Dale Ann Bradley
Also playing, Kentucky Hoss Cats. 7 p.m. July 17 at Willie's Locally Known. 805 N. Broadway. $10. (859) 281-1116. Willieslex.com.
The Appleseed Collective
8 p.m. July 18 at Willie's Locally Known. $10.
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Two vastly different string music sounds make up the weekend bill at Willie's Locally Known. The first arrives courtesy of one of Kentucky's most versed and versatile bluegrass ambassadors while the other is an out-of-town troupe that peels back the years for a sound that encompasses swing, ragtime, jazz and, yes, a touch of bluegrass, to boot.
Friday night belongs to Dale Ann Bradley, a bluegrass voice so familiar she could be viewed as a neighbor. Given her extensive performance tenure in years past at Renfro Valley and more recent club and festival shows that have coincided with five separate turns as the International Bluegrass Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year, we can see how Bradley has turned familiarity into popularity.
Possessing a strong, consistent catalog of recordings that includes a run of fine albums with banjo great Alison Brown as producer, Bradley is now promoting the new Pocketful of Keys. The recording is ripe with roots-driven gospel and bluegrass, but it also throws a curve ball by turning the 1990s pop hit by the Gin Blossoms, Til I Hear It From You, into a gentle, plaintive and beautifully homey confessional.
Saturday brings in something altogether different. From the unlikely string music metropolis of Ann Arbor, Mich., comes The Appleseed Collective, an Americana troupe favoring a grab bag of acoustic string music traditions. It revels in the giddiness and spirit of bluegrass, but its resulting music steers closer to jazz and swing.
The band's new hometown concert recording, Live at the Ark, delights in meshing those styles and more within the old time fiddle giddiness of Brandon Smith on the woozy album opener The Periwinkle Blues, the curious world-music inflected gypsy jazz led by guitarist Andrew Brown on Tiny Red Nails and a Wide-Eyed Moon and the percussive dervish of Vince Russo that ignites Madly Crazy Darlin'.
Sweet Baby James at 67
It was 45 years ago this summer that James Taylor gained superstar status.
Having completed a tenure with his New York band the Flying Machine and a self-titled pop-driven album for the Beatles' Apple label, the Boston-born songsmith signed with Warner Bros. Records and released an album called Sweet Baby James. A record that took only nine days and less than $8,000 to make, Sweet Baby James surfaced during the winter of 1970 and modestly grew in popularity until a folk-flavored eulogy called Fire and Rain exploded during the late summer and made a Taylor a star.
This summer, Taylor is celebrating his career longevity with Before This World, his first album of new songs in a decade. Released in June, the recording is a typically relaxed affair that includes an ode to his hometown Boston Red Sox (Angels of Fenway), a pastoral travelogue (Montana) and a lovely reading of a folk staple he has performed live for years (Wild Mountain Thyme).
Despite decades of popularity, Before This World is the first No. 1 album of Taylor's career. He is promoting the record with a brief summer tour that was to have brought him to Riverbend Music Center on Friday. But because of potential flooding from recent rains, that show has been rescheduled for July 26 at Riverbend, 6295 Kellogg Ave. in Cincinnati (8 p.m. $31.50-$101). For tickets, call 1-800-745-3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com. Tickets already bought for Friday will be honored July 26.
The Lone Star State sends two of its mightiest road warriors to Lexington next week.
Monday brings in honky-tonkers Dale Watson and his Lonestars at Willie's Locally Known (8 p.m., $20) with the trio Coralee and the Townies opening. Go to Willieslex.com. Then on Wednesday (July 22), Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen comes to the Lyric Theatre, 300 East Third (7:30 p.m., $44.50). For tickets, call (859) 280-2218 or go to Lexingtonlyric.com.
Watson and Keen discuss their music in this weekend's Living Sunday section.