Walter Tunis: Mindy Smith at Natasha's, Iris DeMent at 'WoodSongs'

Contributing Music WriterAugust 9, 2012 

Mindy Smith, who released a new album in late June, is to perform Sunday at Natasha's Bistro & Bar.


Mindy Smith

8 p.m. Aug. 12 at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. $15 in advance, $19 at the door. (859) 259-2754.

'WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour': Iris DeMent

6:45 p.m. Aug. 13 at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $20. (859) 252-8888.

"Just be mindful when you are speaking my name," Mindy Smith sings near the end of her new, self-titled album. Such words might seem like a routine earthly warning until she reveals the chorus' coda: "And be careful when you're walking on my grave."

There has always been a spirituality to Smith's songs, but such an inspiration seriously drives Mindy Smith. It often appears unexpectedly, too, as on Devils Inside, in which consideration of one's inner demons seems to fortify goodness.

Such sentiments are expressed with some of the most pronounced country wailing Smith has ever committed to a recording. Of course, even within the expansive, glistening harmonies and steel guitars, there are surprises. Take the album- opening Closer, in which popcorn blasts of bass synthesizer pepper the soundscape like a summer cloudburst.

Smith returns to Natasha's on Sunday to show off these fine new tunes and more, with Angel Snow opening.

Smith's performance will preface another return outing. On Monday, renowned Americana songstress Iris DeMent will be back for her second Lexington show in four months. As with the earlier performance, at First Presbyterian Church, DeMent will use her visit Monday to WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, where she will be the lone guest, to preview music from her forthcoming album, Sing the Delta.

Reservations for all WoodSongs tapings are highly recommended.

Big Damn deals

Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, has a pair of prime performances on tap.

Friday marks the return of Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Despite its Brown County, Ind., heritage, the music created by the Rev. J. Peyton, wife Breezy Peyton and "distant cousin" Aaron Persinger sounds like back-porch gospel brewed in North Mississippi blues. It is primitive but high-spirited — and, needless to say, spiritual.

That comes across in the scores of live shows the Big Damn Band has presented in Lexington during the past decade. And it beams with all the earnest fervor of a weathered hymn book on the trio's new Between the Ditches, a record in which the Rev. Peyton's sermonizing gets good and earthy. He fingerpicks away on a pair of 1930s National guitars, a cigar-box guitar, a Gibson flattop guitar and more. (10 p.m. $10 in advance, $12 day of show. (859) 309-9499.

On Saturday, Cosmic Charlie's welcomes back the Mike Dillon Band. Percussionist Dillon has become something of a regular at the club. He has played there twice during the past two years as part of the punk-funk collective The Dead Kenny G's, on which Dillon predominantly manned the drums.

In the Mike Dillon Band, which performed at Cosmic Charlie's as recently as Memorial Day weekend, he shifted to vibraphone, and the ensemble music slid decidedly closer to jazz. But Dillon's vision of jazz is informed by soul and blues — including jazz greats Eddie Harris, Cannonball Adderly and vibraphone forefather Milt Jackson.

There also is an obvious playfulness in the band. That's reflected in the song titles Rock Star Bench Press, Fat Redneck Gangster and Tofu and Thai Food. But the animation really shines within the interplay between Dillon's mallet-propelled leads and the variety of grooves enhanced by trombonist Carley Meyer, which shifts the music from bop to blues.

Drummer Radam G — he and Meyer double as members of Yojimbo Funk — and bassist Bru Bruser complete the Dillon Band lineup.

A neighbor's birthday

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center (Interstate 75 at U.S. 25, Exit 62, in Renfro Valley) will be running non-stop this weekend. On Thursday night, its New Barn theater was to welcome country legend Merle Haggard. Friday, it hosts a sold-out performance by new-generation country outlaw/traditionalist Jamey Johnson. And on Saturday, the venue welcomes home a neighbor.

Leading a bill that includes 1970s and '80s country stars T.G. Sheppard and Jeannie Seely will be Versailles native John Conlee.

A licensed mortician before answering the call of a singing career, Conlee scored one of his first and biggest hits, Rose Colored Glasses, in 1978. Seven No. 1 hits and more than a dozen Top 10 singles followed. By the early '90s, Conlee was a regular performer at the annual Farm Aid benefit concerts, a nod to his own upbringing on a Versailles tobacco farm.

If you're going, be sure to bring your best birthday wishes. Conlee turns 66 on Saturday. (8 p.m. $25, $30, $40. 1-800-765-7464.

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