Music News & Reviews

On verge of new album release, Wheelies’ former frontman brings solo show to town

Mike Farris will perform at Willie’s Locally Known Friday night.
Mike Farris will perform at Willie’s Locally Known Friday night.


9:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Willie’s Locally Known, 286 Southland Dr. $17. 859-281-1116.

At the dawn of the 1990s, bands like Nashville’s Screaming Cheetah Wheelies represented a sort of mainstream rock resistance. With the indie music — specifically, grunge — infringing on its radio-friendly turf, the Wheelies held tight to a Southern-based sound rooted in the kind of boogie, blues and guitar rock inspirations that ruled the airwaves two decades earlier.

The Wheelies largely dissolved once the ‘90s concluded, but frontman, guitarist and vocalist Mike Farris journeyed on as a solo artist. But as he faced long debilitating drug and alcohol addictions, avenues into soul and gospel opened up — so much so that the long-since-clean Farris took home a Grammy for Best Gospel Roots Album in 2015 for “Shine for All the People.”

A veteran of many Lexington club shows through the years, Farris returns to town tonight for a performance at Willie’s Locally Known that will likely preview a new album, “Silver & Stone.”

Scheduled for release on Sept. 7, the record steers closer to the blues, rock and soul inspirations of the Wheelies’ days. Guests include Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Wynans, contemporary guitar star Joe Bonamassa, frequent John Hiatt/Patty Griffin co-hort Doug Lancio and veteran Memphis drummer Gene Chrisman.

The latter, it should be noted, played drums on the recently departed Aretha Franklin’s immortal 1967 recording of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” among many other classics.


7 p.m. Aug. 25 at PNC Pavilion, 6295 Kellogg Ave. in Cincinnati. $23.50-$77. 513-232-6220.

New Orleans takes over the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Saturday with a multi-act bill that serves as the modern day equivalent of a Crescent City Street Parade. Headlining will be the tireless, cross-generational funk of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, the troupe that essentially got the summer rolling in Lexington with a riotous performance at the Opera House in June. Hearing bandleader Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews hotwire an intensely rhythmic charge with tenor saxophonist BK Jackson and baritone sax man Dan Oestreicher on their usual-show opener “Buckjump” is alone worth the ticket price.

Also the bill is the far more modernistic funk of Galactic (which played locally at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center as recently as February), the vastly more traditional Preservation Hall Jazz Band (which has enjoyed a remarkable career renaissance over the past decades thanks to collaborative albums like 2010’s “Preservation” and collections of original tunes that include 2013’s “That’s It” and 2017’s “So It Is”) and the ultra-youthful (and aptly named) New Breed Brass Band.


8 p.m. Aug. 27 at Willie’s Locally Known, 286 Southland Dr. Free. 859-281-1116.

Local artists are wasting no time in showing their love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha Franklin, the soul music empress who died last week.

On Monday, Lexington’s own soul/funk favorite, Joslyn and The Sweet Compression will host an evening long tribute at Willie’s Locally Known with Bootsie and Funkabilly, Willie Eames, Rachel Crowe, Doc Feldman, Jen Tackett, Jeremy Short, Alex Parkansky, Eric Cummins, and The Sway, all playing music from Franklin’s 50 year recording career.

The performance is free, but donations will be accepted, along with a portion of Willie’s food and beverage sales for the evening, to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.