Night Beds/Jenny O
9 p.m. May 26 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $8. (859) 309-9499.
Slip on the new Night Beds album Country Sleep and you may feel you have stumbled upon some lost, unreleased session by Ryan Adams.
First, there is the hushed and slightly forlorn singing of Winston Yellen, which evokes Adams' quieter moments with the Cardinals and Whiskeytown. It surfaces initially without accompaniment — an intimate, stark but somehow elegant wail. Then the accents gently sweep in. Pedal steel guitar sings from the distance before melodies are established both elegant and restless. The completed arrangements then suggest the kind of orchestration that falls right in line with the alt-country camp Adams once called home.
While you never fully shake the Adams sensibility in Yellen's songs, its presence quickly ceases to be an issue as Country Sleep's light, almost pastoral songs take hold. This is music that thrives within its atmospheric but curiously rootsy settings. Some critics have drawn comparisons to Bon Iver, but Yellen's songs and performances possess more emotive and stylistic variety.
Don't feel excluded if Yellen is a new name to you. Country Sleep comes to us as a quietly potent debut album under his non de plume of Night Beds after a series of indie EPs. A native of Colorado Springs, Yellen transplanted himself to just outside of Nashville — both figuratively and literally — to cut Country Sleep. The album's 10 songs were written and recorded in as many months in a pre-Civil War home that the Night Beds bio material claims was once owned by Johnny and June Carter Cash.
The spirits of those country greats don't inhabit the contemplative songs of Country Sleep — at least, not overtly. But then again, the sentiments that drove the Cashes' music might be channeled through more contemporary filters in Yellen's compositions. Regardless of the source material, Country Sleep is one of the finest, most absorbing debut albums to surface so far this year.
Best of all, we get the advantage of a holiday weekend to hear how this exquisite music plays out on stage with a Night Beds performance on Sunday at Cosmic Charlie's.
For tickets and ticket info, go to cosmic-charlies.com.
Abbey Road on the River
10 a.m. May 24, 11 a.m. May 25 and 26, noon May 27, at various venues in downtown Louisville. $24-$199.95. arotr.com.
Imagine a tribute event so expansive that it takes multiple metropolitan venues, over 65 bands from all over the world and a full holiday weekend to pull it off. Is it any wonder, then, that such a celebration is built around the enduring pop of the Beatles?
Welcome to Abbey Road on the River, which has established itself as one of the largest and most comprehensive Beatles tributes of the day. For over a decade, it has become a globally inclined celebration that examines nearly every imaginable aspect of the music fashioned by the iconic British pop troupe.
Over this holiday weekend, three primary downtown Louisville locales — Belvedere Festival Park, the Muhammad Ali Center and the Galt House — will host Beatles and Beatles-releated music by cover bands from Italy, France, Scotland, Holland, Argentina, Norway, the United States and England — specifically, Liverpool, of course.
Don't expect straight up recitations of Beatles hits, either. Sets are planned that will include complete performances of over a dozen Beatles albums, a John Lennon inspired singalong of Give Peace a Chance (set for 11:30 Friday at the Ali Center) and appearances/performances by several celebs with strong links to the Beatles and/or the British pop invasion that coincided with the commercial rise of the Fab Four during the '60s.
The latter pack includes Leon Russell (the famed pianist and vocalist who performed alongside George Harrison at 1971's The Concert for Bangladesh), Denny Laine (a founding member of the Moody Blues, who spent a decade with Paul McCartney in Wings and was featured prominently on such cornerstone records as Band on the Run), Lawrence Jubar (McCartney's guitarist during the final years of Wings), Peter Asher (half of the '60s pop duo Peter and Gordon and, during the '70s and beyond, producer for artists like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt) and Peter Noone (still singing the hits of Herman's Hermits after nearly 50 years).
The Time Jumpers at the Opera House: The cheer bursting forth from the music of The Time Jumpers was in no way subtle. You heard it in the scholarly but often carefree musicianship, the commanding but unassuming singing and the glossary of traditionally-minded songs and styles this 11-member pack of Nashville all-stars summoned seemingly on a whim.
And then came moments so uncalculated but still so upbeat that you couldn't help but get swept up in the fun. Take, for instance, when Dawn Spears, one of the seven group members that took turns on lead vocals, announced she was going to perform a sad country song only to collapse in a fit of laughter so sustaining that reinforcements had to be called in.
Luckily, The Time Jumpers had plenty. Fiddler/leader Kenny Sears (Dawn's husband) summoned Ranger Doug Green (of Riders in the Sky fame) to sing the Western reverie Ridin' on the Rio, one of five tunes offered from the group's 2012 self-titled sophomore album.
But the giggles hardly got the best of Dawn Sears. She followed with If You're Going to Do Me Wrong, Do It Right, a solemn blast of traditional country heartbreak that was almost operatic in intensity. Not a bad trick, especially considering she was seated next to Vince Gill, who isn't exactly a slouch of a singer himself.
The rest of the nearly two-hour show was devoted to music with a fluidity that was often orchestral in design and a musical temperament that was continually sunny.
Two luminous examples were the instrumentals All Aboard and Texoma Bound, workouts that emphasized the band's trio of fiddlers (Kenny Sears, Larry Franklin and Joe Spivey). Similarly good natured was Kenny Sears' wry but light-as-a-feather Nothing But the Blues and the continually fascinating solo turns taken by pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin.
Gill got his two cents in with Six Pack to Go, which was served as a leisurely blues number, light on desperation and high on the playful, animated solos and melodic runs that helped define The Time Jumpers' traditionally inclined Americana fun.