Here we are, just a few days into 2014. It's the dead of winter, and spring seems a lifetime away. But you can bet that some serious live music will chase away at least some of the winter blues.
Consider these 12 concert picks — a selection that takes us from the mountains to Mali to Martini time — as a survival guide of sorts, a gateway to some musical warmth as the season gets serious.
Jan. 17: Luke Bryan, Lee Brice and Cole Swindell. Country music continues its hold on concert bookings at Rupp Arena with the venue's first headlining performance by Georgia-born Bryan (of Crash My Party fame). Don't expect that hold to give way anytime soon: The performance is sold out. (7:30 p.m. Rupp Arena, 430 West Vine Street. Sold out, but last-minute tickets might become available: (859) 233-3565 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.)
Jan. 22: Yonder Mountain String Band and Travelin' McCourys. Here's something different. With Yonder mandolinist Jeff Austin on a brief hiatus after becoming a new dad, the band's Lexington show will boast Ronnie McCoury and Jason Carter from the co-billed Travelin' McCourys as guest additions. (9 p.m. Buster's Billiards and Backroom. 899 Manchester Street. $20, $25; available at (859) 368-8871 or Bustersbb.com.)
Jan. 24: Town Mountain. Few bluegrass bands have made more of an effort to form a fan base in Kentucky than the Asheville, N.C., troupe Town Mountain. Over the past year, the quintet has played several times at Willie's Locally Known and made its debut at the Festival of the Bluegrass. (8 p.m. Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $12; available at (859) 259-2754 or Beetnik.com.)
Jan. 25: Robert Earl Keen. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Keen's debut album, No Kinda Dancer. Since then, the Texas Americana singer's blend of whimsical narratives and dark, soul-scorched reflections have earned him a devout fan base. Unlike past visits, this Troubadour Concert Series show will be a solo performance. (7:30 p.m. Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street. $34.50; available at (859) 280-2218 or Lexingtonlyric.com.)
Feb. 6: Keb' Mo'. A regular visitor to Lexington venues over the years, contemporary blues artist Keb' Mo' returns ahead of the release of a new, as-yet-untitled recording, his first new studio album in three years. This Troubadour Concert Series show will be the fourth date on a cross-country tour that will last through May. (7:30 p.m. Lexington Opera House, 401 West Short Street. $44.50; available at (859) 233-3535 or Ticketmaster.)
Feb. 8: Delbert McClinton, Exile. It's about time we had champion Texas roadhouse rocker McClinton back in the Bluegrass, and better still that we will get a live listen to tunes from Blind, Crippled and Crazy, the singer's first album in four decades with former musical partner Glen Clark. The concert benefits the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund. (7 p.m. Frankfort Convention Center, 405 Mero Street, Frankfort. $25-$100; available at (502) 564-5335 or Bit.ly/JrC8S6.)
Feb. 9: JJ Grey and Mofro. Grey remains a distinctive ambassador of Southern soul and funk, borrowing less from the proven inspirations of Muscle Shoals, Ala., and more from the layered, swampy rhythms of his native Florida. Such influences abound on his sixth and newest studio record, This River. Fifth on the Floor will open. (8 p.m. Buster's Billiards and Backroom. $20, $23.)
Feb. 13: Robert Cray Band. A young torchbearer for the blues upon his commercial breakthrough in the mid-'80s, Grammy-winning guitarist Cray, 60, is now one of the genre's most learned elders. His newer original tunes, particularly those from the 2012 album Nothing But Love, provide a topical slant on the blues. This is another Troubadour Concert Series show. (7:30 p.m. Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. $44.50, $48.50; tickets go on sale Jan. 10.)
Feb. 13: Fatoumata Diawara. Born in Ivory Coast and raised in the musically fertile but war-torn West African country of Mali, vocalist and songwriter Diawra has collaborated with Herbie Hancock while forging her own mix of traditional and contemporary world-beat music. (7:30 p.m. Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts, 600 West Walnut Street, Danville. $30; available at (859) 236-4692 or Nortoncenter.com.)
Feb. 14: Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives. A performing country stylist since he was in his pre-teens, Stuart has become a scholar of traditional and roots-driven country music. Today, he fronts an immensely resourceful group that expertly brings those sounds to life. (7:30 p.m. Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair Street, Frankfort. $30 $45; available at (502) 352-7469 or Grandtheatrefrankfort.org.)
Feb. 22: Simone Dinnerstein and Tift Merritt. Dinnerstein is a critically lauded classical pianist. Merritt is one of Americana music's most gifted songwriters. Last year, the two collaborated on a genre-hopping duet album called Night that will fuel the repertoire for this concert. (8 p.m. Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts Weisiger Theatre, Danville. $30.)
Feb. 28, Pink Martini with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. The exotic global orchestral pop of Pink Martini takes a second bow at the Singletary Center on the heels of Get Happy, a record that sports vocal performances by a curious all-star cast crowned by the late Phyllis Diller. (7:30 p.m. UK Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose Street. $35, $45, $55; available at (859) 257-4929 or Singletarycenter.com.)
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.