit the road to catch Son Volt in action

If you go, go early. Cary Hudson of the recently revitalized Americana rock trio Blue Mountain, will open with a solo set.

The High Strung

8 p.m. Aug. 8 at Al's Bar, 601 N. Limestone. $5. (859) 309-2901. www.myspace.com/alsbarlexington.

For nearly a decade, the Detroit indie trio The High Strung has been making appealing pop music derived from a number of vintage inspirations.

The big beat, percussive rolls and orchestral sweep of Bad With My Hands recall the royal pop of the once great Phil Spector. Lyrically, though, the song is more aloof than anything riding out of Spector-ville. But The Lifestyle That Got Away recalls The Kinks on their giddier, late '70s recordings. And then there is the wide-eyed vocal charm of Standing at the Door of Self Discovery, with its cheery '60s Brit pop appeal (the Sell Out-era of The Who comes to mind) and its tough-knuckled detour into Americanized psychedelia.

The High Strung — guitarist/vocalist John Malerman, bassist Chad Stocker and drummer Derek Berk — bring those sounds and songs, all of which come from its fine new album Ode to the Inverse of the Dude, to Al's Bar on Saturday.

This will be the trio's first performance since playing for U.S. troops in Guantánamo Bay last week. "This is no joke," said an entry on the band's MySpace blog before the show. "We're going to Gitmo."

Cursive

■ 7 p.m. Aug. 11. CD Central, 377 S. Limestone. Free. (859) 233-3472. www.cdcentralmusic.com.

■ 8 p.m. The Dame, 367 E. Main St. With Very Emergency and The Love Language. $10. (859) 231-7263. www.dameky.com.

Think all the road construction on South Limestone has shut down CD Central? Not a chance. Our fave indie record store (which goes without saying, seeing as there really aren't any others around here anymore) has snagged the Omaha trio Cursive for an in-store performance on Aug. 11 ahead of its show later that night at The Dame (with Very Emergency and The Love Language opening).

On its new album Mama, I'm Swollen, Cursive offers a variety of deceptively sunny pop reveries including Mama, I'm Satan and From the Hips. Both tunes mask lyrics that foam at the mouth a bit before blasts of garage-rock frenzy and cowpunk glee take over. Hear for yourself at www.myspace.com/cursive.

And if you're heading to CD Central for the in-store show, it's best to park behind the store on Jersey Street while Limestone is being ripped apart and rebuilt.

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