Music News & Reviews

Shara Worden: a Diamond in a solitary setting

My Brightest Diamond, Very Emergency and Tense Kids

8 p.m. March 22 at Al's Bar, 601 N. Limestone. $6. (859) 309-2901. www.myspace.com/alsbarlexington.

Shara Worden allowed Kentucky audiences two introductions into the world of My Brightest Diamond in 2007.

The first came that spring when The Decemberists played a sold-out performance at Louisville's Brown Theatre. Those who came early received a glimpse of My Brightest Diamond in full band form. Employing performance art, avant garde exploration, operatic vocal presentation, chamber-style orchestration and a pretty crafty sense of song construction (thanks to the distinctive tunes on her then-current album Bring Me the Workhorse), Worden's onstage creation was still very much pop.

Fast forward to the summer. The now-demolished West Main location of The Dame presented the Goth chamber trio Rasputina on a sweltering Saturday night in August before a packed house, it's air- conditioning unit busted. Opening the evening was Worden's solo version of My Brightest Diamond. The crowd was restless and, in all likelihood, rapidly on the way to dehydration given the saunalike conditions.

This weekend marks the Central Kentucky return of My Brightest Diamond, which brings to mind a few heartening parallels to the '07 shows.

First, connections to The Decemberists are stronger than ever. The latter's new album, The Hazards of Love, hits stores next week. An operatically conceived piece with an abundant air of British folk fancy and a '70s prog-rock undercurrent, the album features Worden singing the role of, according to her Web site, "a wicked tree stepmother witch-queen character."

Here's the cool part. The Decemberists, with Worden as special guest, will perform The Hazards of Love in its entirety at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, at 1 a.m. Wednesday. National Public Radio will broadcast the whole thing live on www.npr.org and probably will archive the show.

Worden's My Brightest Diamond concert on Sunday at Al's Bar will again be a solo affair. And as this is the first weekend of spring, we are going to assume heat, air-conditioning or the lack of it won't be a factor. But Al's is a pretty intimate venue. A full house is very likely. Better get there early. You wouldn't want to upset the witch queen.

Solas system

For more than 13 years, Solas has served as a mighty new-generation Irish music band that has continually sidestepped stereotypes. On its recent album For Love and Laughter, group mainstays Seamus Egan and Winifred Horan welcome County Kilkenny native Mairead Phelan as Solas' newest vocalist. Phelan ably handles the rustic folk reins of Seven Curses as well as a Celtic revamping of Rickie Lee Jones' Sailor Song on the recording. The new Solas lineup performs Sunday at the McAuley High School Theatre, 6000 Oakwood Avenue in Cincinnati. (7:30 p.m. $25. www.gcparts.org.)

What it is

Cincinnati's wildly one-of-a-kind Iswhat?! heads back to town after a prolonged absence for a performance Thursday at Lower 48 in Victorian Square. A hip-hop ensemble led by rapper/beatboxer Napoleon Maddox and saxophonist/ flutist Jack Walker, Iswhat?! offers strong but hopeful social narratives with vintage jazz grooves providing much of its musical foundation. That explains why, at previous Lexington outings, such pre-eminent improvisers as trumpeter Roy Campbell, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Hamid Drake have jammed with Iswhat?! Who will show up with them Thursday? There's only way to find out. (9 p.m., $3. (859) 253-6710. www.lower48bar.com.)

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