Music News & Reviews

Vince Gill renewing old acquaintances at EKU Center

Country music veteran Vince Gill performs Saturday at EKU.
Country music veteran Vince Gill performs Saturday at EKU. Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

Vince Gill

7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the EKU Center for the Arts, 1 Hall Drive in Richmond. $40.50-$75. (859) 622-7469. Ekucenter.com.

It's hard not to feel sentimental whenever Vince Gill plays in the Bluegrass. The multi-Grammy Award winner (20, to be precise), champion country artist and white-hot guitarist has made the Bluegrass such a vital part of his artistic upbringing that his Saturday performance at the EKU Center for the Arts can't help but feel like a homecoming.

In the 1970s he lived and worked out of Louisville as a member of Bluegrass Alliance before spending a brief tenure in Lexington with Jerry Douglas and Ricky Skaggs in Boone Creek (as a bass player, no less).

As his stardom set in with two of the best and best-selling albums of his extensive career — 1989's When I Call Your Name and 1991's Pocket Full of Gold — Gill found himself back in town headlining concerts at Rupp Arena. A November 1992 show with Mary Chapin Carpenter remains one of the finer country presentations in Rupp history.

Gill's touring schedule has weaved its way back through Central Kentucky in recent years, including an acoustic bluegrass concert at the Opera House in June 2012 and an inaugural visit to the EKU Center that October.

But one of Gill's most memorable regional appearances was also among his most recent. In 2013, he returned to the Opera House not under his own name but as part of the all-star Nashville swing troupe The Time Jumpers. Seated across from vocalist Dawn Spears (who sang harmony on his hit 1993 album, I Still Believe in You), Gill watched as the singer announced to the crowd she was going to perform a sad country tune. But after glancing at Gill's bemused grin, she collapsed into rolls of laughter so infectious and sustained that fellow Time Jumper Ranger Doug (on loan from Riders in the Sky) had to jump in to briefly take over vocal chores.

Sears died of lung cancer a year later, but that blast of onstage joy she shared with Gill remains a country performance snapshot for the ages.

Gill continues to craft expert music. His newest album is a co-billed 2013 work with fellow Time Jumper and veteran pedal steel guitar great Paul Franklin called Bakersfield. As the title suggests, the record is a tribute to the classic country sound brewed nearly a half century ago not in Nashville, but in California.

Along with considerable critical praise, the record won over one of the chief architects of the Bakersfield sound, Merle Haggard.

"Well done guys," Haggard wrote in the liner notes to Bakersfield. "The West Coast takes a bow."

Interludes

■ The meshed up folk, bluegrass, Americana and soul sounds of Humming House have also found a home in Lexington. The Nashville ensemble's Friday show at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade, will be its third local outing this year. The band has already clocked 2015 appearances for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour and WUKY's Phoenix Fridays series (9 p.m., $12). Call (859) 259-2754 or go to Beetnik.com.

■ The Outside the Spotlight Series remains on a roll this weekend. Next up on what will be a busy fall schedule will be the Norwegian quartet Cortex. Judging by the music on its recent concert recording Live!, the band works keenly off the free improvisations and exchanges of cornetist Thomas Johansson (who made his OTS debut earlier this summer as a member of Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit) and saxophonist Kristoffer Alberts. Cortex performs Saturday at Mecca, 948 Manchester St. (8 p.m., $5). For more information, go to Cortexmusic.no.

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