Walter Tunis: Lexington favorite Alejandro Escovedo returns to Natasha's for acoustic Sunday show

Contributing Music WriterJune 12, 2014 

2014 New Orleans Jazz Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 2

Alejandro Escovedo returns to Lexington Sunday for an evening at Natasha's with violinist Susan Voelz.

JOHN DAVISSON — Invision/AP

Alejandro Escovedo with Susan Voelz and BettySoo

7:30 p.m. June 15 at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $25. (859) 259-2754. Beetnik.com.

If any national touring artist can truly be considered a local favorite, it's Alejandro Escovedo.

Ever since his Lexington debut 18 years ago this month, the champion Texas song stylist has established a devout following through songs rooted equally in rich, family-themed Americana and buoyant, elemental rock 'n' roll. As a result, a guessing game as to what kind of band setting he would play in often prefaced Escovedo's local performances.

Would it be the chamber-style settings that accented the border-town folk accents of his songs with violin and cello or would it be the thrash-and-burn garage rock immediacy of his famed band Buick MacKane or his current traveling electric quartet The Sensitive Boys?

Nearly all of Escovedo's Lexington shows in recent years have favored the latter, especially since his three most recent studio albums (two of which, 2008's Real Animal and 2010's Street Songs of Love, were cut here at St. Claire Recording Co. in Lexington) favored expansive sounding rock works produced by Tony Visconti (who helmed career-defining '70s albums for David Bowie and T. Rex, among others).

Escovedo's return Sunday at Natasha's peels back the volume to present him in an acoustic duo setting with one of his most longstanding cohorts, violinist Susan Voelz.

While the often cinematic scope of Voelz's playing has graced performances by such disparate acts as Ray LaMontagne and Vieux Farka Touré, it is perhaps best known to indie audiences as a primary component of the veteran multi-stylistic pop brigade Poi Dog Pondering.

Opening the evening will be fellow Texas songsmith BettySoo. Her newest album, When We're Gone, was produced by Brian Standefer, the cellist who accompanied Escovedo at his initial Lexington shows.

Love for Loveless

Take melodies rich in power-pop accessibility but aged with lyrics reflecting seriously tough country love. Then set it all to a voice of deep clarity, confidence and longing. That's what Lydia Loveless tosses your way on her fourth and finest album, Somewhere Else.

The Columbus, Ohio, singer packs the record with great tunes, the best being the rough-and-tumble Verlaine Shot Rimbaud, an obsession-drenched slab of jangling country unrest with a brutish guitar undertow. But the singing, an impassioned cross between the roosty resolve of Rosanne Cash and the scholarly gusto of Neko Case, sells the package. If that wasn't enough, Loveless wraps the album up with a tons-of-fun pop cover of Kristy MacColl's They Don't Know that makes Somewhere Else truly something else.

Loveless further fills out an insanely packed musical weekend with a performance at Willie's Locally Known, 805 N. Broadway, on Saturday (8 p.m., $10). The Restless Leg String Band opens. Call (859) 281-1116 or go to Willieslex.com.

Gibson grass

The Festival of the Bluegrass hits full stride this weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park with a roster of familiar names on Friday night (Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out), Saturday (longtime festival fave The Seldom Scene) and Sunday (a morning gospel set with the Dry Branch Fire Squad, which is often the highlight of the weekend).

But also make room for a major festival debut: two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year The Gibson Brothers.

The quintet has a traditional but refreshingly light sound that, on its 2012 album, They Called It Music, makes Mark Knopfler's Daddy's Gone to Knoxville sound like a 1930s dance hall piece (provided the dance hall was in Appalachia).

The Gibsons perform at 6 and 9:20 p.m. Friday. For a full lineup of performance times and festival prices, go to Festivalofthebluegrass.com.

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