Music News & Reviews

Vienna Teng covers more territory

Vienna Teng

8 p.m. Aug. 29 at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $18, $25. (859) 259-2754.

It's been nearly six years since Vienna Teng sat behind a piano at the University of Kentucky's Memorial Hall and introduced herself to the Bluegrass. At the time, she had quit a seemingly settled day job as a software engineer to tour and promote a reissued edition of her indie debut album, Waking Hour.

Teng has been a pianist since age 5. Her music in 2003 possessed the poetic pop-folk reflection of a young Sarah McLachlan. The title of her fourth and newest album, Inland Territory, reflects how vast her musical scope has become since then. The song Antebellum reflects but builds on the elegant pop confessions of her initial work. But keener orchestration fleshes out the song's story line of a romance that is regimented and eventually splintered against the changing seasons.

On a very different plane is Grandmother's Song, a slice of unsentimental chant-style chatter between generations that wraps its lyrical fire in the deep, live percussive groove of an earthy spiritual. Early Michelle Shocked music comes to mind on this one.

Teng returns to Lexington for an intimate Saturday concert at Natasha's. That's when more emotive tales from Inland Territory will set sail.

Cincinnati's pop-folk husband-and-wife duo Ellery, which headlines its own show Friday at Natasha's (9 p.m., $8), will open Teng's performance.

Billy Currington/Heidi Newfield

8 p.m. Aug 29 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville for the Kentucky State Fair. Free. (502) 367-5002.

Country pop hitmaker Billy Currington received an extraordinary televised boost last week from an unlikely ally.

During an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, the program's host waxed at length about the virtues of the song Currington was going to perform — specifically, last winter's No. 1 country hit People Are Crazy.

The tune, written by Bobby Braddock and Troy Jones, tells of two strangers who talk at length at a bar. Years later, one of them finds the other's obituary in the newspaper and discovers his drinking partner not only was a millionaire but had bequeathed his fortune to a total stranger — namely, him.

The chorus, which summarizes the bar talk and the song itself, is a something of a three-step mantra: "God is great, beer is good and people are crazy."

"If I were the people running country music, I would shut it down now," said Letterman, who, coincidentally, was vocally supportive of Teng's music several years ago. "You're not going to get any better than this. No more calls. We have a winner.

"Pick another great song. Somebody say White Christmas? Not even close."

Currington closes out the Kentucky State Fair's lineup of free concerts Saturday at Cardinal Stadium. Fair admission is still required for the show, however.

Blue moods

Still tripping the prog-pop light fantastic after 32 years, The Moody Blues returns for a pair of regional performances this weekend. With long-standing members Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge still on board, the band performs Friday at the Louisville Palace (8 p.m.; $39.50-$89.50) and Saturday at Riverbend Music Center's PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati (8 p.m.; $36-$76). The Moodys haven't released an album of new material in nearly a decade, but a live recording of its set at what many consider to be the British Woodstock, the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, was released on CD last year and on DVD a few months ago. It's a darker, more primitive-sounding work — a snapshot of the truly Moody times these Blues men came from. For more information on either of this weekend's concert, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

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