Music News & Reviews

Guitarist Andy McKee is finger-picking good

Andy McKee and Johnny Dickinson

7 p.m. March 5 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $12. (859) 309-9499.

Andy McKee must feel at home in Kentucky during the waning days of winter. Last weekend, he was in Covington to open a concert for Ani DiFranco. On Monday, he slipped into Lexington for a visit to WoodSongs Old-Time Radio with the Kruger Brothers. On Friday night, he is on local ground again for a performance at Cosmic Charlie's.

This difference this time is that the often-stunning guitar vocabulary that McKee has developed gets top billing. Quite rightly, too. The self-taught, Topeka, Kan.-born finger-style player has designed and modified an impressive harmonic approach to the guitar.

Sometimes he juggles multiple melodies. In other instances, he orchestrates his music by playing a lyrical phrase on the neck of the instrument with one hand and slapping the base of the guitar for percussive effect with the other. More than once, the innovations of the late Michael Hedges come to mind as you watch McKee play.

Word of McKee's guitar abilities has spread without much of a big-money push. His five indie albums have sold nearly 50,000 copies, and numerous YouTube videos have received more than 78 million plays.

If you plan to take in Friday night's show, definitely go early. Opening will be another fine guitarist, Britain-born Johnny Dickinson.

With music respectful of his Northumberland heritage but open enough to invite accents of American folk and blues, Dickinson has earned formidable praise for his playing. His bio begins with endorsements by esteemed pickers John Renbourn and Tommy Emmanuel. Although primarily a solo performer, Dickinson has played with Emmanuel, Jan Akkerman (formerly of Focus), the late John Martyn, Jerry Donohue (an honored Fairport Convention alumnus) and Kelly Joe Phelps.

Don't let the unfamiliarity of these names put you off, though. Friday night's concert could turn into one of the finer guitar summits of the season.

Doors open at 7 p.m. The Agobi Project will follow McKee's concert with a 10:30 p.m. show.

Pop up

A blast of fresh indie pop hits Al's Bar, 601 North Limestone, on Saturday.

San Francisco's Vetiver, fronted by Andy Cabic, regularly reveals strong folkish designs, especially on its 2009 Sub Pop recording Tightly Knit. But the pop elements ultimately win out in the unhurried melodic appeal of On the Other Side, the soul-inspired wanderlust that fuels Another Reason to Go and the bright acoustic drive of Everyday.

Lexington pop song stylist Matt Duncan and Louisville's Nathan Salsburg will open. This is an all-ages show. (9 p.m. $5. (859) 309-2901.

Cadillac Sky at the Kentucky

Mix bluegrass instrumentation with more contemporary string-band arrangements and song structures, and you get Cadillac Sky.

The Nashville ensemble has forged a hearty fan base in jam-band and bluegrass circles since its debut album in 2007. Its upcoming sophomore record, Letters in the Deep, is likely to expand that following.

Produced during a five-day recording spree by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, the album features a number of fine surprises, including the bittersweet country confessional Hangman, which Cadillac Sky is offering as a free download on its Web site,, until Letters in the Deep is released in June; the parlor piano-led meditation Trash Bag; the banjo-and-strings interlude Ballad of Restored Confidence; and a fine blend of old-timey and psychedelic inspirations titled Pitiful Waltz.

Although Cosmic Charlie's has organized a concert Tuesday by Cadillac Sky, the performance will take place at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street. (8 p.m. $10 in advance, $15 day of show. (859) 231-6997.