7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane, Clay City. $12.(606) 663-9008. Kyfriends.com.
You know fall is in full swing when bluegrass music returns to Clay City.
A little more than a month ago, the Kentucky Friends of Bluegrass Music began its annual autumn-to-spring series of Saturday night bluegrass concerts at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall. You will find few more inviting and intimate settings for the presentation of any music genre. Designed exclusively as a bluegrass venue, Meadowgreen Park has the feel of a barn dance, even though the hall is primarily a listening room (save for the open floor space near stage left reserved for the cloggers).
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Enjoying bluegrass in a festival setting during the summer obviously has its own charm. But to hear world-class string music in an almost firesidelike setting during the fall and winter is one of the great performance pleasures available anywhere in the region.
So in essence, this is a case in which the venue almost supersedes the music. And indeed, a Saturday night of bluegrass at Meadowgreen Park is worth enjoying regardless of what the featured act of the evening will be. But the schedule is continually full of major league names. This weekend offers one of them: The Grascals.
Through a string of four albums released over six years, the sextet has found a common ground between tradition (its members have played with the likes of Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers) and contemporary country (Dolly Parton, Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, George Jones and Steve Wariner are among the all-star guests who have recorded with the band) to become one of bluegrass music's top new-generation acts.
The newest Grascals album, The Famous Lefty Flynn's, continues the formula. Among its highlights is a cover of the Osbornes gem Son of a Sawhill Man, which spotlights the swift instrumental intensity of the band's two newest players — banjoist Kristin Scott Benson (International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year for 2008 and 2009, and wife of IIIrd Tyme Out's Wayne Benson) and former Dale Ann Bradley fiddler Jeremy Abshire.)
Custom Made Bluegrass will open Saturday's show.
Future Meadowgreen Park performances of note this season include 2011 Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductee Melvin Goins on Nov. 20; Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Jan. 8; IIIrd Tyme Out, Jan. 22; and Larry Sparks, Feb. 5. For the complete schedule, go to Kyfriends.com.
7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St., Frankfort. $12. Grandtheatrefrankfort.org.
There is hardly an angle in the performance life of a musician in (or out of) Nashville that Marshall Chapman has not explored.
A recording artist with an extensive history, Chapman recently issued an indie album titled Big Lonesome, which features songs inspired by the late Louisville bandleader and longtime Chapman pal Tim Krekel. She also has co-written more than a dozen tunes for the off-Broadway production of Good Ol' Girls, which was described by The New York Times as "a feminist literary country music revue."
Then there is Chapman the author. Her new book, They Came to Nashville, boasts interviews with writers, performers and song stylists i ncluding Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell and Kris Kristofferson.
Finally, there are the two stages where you can see Chapman perform this fall and winter. On Saturday, she will take her songs and stories to the Grand Theatre in Frankfort for a concert — interspersed with readings from They Came to Nashville — that is a co-sponsored event with the Kentucky Book Fair. (Before the concert, Chapman is scheduled to be at the fair, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Frankfort Convention Center, 405 Mero Street. It's free to get in.)
Later, look on the big screen for Chapman playing road manager to a fallen country singer played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the film Country Strong, which is scheduled for wide release Jan. 7.
Also this weekend
■ A co-founder of the neo- psychedelic Pennsylvania duo known as Ween is heading to Lexington. On Saturday, guitarist and vocalist Aaron Freeman — better known to fans as Gene Ween — performs at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, at 9 p.m. ($20).
There are rumblings that a new Ween band album might get recorded this winter. Of late, though, fellow band chieftain Mickey Melchiondo, who goes by the stage alias Dean Ween, has been devoting as much time to fishing trips as to stage work. That has left Gene to carry on with a series of his own dates that included a stop at the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival last spring.
The Matt Duncan Band will open for the solo Ween on Saturday. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.
■ A solo outing by Jay Farrar is the sort of performance that you would think and hope would make its way to Lexington. Friday night, though, the Son Volt leader is heading to Southgate House, 24 East Third Street, Newport (8:30 p.m., $18).
In addition to Son Volt's fine 2009 album, American Central Dust, Farrar collaborated with Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie on the Jack Kerouac documentary soundtrack One Fast Move or I'm Gone. Kent, Ohio, songstress Jessica Lea Mayfield opens Friday night's performance. (859) 431-2201. Southgatehouse.com.
Brothers and Sisters
It's not exactly sibling rivalry, but Monday's taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street, has a guest list that boasts The Punch Brothers and The Chapin Sisters.
The Punch brethren, led by mandolin maestro Chris Thile, aren't related save for their joint efforts in exploring new stylistic territory for bluegrass instrumentation on its recent Antifogmatic album.
Lily and Abigail Chapin are very much sisters, the daughters of folk stylist Tom Chapin and nieces of the late folk-pop star Harry Chapin. Their music covers everything from Appalachian inspirations to blues to touches of psychedelia.
Be in your seats by 6:45 p.m. ($20. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.)