It was 20 years ago this summer that Alejandro Escovedo introduced himself to Lexington by way of a Saturday evening performance at the long defunct Lynagh’s Music Club (now Cosmic Charlie’s). Built around his then-current album With These Hands, the show began with chamber-style reflection and wound up with an Iggy Pop-inspired rock ‘n’ roll brawl.
In the decades since, the famed Texas songsmith has never been away from a Lexington club for long, whether its was through garage rock manifestos with his Buick MacKane band (also at Lynagh’s, his favored local performance home for many years), purely acoustic outings (a sold out show at the Lexington Opera House the same night Cher played a few streets over at Rupp Arena), rock quartet gigs with his Sensitive Boys band (at the Christ the King Oktoberfest and the Kentucky Theatre), post-punk outings with The Fauntleroys (at the original Willie’s Locally Known location on North Broadway), stripped down guitar/violin gigs with Susan Voelz (at Natasha’s Bistro) and a gig last fall that encompassed nearly all of the above (at the Singletary Center for the Arts).
Escovedo’s return this weekend takes him to yet another venue, the new Willie’s locale on Southland. It will cap off what has already been a productive year that has included a tribute concert to Leonard Cohen staged in Austin staged on his birthday (Escovedo’s, not Cohen’s) and the recording of a new album with guitarist Peter Buck.
But what has always made an Escovedo performance so involving has been the emotional investment he makes in the songs he performs. In most cases, the repertoire is his own — a library of richly confessional, romantic, poetic and human works. Some are celebratory in their electric empowerment, others remarkably plaintive in their acoustic delicacy. Even the majority of the cover tunes he favors, especially quieter pieces like Ian Hunter’s I Wish Was Your Mother and Peter Case’s Two Angels, have become such concert staples and reveal such profound emotive depth that they seem almost indistinguishable from Escovedo’s own material.
The saga of Escovedo’s longstanding love for Lexington continues on Sunday. Let’s see what the next 20 years have in store.
John Jorgenson Quintet
By now, a billing for the John Jorgenson Band assures us the wildly versed and versatile guitarist is focusing on the gypsy swing music popularized by the great Django Reinhardt, an artist Jorgenson portrayed in the 2004 film Head in the Clouds. The music’s sublime jazz stride has been the prime sound he has promoted in local concerts over the last decade. Such will be the case again tonight as the Jorgenson group returns to the Grand in Frankfort.
But Jorgenson’s extensive career has run all over the stylistic globe. While his studio resume includes sessions with such disparate artists as Barbra Streisand and Luciano Pavarotti, there have also been an extended stays in Chris Hillman’s retro-country troupe The Desert Rose Band, Elton John’s touring band as co-guitarist and the noted electric guitar trio The Hellecasters.
It’s no wonder then that Jorgenson’s new album is titled Divertuoso. It is a three-disc set that devotes a subtitled set to three of his foremost musical loves. Returning capitalizes on his continuing fascination with gypsy jazz, The Crow’s Nest favors bluegrass and vintage country and Songs from the Flood offers works played on an assortment of guitars damaged during the Nashville flood of 2010 that have since been reconditioned.
Tonight, Jorgenson’s gypsy soul wins out with a performance that will present Frankfort with the swing inspirations of Eastern Europe.
Blue Man Group
What’s new with Blue — as in Blue Man Group? Well, there are the two performances that bring the trio of mute, childlike, latex-masked aliens back to the region next week at the EKU Center for the Arts. But there is something else, too. The EKU shows come on the heels of the Three, the third studio album by Blue Man Group (excluding concert records, EPs and DVDs).
Admittedly, hearing Blue Man Group isn’t quite the same as seeing the trio cavort with confetti cannons and polyvinyl tube drums onstage. But the 14 new instrumental tunes on Three still form a fascinating collage of keyboard, percussion and guitar soundscapes that bring to mind works by Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and early Kraftwerk.
Now, just imagine how much fun Blue Man Group will be with your eyes as open as your ears.