The Jayhawks/ Folk Uke
Lexington and Louisville get to engage in an Americana square-off on Friday night.
In Lexington, Mississippi song stylist Cory Branan returns to Willie’s Locally Known, although this is his first showing at the venue’s new home on Southland Drive.
Branan is one of those artists who ought to be on country radio but isn’t. He is a masterful songsmith, blending country authenticity with broader pop and Americana strokes. The difference is that songs like You Make Me are sharper musically (dig the John Fogerty guitar hook) while other tunes, including Come On, Shadow, are smarter lyrically (“C’mon shadow, it does no good to drag your heels when passing by her place”) than anything corporate Nashville can churn out these days.
Branan’s newest album for the Bloodshot label is 2014’s The No Hit Wonder, although he and labelmate Lydia Loveless released a joint 7-inch single of Prince covers (he interpreted Under The Cherry Moon, and Loveless took on I Would Die 4 U) on Record Store Day, April 16 — five days before Prince’s death. The tunes are available digitially.
Playing to the Louisville constituency on Friday night will be The Jayhawks, the longstanding alt-country troupe than leans more to pop tendencies on its splendid new album, Paging Mr. Proust.
Initially, The Jayhawks sported two chieftains, Gary Louris and Mark Olson. The latter split after the release of Tomorrow the Green Grass in 1995, leaving Louris to carry on with a trio on underrated albums that culminated with 2003’s Rainy Day Music. The two reteamed for a fine duet record (2009’s Ready for the Flood) and a full-on Jayhawks reunion session (2011’s disappointing Mockingbird Lane).
The Louris-led Jayhawks lineup carried on to tour behind reissues of the three Olson-less albums in 2014, setting the stage for Paging Mr. Proust. The new record is ripe with harmonic pop delicacies (Quiet Corners and Empty Places), trippy neo-psychedelic exercises (Pretty Roses in her Hair) and beautifully stark confessionals (I’ll Be Your Key). Together, the complimentary styles make for one of the most appealing and listenable recordings released so far in 2016.
The country’s most popular torchbearing troupe of traditional New Orleans jazz, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, heads back to Lexington on May 24 for its first concert at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street, in two years (7:30 p.m., $44.50). Although still touring behind its 2013 album of original songs, That’s It!, the ensemble continues to gain acclaim and exposure from newer-generation acts far outside the jazz genre. The Lyric concert comes during a brief break from a month-long tour with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Fans should also check out the PHJB’s version of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day with Shovels + Rope on the latter’s recent covers album Busted Jukebox, Vol. 1. For tickets, call 859-280-2218 or go to Lexingtonlyric.tix.com.
Amazingly, it was 40 years ago this summer that Boston — the band, mind you — took over rock radio with a self-titled debut album that has sold an estimated 17 million copies through the years.
Founder-songwriter-producer Tom Scholz, is in the lineup with Gary Pihl, Tommy DeCarlo, Tracy Ferrie, Curly Smith and Beth Cohen. Notorious for working methodically on the band’s recordings, Scholz has released only six studio albums by Boston, the most recent being 2013’s Life, Love and Hope. Expect much of the band’s 40th-anniversary concert on May 26 at the EKU Center for the Arts, 1 Hall Drive in Richmond (7:30 p.m., $45-$125) to be devoted to music from the debut record and the 1978 sophomore release, Don’t Look Back. Those records yielded six major radio hits between them. For tickets, call 859-622-7469 or go to Ekucenter.com.