Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Cumberland Gap Connection
3 and 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane in Clay City. $15. (606) 663-9008.
It always seems that bluegrass music gets the jump on everyone at the start of a new year. Traditionally, Central Kentucky indulges in a good week or two of winter slumber before concert activity builds back to a full boil. Not so with our friends in Clay City and the annual autumn-to-spring series of bluegrass shows they present at one of the homiest concert venues in the state, Meadowgreen Park Bluegrass Hall.
Granted, the venue was closed for a holiday break during much of December. But it was back in action on New Year's Day with a performance by Phillip Akemon. This week, the big bluegrass guns come out courtesy of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
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Lawson, of course, is no stranger to the region. His performance alliance with Grammy-winning Lexington/Nicholasville banjo ace J.D. Crowe dates back to their days together in the Kentucky Mountain Boys during the '60s. From his '70s tenure with the Country Gentlemen through the nearly 32 years he has led the various incarnations of his band Quicksilver, Lawson has been a staple of nearly every major bluegrass festival in the area, including the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park every June.
On Saturday, though, we will get to witness one of the finest bluegrass-gospel units in the land, and what has long been recognized (especially by the International Bluegrass Music Association) as one the top-tier vocal ensembles, on a winter night in one of the most inviting and intimate concert settings Kentucky has to offer. That has to be considered a highlight in a year that is just a week old.
Saturday's performance comes on the heels of a fruitful 2010 for Lawson. In the spring came a new Quicksilver recording, Light on My Feet, Ready to Fly. The record's exclusively gospel repertoire reflects some earthy inspirations on He Will Remember Me, a testament of faith nearly crippled by Alzheimer's disease. Elsewhere, the recording takes full vocal and instrumental advantage of the newest Quicksilver lineup: guitarist Corey Hensley, dobroist Josh Swift, fiddler Jason Barie, bassist Jason Leek and banjo alumnus Dale Perry, who previously played for Lawson from 1994 to 2003).
Then in August, Lawson released a collaborative album, Old Friends Get Together, with Crowe and fellow bluegrass vet Paul Williams. The predominantly gospel-based recording also features Sonya Isaacs and Cia Cherryholmes tackling high-harmony duties to complete an especially rich vocal blend.
Typically, Saturday shows at Meadowgreen Park are exclusively evening affairs. Lawson and company, however, also will perform at 3 p.m. Cumberland Gap Connection will open each concert.
'Red Barn' returns
Also wasting no time getting into the 2011 swing of things is Red Barn Radio, which began its concert year last week. The early start compensates somewhat for a premature finale to 2010. Red Barn's final taping of the year, which was scheduled for Dec. 15, had to be canceled because of inclement weather.
On Wednesday, the program will feature a session with the Louisville-based bluegrass/Americana troupe Dozens of Dollars. As with all Red Barn shows, the Wednesday taping will be at ArtsPlace, 161 North Mill Street. (7 p.m.; $8, free for children 12 and younger).
Feel like staying in? Red Barn Radio is broadcast twice on Saturdays: 9 p.m. on WEKU-FM and 11 p.m. on WUKY-FM.