8 p.m. Aug 7 at PNC Pavilion of Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave in Cincinnati. $29.50-$54.50. (513) 232-6220 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
Topping the list of irritants that are eroding the credibility of what has passed for country music over the past decade is how many Nashville acts have taken to declaring — be it in song titles, album titles or interviews — exactly how country they really are.
Hasn't it always been a rule of thumb that the more you claim to be of something, the less of that thing you really are?
Never having succumbed to such nonsense is Alabama-reared country renegade Jamey Johnson.
He re-established his country credentials on his 2010 recording The Guitar Song (a double album, which goes against country convention all the more) with an overlooked nugget by Kentucky Music Hall of Famer Keith Whitley called Lonely at the Top. Johnson then enhances the tune's deep-smoked honky-tonk air with a commanding sense of tradition that falls somewhere between George Jones and one of Johnson's most obvious influences, Waylon Jennings.
There's no pining or whining about how country he is. Johnson simply puts his cards on the table and cooks up one of the most appealing, tradition-based country sounds in recent years.
Such tradition shouldn't surprise Johnson fans, who cheered on the singer as his country baritone made a major radio hit out of the power ballad In Color and its accompanying 2008 album, That Lonesome Song. Nor should it seem foreign to the legions of fans who have followed Johnson through two- to three-hour shows in clubs, theaters and small concert halls, including regional marathon concerts at Renfro Valley and Cincinnati's Taft Theatre.
One would hope that the acceptance of Johnson's heavily traditional music by the country mainstream might signal that a concert at Rupp Arena was in the offing to break up the same string of Nashville acts who play in Lexington every year or so. Alas, Johnson's commercial breakthrough hasn't been big enough to trigger bookings into halls of Rupp's size. He is still playing venues that seat a few thousand or so.
But he has graduated to Riverbend Music Center's junior stage, the PNC Pavilion. If you brave a summer road trip to Cincinnati to catch him Sunday night, the journey will reward you with all the honest honky-tonk tradition you can handle in a single weekend.
Need a shot of soul and funk to juice up the dog days of early August? Then get over to Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, on Friday night as some of Lexington's finest groove merchants pay tribute to the music of James Brown.
Performing under the banner of The Payback, the band includes such practiced local greats as guitarists Willie Eames and Smith Donaldson, drummer Dave Farris, bassist Steve Cherry, keyboardist Farhad Rezaei, and hornmen Sam Flowers, Brad Grable, Doug Drewek and Ryan Moore.
(9 p.m. $5. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.)
While it's hot
The WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour has landed another big one. Its taping Monday at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street, will feature the local debut of Hot Tuna, the blues/roots-savvy unit formed more than 42 years ago as a spinoff project of the great West Coast psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane. Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has played here a few times on his own, but never with co-founding Tuna bassist Jack Casady. And if that isn't enough, the program also will feature one of the pre-eminent bluegrass groups of the past decade, Mountain Heart. (6:45 p.m. $20. (859) 252-8888 for reservations. Woodsongs.com.)