Music News & Reviews

Gladys Knight, Trace Adkins and R. Ring make Saturday busy in the Bluegrass

Gladys Knight, shown on a 2015 VH1 special, is to perform Saturday at the EKU Center for the Arts.
Gladys Knight, shown on a 2015 VH1 special, is to perform Saturday at the EKU Center for the Arts. Invision/AP

Perhaps The Moonshiner’s Ball isn’t enough to fill up your weekend (Story, Pages 12 and 13). Maybe the debut of Eastern Kentucky bassist and songwriter Adam Chaffins’ new band at Willie’s Locally Known won’t fully satisfy your thirst for new tunes. For the truly insatiable musical appetite, we have three Saturday night concert picks that differ drastically in the sounds and styles they promote. From old school pop-soul to contemporary country to celebrated indie rock, here’s the rundown.

Gladys Knight

7:30 p.m. May 20 at the EKU Center for the Arts, 1 Hall Drive at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. $65-$110. 859-622-7469. Ekucenter.com, Gladysknight.com.

Aretha Franklin rightly stakes claim to the title “Queen of Soul.” But the artist accorded the equally lofty honor of “Empress of Soul” is one of the last surviving stars from the golden era of Motown, Gladys Knight.

The final performer in the 2016-17 concert series at the EKU Center for the Arts, Knight has maintained an active career for more than 50 years that has included recordings for nearly a half dozen labels. But Motown singles cut between 1966 and 1972 with her longtime backup vocal trio The Pips — including the mammoth radio hits “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (one of three famed Motown acts to cut the song), “If I Were Your Woman” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” formed the foundation of her lasting soul sound.

But Knight’s stardom couldn’t be contained by Motown. In late summer 1973, a year after leaving the label for Buddah Records, she and the Pips released what arguably remains her most enduring hit, “Midnight Train to Georgia.” An effortlessly cool and emotive blend of mid-tempo soul, the song is a defining statement of Knight’s vocal command and the Pips’ sleek, understated harmonies. The song won a Grammy Award the following year.

Of course, the decades since have boasted numerous other triumphs, ranging from the 1986 hit “That’s What Friends Are For,” a collaborative AIDS benefit recording with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Dionne Warwick (that song also earned a Grammy) and one of the most underrated James Bond film theme songs (from, sorry to say, one of the worst James Bond films), 1989’s “License to Kill.” Knight was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

In a career that has included considerable acting credits in television and film projects, Knight continues to make new music. Her most recent recordings include the 2014 album “Where My Heart Belongs” and the 2015 dance single “Just a Little.”

Trace Adkins

8:30 p.m. May 20 at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, 2380 Richmond St. in Mount Vernon. $52.50-$62.50. 1-800-765-7464. Renfrovalley.com, Traceadkins.com.

Marquee country comes into view at Renfro Valley on Saturday with the return of Trace Adkins, the veteran Louisiana-born singer who is touring behind his first album in three years and one of the most critically lauded works of his entire career, “Something’s Going On.”

One hesitates to call the new album a roots-oriented venture. The radio-friendly “Gonna Make You Miss Me” puts the kibosh on that estimation. But the album’s first single, “Watered Down,” boasts a sense of reflection that only a singer who has clocked some years (he turned 55 in January) with a classic country baritone can convey.

Like Knight, Adkins has been moonlighting as an actor quite a bit. He co-starred with Mark Wahlberg last year in “Deepwater Horizon” and will be featured with Luke Hemsworth and Kris Kristofferson in “Hickock,” which is due for release in July. (Check Sunday’s paper and LexGo.com this weekend for more on Kristofferson, who is coming to Lexington on Tuesday for a Harry Dean Stanton Fest benefit.)

Lest we forget, Adkins was the winner of the 2013 season of “All Star Celebrity Apprentice,” which gave him the distinction of not being fired by Donald Trump.

R. Ring

Also: Western Movies, Red Mouth. 10 p.m. May 20 at the Green Lantern, 497 West Third Street. $5. 859-252-9539. Rring.tumblr.com.

The third of three wildly diverse Saturday night shows brings us back to Lexington for a return session with R. Ring, the indie rock collective featuring Kelley Deal (of the long running alt-rock troupe The Breeders) and Mike Montgomery (of the Cincinnati post-punk band Ampline). Deal lives in Dayton, Ohio, and Montgomery lives in Dayton, Ky.

When R. Ring made its local debut with a February 2016 outing at Cosmic Charlie’s, Deal and Montgomery were taking their time in assembling music for a debut album.

One year and a few self-released singles later, the two are touring behind their first full-length album together, “Ignite the Rest.” The collection shifts from echoes of low-fi power pop to more aggressive indie rock abstractions.

Red Mouth (aka Alabama songster Eric “Red Mouth” Gebhardt) will open the evening. R. Ring plays second, with Chris Sullivan’s local all-star Americana-and-more collective Western Movies capping the evening with a late-night set.

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