Bodeans likely to mix its new album with past hits at Buster's

Veteran band to mix songs from new album and extensive library at Buster's

Contributing Music WriterJune 21, 2012 

The Bodeans: Ryan Bowman, left, Kurt Neumann, Warren Hood and Michael Ramos.



    Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers at The Kentucky Theatre: At the halfway point of this rich and remarkably animated performance, Hornsby seemed ready to write his own review: "He wasn't that good, but he laughed at his own jokes, that Hornsby."

    An abundant sense of playfulness fueled the concert, but this show was no joke. Operating from a set list that relied heavily on audience requests, Hornsby assembled a pop sound with a nearly boundless range. At various points, his music referenced bluegrass greats The Stanley Brothers, jazz piano great Bill Evans, avant rock icon Captain Beefheart and roots-music champion Levon Helm. And, yes, there were a few extended jams that briefly echoed Hornsby's days with The Grateful Dead. But these were supplements to a pop sound that was very much Hornsby's invention.

    The nearly 2½ -hour performance reached back to Hornsby's 1986 debut album for the show-opening The Red Plains. More precisely, it began with a series of dizzying piano runs that recalled the devilish playing of modern piano jazz stylist Matthew Shipp. Then the tune's familiar melody surfaced, introducing an efficiently orchestrated sound fronted by Hornsby's piano and the support of electric keyboardist and Beefheart alumnus John "JT" Thomas.

    As for the hits, they took a generous beating — and sounded all the better for it. The End of the Innocence, Mandolin Rain and the set-closing The Way It Is sported sections that dramatically altered the composed melody. Mandolin Rain, if anything, sounded even more elegiac in the newer, starker setting that enveloped its first verse than it did on the original arrangement, which the song eventually reverted to. Ditto for The Way It Is, which grew out the prog-ish ambience that concluded Preacher in the Ring, Part 2.

    The highlight? Hard to say. Hornsby's turns on dulcimer during I Truly Understand, The Good Life and Prairie Dog Town came close. But in the end, Rainbow's Cadillac, on which Hornsby briefly aped the vocal honk of the great Beefheart while playing accordion, won out. It was a beautiful moment with a modern pop journeyman honoring one of rock music's most deviously dissonant intellects.


9 p.m. June 22 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $22. (859) 368-8871.

Often the biggest adversary any longtime artist or group faces when promoting the present-day validity of its work is the past.

Take the BoDeans, which performs Friday at Buster's. Just last week, the veteran Milwaukee-bred band released its 11th studio album, American Made. It's a lean but far-reaching work that embraces its knack for expert narrative reflections and roots-driven, Americana-slanted rock 'n' roll. It also presents fans — new and established — with a significant surprise.

The BoDeans' history weighs in mightily here. In fact, one of the most storied chapters from its early days played out in Lexington. In October 2007, with sophomore album Outside Looking In gathering strong reviews, the band opened at Rupp Arena for — and eventually stole the show from — U2. To be fair, the headliners were limping that night, with U2 singer Bono's voice shredded by non-stop touring. But, as a hungry band presented with an opportunity, the BoDeans capitalized on the moment. That show, along with a follow-up performance of its own in December that year at Bogart's in Cincinnati, cemented the BoDeans' regional reputation as one of the more dynamic live acts of the day.

Subsequent years found the band more or less chasing its creative tail by collaborating with numerous producers — including return alliances with T Bone Burnett, who produced the splendid 1986 BoDeans debut Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams — to attain a level of commercial popularity that equaled the critical kudos. The biggest commercial breakthrough came with Closer to Free, which served as the theme song to the Fox drama Party of Five and became a Top 20 radio hit nearly three years after it was released on 1993's Burnett-produced Go Down Slow.

The BoDeans never stopped recording, just as the group never fully escaped its past. In fact, the fine 2008 album Still, also produced by Burnett, had to compete that year with a two-disc reissue of Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.

But change arrived in somewhat unexpected terms last year. Up to that point, the BoDean' songs were represented in equal measure by its two singer/songwriter/frontmen, Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas. But shortly after the release of the band's album Indigo Dreams last summer, Llanas bailed. In short order, Neumann recruited guest guitarist Jake Owen and cut American Made. What resulted was an album of rich stylistic detail, from country-Cajun meditation to sleek blues drive to Celtic soul.

Expect Friday's show to balance plenty of American Made songs with more than a quarter- century's worth of prime rock, pop and soul.

Get Lost

Descriptions and comparisons seem to fail when trying to tag the wondrous music of Lost in the Trees, the North Carolina ensemble that winds up the weekend with a performance Sunday at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue.

The group's new album, A Church That Fits Our Needs, is an extraordinary case in point. At the heart of its 12-song lineup is a sobering theme — the suicide of group chieftain Ari Picker's mother. But the music that results is far from dour. Neither Here nor There, Icy River and An Artist's Song employ strings, winds, Picker's atmospheric falsetto and a host of fanciful melodies and soundscapes to create music that is ghostly but serene. In short, Lost in the Trees sounds like nothing else in or out of today's pop marketplace.

Daytona will open its concert Sunday. (9 p.m. $8. (859) 309-9499.

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