Music News & Reviews

Sparks will heat up Meadowgreen Park Music Hall

Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, Blue River

7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane in Clay City. $15. (606) 663-9008.

The first weekend in February at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall can mean only one thing: the return of bluegrass pioneer Larry Sparks. The two-time International Bluegrass Music Association male vocalist of the year has made Clay City an annual part of his winter touring plans for years.

An Ohio native with family roots in Jackson, Ky., Sparks was recruited into the Clinch Mountain Boys as a guitarist and vocalist in 1967 by Ralph Stanley after the death of Stanley's brother Carter. Sparks popularized bluegrass-gospel standard Green Pastures with the Clinch Mountain Boys before forming the initial version of his own band, Lonesome Ramblers, in 1969.

Sparks remains an active recording artist. His newest gospel album, I Don't Regret a Mile, was issued in late 2009 just as work on a new secular bluegrass project began. That record is tentatively set for release in the spring.

Blue River will open Sparks' show Saturday.

Music most Faux

Back in town this weekend will be Cincinnati's Faux Frenchmen. The group, fashioned after the Gypsy jazz popularized by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli more than 70 years ago in the Quintette du Hot Club de France, has been gigging regularly since 2002 but has made a name for itself in the Bluegrass only in the past few years.

The repertoire of Faux Frenchmen — guitarists Brian Lovely and George Cunningham, bassist Don Aren and violinist Paul Patterson — reflects an American jazz side as well. Gypsy and European classical and swing sounds regularly sit side by side with music by American jazz icons Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. The band also has revealed an increasingly broad selection of pop standards of late that includes the Beach Boys' God Only Knows, The Beatles' Girl and even the Spider-Man theme, all in string arrangements that uphold the Reinhardt/Grappelli tradition.

Friday night the band returns to play Natasha's Bistro and Bar, 112 Esplanade. (8 p.m. $10. For reservations, call (859) 259-2754.

A shot of Brandi

Fresh from a full-band performance at Louisville's Brown Theatre that she termed "a blast," Seattle-area songstress Brandi Carlile makes her Lexington debut with a set at Monday's taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street. In Sunday's Life + Arts section, Carlile discusses working with T Bone Burnett and Rick Rubin, who produced her last two albums, and recording with lifelong inspirations Elton John and Paul Buckmaster.

Matt Morris, right, who accompanied Justin Timberlake for his version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah at the recent Hope for Haiti Now telethon, will round out Monday's WoodSongs bill. (6:45 p.m. $20. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888.

Two Gentlemen of New York

During the past year, guitarist/banjoist Andy Bean and bassist Fuller Condon have emerged from the subways of New York, where they began their career as the Two Gentleman Band by singing for tips, to a level of national touring that has earned modest followings in, among other locales, Lexington. After stops at Al's Bar in 2009, the duo — which offers a renegade variation on vintage vaudeville colored by serious kazoo — heads to Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, for a concert Wednesday.

Need a primer on the Gents' ragged warp-speed jazz and vintage string-band sound? Check out Live in New York, a new concert recording that shifts from unapologetically bawdy brawls (Let's Make a Sandwich) to boozy sing-alongs (Fancy Beer). (859) 309-9499.