Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Boxcars open Clay City concert series at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall

The Boxcars — from left, Keith Garrett, Ron Stewart, Harold Nixon, John R. Bowman and Adam Steffey — will perform in Clay City on Saturday night.
The Boxcars — from left, Keith Garrett, Ron Stewart, Harold Nixon, John R. Bowman and Adam Steffey — will perform in Clay City on Saturday night.

The Boxcars

7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane, Clay City. $15. (606) 663-9008. Kyfriends.com..

One of the fall's great musical traditions commences this weekend. The best thing about it, though, is the celebration will last well into spring.

On Saturday — and for most Saturday evenings between now and late April — the Meadowgreen Park Music Hall swings back into action with live bluegrass. We've said it here many times before, but the Clay City venue remains one of the most distinctive and inviting concert venues in the state. The reasons are numerous.

Perhaps it's because it provides the cheer of an old fashioned barn dance but in a sit-down environment designed for active listening. Maybe it's because the hall doesn't engage in double duty for any other kind of music. Possibly the most outward appeal, however, comes from the acts that perform there. Meadowgreen Park traditionally brings in some of the most acclaimed bluegrass artists in the country, from tireless veterans to contemporary torchbearers. Usually, audiences can only catch such performers during the summer at larger, festival settings. That's fine, but experiencing world class bluegrass in such an intimate environment makes a night at Meadowgreen Park a must for music enthusiasts of any genre.

This weekend, the schedule kicks off with The Boxcars, a relatively new bluegrass quintet that features several noted veterans of the music. At the forefront is mandolinist Adam Steffey, a defining member of Alison Krauss and Union Station prior to the arrival of Jerry Douglas as well as a co-founding member of Mountain Heart. Two recruits from later editions of J.D. Crowe and the New South — multi-instrumentalist Ron Stewart and bassist Harold Nixon — round out the Boxcar crew along with guitarist Keith Garrett and dobroist Gary Hultman (a replacement for another Krauss alumnus, John Bowman).

The extensive Meadowgreen Park schedule also includes performances by Goldwing Express (Nov. 14), The Grascals (Nov. 21), Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers (Jan. 9), Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out (Jan. 16), Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers (March 5) and the New Coon Creek Girls with Ma Crowe and the Lady Slippers (April 23).

Andrea Zonn/Jackie Greene

6:45 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third. $10. (859) 252-8888. Woodsongs.com.

Here is an idea of exactly how far the fiddle music of Andrea Zonn gets around. The guest list on her newest album includes James Taylor, Keb' Mo', Vince Gill, Trace Adkins, John Cowan and Sam Bush along with an all-star roster of instrumentalists that boasts banjoist Alison Brown (who enlisted Zonn for her 2013 performance in Lexington), dobro great Jerry Douglas, guitarist Bryan Sutton and drummer Steve Gadd.

Such names speak well for the kind of musical company Zonn keeps, especially since her regional concert stops over the years have usually been as a band member to Taylor and Lyle Lovett. But her Monday visit to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, part of a bill that also includes California songwriter and Black Crowes alumnus Jackie Greene, won't boast any of her high profile pals. It will instead favor a collection of ultra-personal tunes Zonn penned for her new album Rise.

Her debut recording, 2003's Love Goes On, was an assembly of songs by other artists — among them, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Karla Bonoff and Crowded House's Neil Finn. But Rise focuses on original works with inspiration that hits very close to home. Specifically, much of the record was informed by experiences centered on her son's multiple surgeries due to a benign growth near his brain. Still, Rise is very much an affirmation that counters such stark realties with folk, pop and Americana accents that are richly graceful.

Especially arresting is the lush acoustic comfort of Let Them Go, which strongly suggests the more contemplative music of Rosanne Cash.

As always, reservations are highly recommended for all WoodSongs tapings.

Loudon and proud

Admittedly, mid-week is not an optimal time for a road trip. But one can't recommend enough a night out with Loudon Wainwright III. He performs Wednesday (10/14) at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St., in Louisville (7:30 p.m.; $25, $32).

Wainwright has balanced wildly acerbic folk reveries with sobering (and often harrowing) story songs for over four decades. His most recent album, 2014's Haven't Got the Blues (Yet), wonderfully continues the trend, from the ruminative In a Hurry to the uncomfortably (and, given recent events, unintentionally) topical I'll Be Killing You This Christmas to the regionally inspired Harlan County.

For tickets, call (502) 896-8480 or got to Cliftoncenter.org.

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