Kelsey Waldon/John R. Miller and the Engine Lights/Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners.
In one of John Prine’s most fabled songs, “Paradise,” a youth spent in Western Kentucky is chronicled, despite the infringement of strip mining, by the jubilant chorus of, “Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County.”
Well, this summer Prine will be doing exactly that, and he’s taking one the region’s most robustly traditional country stylists with him. But there’s more to the story, all of which begins this weekend. That’s when Kelsey Waldon, a native of the Ballard County community known as Monkey’s Eyebrow, returns to Lexington to share a bill with John R. Miller and the Engine Lights at The Burl.
Currently based in Nashville, Waldon released a 2016 album “All By Myself” that blended rustic, vintage-flavored country originals with devoutly spirited covers of tunes by the Gosdin Brothers and Bill Monroe. The songstress and her music so completely fascinated Prine that the vanguard songwriter signed her to his Oh Boy label. That alone is an obvious honor, as Prine isn’t exactly known as a recruiter. While he has enlisted a few storied contemporaries (Kris Kristofferson, Janis Ian) and some noted disciples (Todd Snider, R.B. Morris) to record for the label, Waldon is the first new artist to join the Oh Boy roster in 15 years.
Prine made a big deal of the signing, too, by announcing it to an audience at the Grand Ole Opry in May. He then invited Waldon to sing two songs - “Unwed Fathers” (which Prine recently re-recorded as a benefit single with Americana upstart Margo Price) and, of course, “Paradise.”
The actual return to Muhlenberg County comes in a few weeks. Waldon will open for Prine when he plays the Lu-Ray Amphitheater in Central City on July 13.
This weekend, though, the pride of Western Kentucky gets to pay Central Kentucky a call. She’ll be back later in the summer, as well. Waldon will be part of the Aug. 11 lineup at the inaugural Railbird festival at Keeneland before hitting the road with Prine for October dates in California, his November-slated All the Best Festival in the Dominican Republic and December shows in Florida.
Add to the growing lists of announced fall-to-spring concert series at local and regional performing arts centers the 10th anniversary lineup of shows at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort.
The Grand, of course, is considerably more than a decade old. But the upcoming season commemorates 10 years since the venue was reopened after a massive restoration campaign and an equally involved fundraising effort to pay for it.
It’s a whopper of season, too, although it will actually kick off with summer still in session. On Aug. 5, the Grand will a host a very rare regional performance by John Mayall. Still very active as a touring and performing artist at age 85, Mayall is considered the forefather of a fertile British blues culture. Such blues-rock giants as Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green, along with comparative modernists like Walter Trout, cut their guitar-playing teeth in Mayall’s bands.
Then on Sept. 6, drummer Max Weinberg, the fire in the engine room for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, performs at the Grand with his Jukebox ensemble. As the group name suggests, Weinberg takes on classic roots/rock material by the likes of The Beatles, The Who, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello and an up-and-coming New Jersey singer who audiences keep referring to as The Boss.
The season takes full flight from there with concerts by the extraordinary folk songstress Iris DeMent (Sept. 13), country-roots rock ambassador Marty Stuart (Sept. 19), guitarist extraordinaire Tommy Emmanuel (Sept. 28), the third Grand visit by The Bacon Brothers Band (Oct. 5), the rock nostalgia revue Legends of Yesterday (Oct. 18) followed by the Queen tribute band Queen Machine (Oct. 26), the new generation Southern rock and blues troupe The Allman Betts Band (Nov. 4), country veteran Joe Diffie (Nov. 22), a Fat Tuesday celebration by Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience (Feb. 25) and the pop/classical ensemble Take 3 (Feb. 28).
Theatre rounds out the season with performances of “A Christmas Story” by the Bluegrass Theatre Guild (Dec. 5-8) and “The Diary of Anne Frank” by the National Players (March 6).
Season tickets are currently on sale as are seats for Mayall ($25-$40), Weinberg ($35-$50), The Bacon Brothers ($50-$75) and Queen Machine ($30-$45). Individual tickets for the other shows go on sale July 9.
For more information, call 502-352-7469 or go to grandtheatrefrankfort.org.