Charlie Daniels Band
What do Charlie Daniels and Taylor Swift have in common outside of somewhat tenuous connections to country music? Not much really, save for the fact both are heading to Kentucky this weekend in very different concert settings.
On Saturday, we go large for the stadium-size return of Taylor Swift. For the first concert at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium since U2 played there in June 2017, the one-time country-pop princess and current techno-dance music queen is touring behind “Reputation,” her sixth album to sell in excess of two million copies.
“No pop star goes to such absurd extremes to avoid repeating herself, even when repeating herself would be more than good enough,” Rob Sheffield wrote in Rolling Stone of Swift’s tour-opening show, last month in Phoenix. “The girl just likes a challenge, even if that means she wants to stand under a surreal inflatable snake to sing her heartfelt confessions about autumn leaves and maple lattes.”
Suffice to say, there isn't a lot of crossover audience between Swift and Daniels, who many of us last saw paying tribute to late Kentucky musician Troy Gentry at his memorial service late last summer.
A mainstay architect of 1970s-era Southern rock, Daniels is still touring this summer at the age of 81. Prior to a string of late '70s hits that included “The South’s Gonna Do It” and especially “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” he was a session musician who played on albums by Bob Dylan and, perhaps unfathomably, Leonard Cohen.
But it has been the guitar-fiddle drenched music fashioned by the bands bearing Daniels’ name that have inspired succeeding generations of fans and artists alike. In fact, if you don’t catch Daniels playing his 1975 concert staple “Trudy” at Renfro Valley Friday night, you will very likely catch Tyler Childers digging into it at his soldout Manchester Music Hall engagement. The Lawrence County native has been covering the tune in his shows for years.
Continuing our odd couple theme are two road trip-worthy shows with seemingly little in common tucked into those pesky work evenings separating the weekend from the Fourth of July.
But there are some interesting links at play in these performances: Both feature Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees that are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.
At Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion, it’s the regional return of Yes, the prog rock mainstay that turns 50 years old this year. Despite its lengthy run, the creative heyday of Yes is largely contained to the 1970s when epic recordings like “The Yes Album,” “Fragile,” “Close to the Edge” and “Going for the One” represented an age where prog enjoyed unusually close commercial ties to the pop mainstream.
Today, the history of Yes is represented by three veteran members — guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes. The present day lineup rounded out by vocalist Jon Davison and bassist Billy Sherwood — released its first album without co-founder Chris Squire (who died in 2015) last November. Titled “Topographic Drama,” the concert recording focused on music off of two albums from Yes’ yesteryears - “Tales from Topographic Oceans” (1974) and “Drama” (1980).
Yes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush in 2017.
Then on Tuesday, The Pretenders, now 40 years old, hit the Louisville Palace. The band’s lineup has shifted continually for much of its history. But what matters is that the woman who remains at the helm, Chrissie Hynde.
The Pretenders are largely defined by their first three recordings: “Pretenders” (1980) along with “Extended Play” and “Pretenders II (both 1981). The attitude was all post punk immediacy but the music never shied away from elements of pop and soul tradition.
Original Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers still tours with the band, but on record Hynde constantly juggles the personnel. The identity gets even more scrambled when you consider she released a debut solo album, 2014’s “Stockholm,” prior to the most recent Pretenders record, 2017’s “Alone.”
That leads to an inevitable question. What’s the difference between a Hynde solo record and a Pretenders album? Well, nothing. Songs from both projects are featured on the current Pretenders tour along with vintage tunes like “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Middle of the Road” and “Kid.”
The Pretenders were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Neil Young in 2005.