Outlaw Music Festival
Featuring: Willie Nelson and Family, Sturgill Simpson, The Head and the Heart, and Old Crow Medicine Show. 4:30 p.m. June 22, Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati. $30-$125. 1-800-745-3000. Riverbend.org.
Here’s a feast of a performance: A four act Americana summit with country outlaw patriarch Willie Nelson at the helm.
Having Kentucky’s own Sturgill Simpson on the bill is especially telling. Though he has often brushed aside the comparison, Simpson possesses a deep country tenor and stylistic flexibility that often approximates Nelson’s most noted outlaw performance partner, Waylon Jennings. That doesn’t mean Simpson doesn’t also take after ol’ Willie, who is still touring this summer at the age of 85. The Nelson staple “I’d Have to Be Crazy” (which was actually penned by Texas songsmith Steven Fromholz) has been a part of Simpson’s concert repertoire for years.
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Speaking of Willie (Nelson, of course, as well as the local music haunt/barbeque haven that comes into play here), one of the most infamous Kentucky appearances by Eddie Spaghetti and the post-grunge/cowpunk brigade and he has fronted for three decades, the
Supersuckers, was onstage with Father Outlaw.
The place was Cardinal Stadium in Louisville when Nelson brought Farm Aid to the Bluegrass. Never one to shy away from a sound ornery and mean (words famously used to describe Waylon Jennings), Nelson invited the Supersuckers onto the 1995 bill and even performed a tune with the band.
The crowd dug it and Nelson dug it but the commentators on CMT that were broadcasting the event stood slack jawed and stunned afterward. Then again, that’s a natural first-time reaction to Spaghetti and company, although not everyone gets that look broadcast live coast-to-coast.
The never-say-die Supersuckers, immodestly self-described on their website as “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world,” performs at Willie’s ... Locally Known on Sunday.
The always engaging Melissa Etheridge heads back to the Opera House on Tuesday, this time with a self-described “rock show” (her last concert here in 2014 was a solo acoustic outing). The longstanding rock-soul stylist discusses the art of performance and the arc of her career in Sunday’s Living section. But here is a remark from our interview not included in the story where Etheridge describes her place in a topically turbulent world:
“To see our society, to see our human race, our world, struggle with how we’re going to live together… I mean, that’s the biggest problem we have and we must figure it out. If that doesn’t call for art, I don’t know what does. That’s art’s job. So call me a soldier. I’m there. I’m doing my job.”
7:30 p.m. June 28 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. $35-$55. 502-352-7469. Grandtheatrefrankfort.org.
8 p.m. June 28 at the 20th Century Theatre, Cincinnati. 3021 Madison Rd. in Cincinnati. $28, $30. 513-731-8000. The20thcenturytheatre.com.
Two very different soul empresses take to two stages in two surrounding cities on Thursday.
At Frankfort’s Grand Theatre, it’s the extraordinary Rhiannon Giddens, whose music reaches back to the roots-driven sounds of African-American string bands. But Giddens’ definition of soul music is boundless. On her 2015 solo debut album away from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens covered songs penned or popularized by Dolly Parton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Odetta, Patsy Cline, Elizabeth Cotton and Kentucky folk icon Jean Ritchie. For the 2017 followup “Freedom Highway,” the focus shifted to Giddens’ own compositions that reflected on generations of racial identity and injustice.
The same night in Cincinnati, Bettye LaVette displays a soul profile she has nurtured since her teens. Stardom, however, didn’t arrive until 2005 via a Joe Henry-produced set of tunes written by women artists titled “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise.” LaVette’s newest album, still fueled by an unwavering sense of soul and R&B tradition, is a sublime set of Bob Dylan interpretations, “Things Have Changed.”