Music News & Reviews

Far from ‘Justified,’ Gangstagrass is going strong

Gangstagrass is Landry McMeans and, in back, from left, Randal Green, Rench (Oscar Owens), Dan Whitener and Dolio the Sleuth (Lawrence Durant).
Gangstagrass is Landry McMeans and, in back, from left, Randal Green, Rench (Oscar Owens), Dan Whitener and Dolio the Sleuth (Lawrence Durant).

Even by usually plentiful summer standards, this weekend, as well as the week ahead, offers a remarkable bounty of live music choices at home and in the region. Here’s the rundown:

▪  Friday: Gangstagrass. Willie’s Locally Known, 286 Southland Dr. 9:30 p.m., $10. 859-281-1116.,

It was four summers ago when the Brooklyn ensemble Gangstagrass made itself known to Lexington audiences by way of an ear-opening performance at Natasha’s Bistro. The band’s unexpected hybrid sound, a blend of bluegrass and hip-hop, was largely new to local audiences, even though it had caught on nationally after “Long Hard Times to Come” had been chosen to serve as the theme to the acclaimed Kentucky-set series “Justified” in 2010.

Also a triumph for the group was a groove-centric version of the 19th-century ballad, “Banks of the Ohio,” from its 2014 album, “Broken Hearts and Stolen Money,” that makes the song’s murdering protagonist a female. “Justified” ceased production two years ago, but Gangstagrass is still going strong.

▪  Friday: Jesse Malin/Anthony D’Amato. Cosmic Charlie’s, 723 National Ave. 9 p.m. $15. 859-333-4817.

The working life never seems to slow down for Jesse Malin. In addition to sharing summer concert bills with Cheap Trick and Juliana Hatfield, as well as ongoing music with the reunited D Generation (one of the preeminent New York punk bands of the 1990s), Malin has released a new EP, “Meet Me at the End of the World.”

A startling video for one of the record’s cooler tracks, a mash-up of the original tune “Revelations” and the Big Star classic “Thirteen,” reveals a beautifully poetic side of Malin’s profile in a way that recalls the more reflective music of longtime friend Ryan Adams. Read more about Malin on Page 10.

▪  Saturday: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, 2380 Richmond St. in Mount Vernon. 8:30 p.m. $32-$38. 800-765-7464.,

It’s nearly impossible to overestimate the influence that Lawrence County native Skaggs has had in the worlds of bluegrass and country music over the past five decades. From tenures in bands led by Ralph Stanley, JD Crowe and Emmylou Harris, to an astonishing solo career that prompted a new traditionalist country movement during the mid-1980s and a scholarly instrumental command upon his return to bluegrass in recent years, Skaggs remains largely without peer as a picker, bandleader and even indie bluegrass record label chieftain.

▪  Friday and Saturday: Cincinnati Music Festival. Paul Brown Stadium, 6 Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. 7:30 p.m. $60-$150 each evening. 513-455-4999.,

With roots that reach back to 1962, when it was inaugurated as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, the event now known simply as the Cincinnati Music Festival has become the largest concert gathering of nationally prominent R&B artists in the country. It’s an event so huge it takes two nights and a football stadium to deliver it. Friday’s performance roster features Mary J. Blige, Kem, SWV, En Vogue and Bell Biv Devoe. Saturday’s bill includes Usher, Fantasia, Anthony Hamilton, Confunkshun and Ro James.

▪  Tuesday: Graham Nash. Lexington Opera House. 401 West Short St. 7:30 p.m. $55-$65. 859-745-3000, 859-233-3535.,

The last third of the Crosby, Stills and Nash team is now hitting Central Kentucky. Stephen Stills played Lexington as part of the blues-rock troupe The Rides in 2013. David Crosby performed at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville as recently as November.

Now we have Graham Nash visiting the Lexington Opera House for a concert with guitarist/accompanist Shane Fontayne. In Sunday’s Living section, Nash discusses, among other things, why Crosby, Stills and Nash sits in a state of disrepair, as well as the life changes that brought about “This Path Tonight,” his first solo album in 14 years.

Read Walter Tunis’ blog, featuring his musings on music in Central Kentucky and beyond, at