The Sunday Sessions featuring Coralee, Allison May, Seth Murphy
In her offstage hours, away from honky-tonking and soul-searching with the Townies and the Wags, songstress Coralee works as a graphic artist. When Celeste Lewis, director of the Downtown Arts Center, wound up as one of her clients, an idea began to ferment. Take the venue’s Black Box Theatre, open it up on an evening when it usually is closed, and let loose some of the region’s prime musicmakers.
That was how The Sunday Sessions began — or rather will begin Sunday, with Coralee as its first headline attraction. But the performance will differ, in both style and intent, from her usual club shows.
“Celeste is calling them curated music events,” Coralee says. “So the artists can do anything they want and incorporate any other artistic elements that they want. She asked the Townies to be her first band, but they weren’t able to do it, so I asked if I could generate a solo kind of event for the first one.
“I’ve had this new material that I’ve been demo-ing that’s really different, so I gave myself about a month and a half to put a band together and have it work on the music to perform at this show. I don’t know if I ever would have gotten it together if I hadn’t had to.”
For the event, Coralee has composed a collection of new songs with a “dark pop-rock” feel and has enlisted a trio of longtime musical mates — Robby Cosenza, Emily Hagihara and Blake Cox — to help perform them onstage. There will be a visual component to the performance as well. The singer enlisted photographer Allison May to take a series of mixed-media portraits inspired by her new music.
“Allison had been looking for a new creative project, so she did a photo series of me based on the song material,” Coralee says. “I sent her my lyrics, and she created a concept for some location shoots. I posed and did all of that stuff, which is the most intimidating thing in the world for me. So it’s a conceptual thing that she created — a five-piece series.”
Rounding out the evening will be a collection of video loops that Coralee pieced together from public-domain footage and an opening set of set of experimental cello music by Seth Murphy of Bear Medicine. Alfalfa, the arts center’s next-door neighbor, will cater the event.
Best of all, the series will be just that. Coralee’s curated performance will be the first of four Sunday Sessions shows scheduled this year for the Downtown Arts Center. The next, March 13, will feature Lexington folk expatriate Vandaveer (See album review, Page 26). Plans are for it to expand to six shows in 2017, with two constants: an early show time and a listening-room environment.
“Celeste is a big music fan, so we would always talk about the Lexington music scene,” Coralee says. “She developed this idea after we talked about what holes there were that could be filled.”
For folks who want the full Coralee and the Townies experience, the group plays a Soulful Space concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 533 East Main Street. Tickets are $12 and available at Thesoulfulspace.com.
One of pop music’s most enduring songwriters, Jimmy Webb, heads to the region next week for two very different performances. The first, a Feb. 24 show at the 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road in Cincinnati (8 p.m., $25, $30), will be a solo performance covering tunes cut throughout his 50-year career by artists as diverse as The 5th Dimension and R.E.M. The second, a Feb. 25 outing at the EKU Center for the Arts, 1 Hall Drive in Richmond (7:30 p.m., $22.25-$35), draws exclusively from more than 85 Webb compositions recorded by his most revered interpreter, Glen Campbell. In Sunday’s Living section, Webb discusses his enduring music bond with Campbell. Call 513-731-8000 or go to The20thcenturytheatre.com.com for info on the Cincy concert. Call 859-622-7469 or go to Ekucenter.com for the EKU Center show.
Walter Tunis has covered music for the Herald-Leader for more than 35 years.