Walter Tunis: Singer-songwriter Tim Easton is a firm believer in being in the moment

Contributing Music WriterMay 15, 2014 

Tim Easton returns to Lexington for a Friday show at Willie's Locally Known.

TYLER MCCAY

Tim Easton and the Kentucky Hoss Cats

8 p.m. May 16 at Willie's Locally Known. 805 N. Broadway. $10. (859) 281-1116. Willieslex.com.

RB Morris

8 p.m. May 17 at Willie's Locally Known. $10.

A very full weekend at Willie's Locally Known kicks off Friday with the return of a regular: Tim Easton.

For more than 15 years, Easton has been a visitor to Lexington venues, from haunts such as Lynagh's Music Club and The Dame that are now gone to outdoor events such as the Christ the King Oktoberfest. He also has had a recurring run at Willie's.

Easton's music is essentially folk-based with an appealing but detailed narrative bent. You hear it in tunes like Four Queens, a bluesy tale of broad after-hours mischief that appears on Easton's recent album Not Cool, or in an older saga of more locally engineered high jinks, Lexington Jail.

But what is indeed cool about Easton's performance history here is that there is such unassuming immediacy to his live shows — whether he is playing solo, duo or in the company of the local honky-tonk pros from The Kentucky Hoss Cats, which will be the case Friday — that his songs never sound remotely the same.

"When you get down to it, the songs will change as time goes by," Easton said before a show at Willie's last fall. "That's all there is to it. I can't explain it any other way. I wish I could really admit I was in the camp of the person that can play the song exactly the same every night. That's some people's job, mind you. I'm not knocking that at all. But I'm not in that camp."

On Saturday, Willie's brings back Knoxville-area songwriter, poet and playwright RB Morris. Though familiar to Lexington audiences through a longtime touring association with John Prine, Morris has a history of l ocal club gigs that is almost as extensive as Easton's and an under appreciated discography that includes the poetic 1997 county-folk album Zeke and the Wheel.

The Saturday show will differ a bit from past visits. Instead of performing solo, Morris will lead a trio with bassist Daniel Kimbro and guitarist/fiddler/mandolinist Greg Horne. The band will be part of a double bill with Lexington's own folk-roots favorites Warren Byrom and the Fabled Canelands.

Spring stringdusting

In another month, string music will be everywhere in Lexington, thanks the Best of Bluegrass sampler of downtown concerts that will lead up to the annual Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Monday's taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street, will offer a prelude of sorts with a return performance by The Infamous Stringdusters.

The Nashville quintet operates with traditional bluegrass instrumentation of banjo, dobro, fiddle, bass and guitar. Similarly, there are definite references to the music's high-lonesome roots within the band's songs.

But the Stringdusters are something of an all-purpose unit. The band is just as likely to embrace jazz, folk, groove-oriented pop and even reggae during a tune.

On the Stringdusters' fifth and newest studio album, Let It Go, the genre jumping results in the rugged country jam adventure Colorado, the jazz-enhanced new grass stroll Middlefork and the comparatively relaxed folk reflection Rainbows.

The Colorado quintet Elephant Revival also will be featured at Monday's taping. (6:45 p.m. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.)

The original Mayfields

We've had the good fortune during the past few years, through a variety of local and regional performances, to chart the career progress of songsmith/producer David Mayfield, via the Americana troupe The David Mayfield Parade, and his sister Jessica Lea Mayfield, whose new album Make My Head Sing... is one of the strongest releases of the month.

Although they have played, separately, venues as diverse as Willie's Locally Known (David) and Rupp Arena (Jessica, as opening act for the Avett Brothers), the siblings teamed for a collaborative concert at Cosmic Charlies's in 2011.

But the Mayfields were touring companions long before those shows. As children, they performed with their parents in a family band called One Way Rider. On Thursday, Lexington gets to hear from the elders, David and Valerie Mayfield.

While their celebrated kids will be off promoting their own music, mom and dad will visit Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade, with an array of vintage bluegrass and county tunes in keeping with the repertoire of One Way Rider. (8 p.m. $5. (859) 259-2754. Beetnik.com.)

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