Cory Branan/Tim Easton
8 p.m. May 29 at Willie's Locally Known, 805 N.Broadway. $10. (859) 281-1116. Willieslex.com.
Willy Porter/A.J. Ghent
6:45 p.m. June 1 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Art Center for the WoodSongs Old-Time Hour, 300 East Third. $10. (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.
Got 10 bucks? Then take your choice of two fine, but very different double bill performances heading our way over the next few evenings.
Friday night, Americana song stylist Cory Branan brings a cross-generational country sound to Willie's Locally Known.
Raised, as his bio states, "on the border between musical Mecca Memphis and the kudzu-crowned hill country of North Mississippi," Branan serves up songs on his 2014 album The No-Hit Wonder that possess a rich but reserved vocal sound. The results fall somewhere between modern Americana faves like Jay Farrar and such country traditionalists as Bobby Bare.
As for the songs, they possess more than enough melodic appeal (in tunes like You Make Me and Missing You Fierce) to win over contemporary country audiences. But there are also traditionally flavored treats (the pedal-steel-saturated All the Rivers in Colorado), a few stylistic surprises (the Cajun flavored Daddy Was a Carpenter) and anthemic reflections where all of Branan's vocal and songwriting strengths converge (The Highway Home).
The No-Hit Wonder also sports an impressive guest list that includes Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge of The Hold Steady, steel guitar veteran Robbie Turner, guitarist Audley Freed from the Black Crowes and Americana favorites Jason Isbell and Tim Easton.
Speaking of the latter, Easton — who has been playing Lexington on a regular basis for over 15 years — will open tonight's performance.
A true musical journeyman, whose home bases have included Nashville, Joshua Tree and Columbus, Easton has cut a strong string of indie albums that includes 2013's fine Not Cool. The Memphis-inspired record is full of hearty fiddle tunes (Knock Out Roses), reverb colored folk reflections (the title song) and rockabilly-style romps (Troubled Times).
Fast forward to Monday and we have another great double-bill ready to roll for the weekly taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre.
On tap will be the return of Willy Porter, a veteran singer-songwriter out of the Milwaukee area who is also a distinctive finger-style guitarist.
Porter has been making critically lauded folk, pop and rock directed albums for more than 25 years, although it was his third recording, Dog Eared Dream, that earned him the cultish audience that has continued to follow him to 2012's Cheeseburgers & Gasoline and the new Human Kindness. Of course, decades of rigorous road work (where he has opened for the likes of Jethro Tull, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck, Sting and Tori Amos) hasn't hurt Porter's visibility, either.
Rounding out the WoodSong bill will be another returnee, A.J. Ghent, a guitarist raised on the church-born pedal steel sound known as sacred steel music.
Ever since he made his Lexington debut at Rupp Arena opening for a December 2013 concert by the Zac Brown Band, he has since wowed local fans with shows at Natasha's, liberating his music from its Pentecostal roots.
Playing an instrument of his own design that mounts a pedal steel framework on a conventional guitar body, Ghent has designed funk, rock and soul sounds that initially came to the attention of secular audiences through tours with jam band great Col. Bruce Hampton.
Ghent's debut album of sacred steel-inspired guitar music is Live at Terminal West.