Music News & Reviews

Nappy Roots goes for a ride in familiar territory

Nappy Roots consists of Big V, left, B. Stille, Skinny DeVille, Fish Scales and Ron Clutch.
Nappy Roots consists of Big V, left, B. Stille, Skinny DeVille, Fish Scales and Ron Clutch.

Nappy Roots

9 p.m. July 17 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $15. (859) 368-8871. www.bustersbb.com.

They call their newest album The Pursuit of Nappyness. So, not surprisingly, the sixth album from Louisville-reared rap troupe Nappy Roots is something of a self-examination.

Take the initial single, Ride. It very much takes the band back to its roots with verses that read like affirmations stretched over a lean, acoustic groove. No one will mistake the Roots as country, but a very homegrown sentiment percolates about the tune.

In essence, Ride and much of The Pursuit of Nappyness brings Nappy Roots back in line with the kind of organic rap direction that turned 2002's Watermelon, Chicken and Grits — and especially its easygoing smash Po' Folks — into career-defining hits.

It's a curious return to form, in a way, as The Pursuit of Nappyness finds Nappy Roots at something of a creative crossroads.

For starters, it's no longer a Kentucky-centric ensemble. Members Skinny DeVille and Fish Scales now live in Atlanta, and Big V, still holding on to the group's Western Kentucky University heritage, lives in Bowling Green. That leaves Ron Clutch and B. Stille as the only remaining Louisvillians. (Nappy Roots' sixth founding member, R. Prophet, left after the release of the group's second and final album for Atlantic Records, 2003's Wooden Leather.)

Similarly, The Pursuit of Nappyness might be the last we hear of Nappy Roots — at least, as a collective — for a while. The group is planning to devote much of the next two years to solo and side projects, including a solo record from Big V and a combo recording from DeVille and Scales.

But before all of that is a tour that brings Nappy Roots back to Lexington for a show Saturday at Buster's. And with Ride still serving as one of the most refreshingly summery hip-hop singles of recent years, there is plenty to keep fans of Nappy happy in the months ahead.

Master Musicians Festival

5 p.m. July 16 and 11 a.m. July 17 at Festival Field of Somerset Community College, 808 Monticello St. in Somerset. $20, $25, $45. (606) 677-6000. www.mastermusiciansfestival.com.

Two stylistically different all-star bluegrass duos will make up just part of the fun at this weekend's Master Musicians Festival in Somerset.

Friday night, the festival welcomes Peter Rowan and Tony Rice. As guitarists, the two were schooled under a pair of bluegrass giants (Bill Monroe and J.D. Crowe, respectively) before forging paths on folk and jazz routes along the West Coast — Rowan with the all-star Old and in the Way, and Rice with the groundbreaking David Grisman Quintet. Following extensive solo careers, Rowan and Rice have recorded two extraordinary collaborative albums for the Rounder label, You Were There for Me and Quartet.

Saturday brings Dan Tyminski and Ronnie Bowman to Somerset. Tyminski is a multi-Grammy-winning artist best known for his ongoing work as guitarist and co-vocalist in Alison Krauss and Union Station, and as the voice behind the O Brother, Where Art Thou? hit revision of I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow. Tyminski also has been active outside of Krauss-ville, fronting his own band and serving as a guest touring artist with the Travelin' McCourys. Add to that list of projects a new duo partnership with Bowman, a veteran of the Lonesome River Band (as is Tyminski), and songwriter of country hits for Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn.

Also on tap for the Master Musicians Festival will be "sacred steel" guitarist Robert Randolph, Lexington/ Louisville cellist Ben Sollee, the Cumberland Valley-based ensemble The 23 String Band, punk-pop honky-tonk stylists Those Darlins and more.

For a complete performance schedule, go to www.mastermusiciansfestival.com.

Rasputina

8 p.m. July 16 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $15, $17. (859) 309-9499. http://cosmic-charlies.com.

Time is relative for the cello-driven rock trio known as Rasputina. In fact, group chieftain Melora Creager claims in the notes to the band's new album, Sister Kinderhook, that her newest music was recorded "at my home in the Hudson Valley in the summer of 1809."

She goes on to explain how the poppish strides that result from mixing cello and percussion make Rasputina's songs sound like "top 40 hits from another dimension." Give it a spin, and you'll hear how Sister Kinderhook makes good on such a claim

Take A Holocaust of Giants, which chirps along with neo-chamber accents and animated, pop-style lyricism as it details the discovery of bones in Ohio belonging to ancient giants. Then there are the dark secrets lurking under the strings ("The nasty truth is at my lips; I will not let it out today. It's no one's business anyway.") on Meant to Be Dutch that recall Kate Bush's more abstract recordings. And for a change of aural scenery, a distant pluck of banjo (actually, the instrument sounds like it is being played underwater) ignites Kinderhook Hoopskirt Works.

The latest Rasputina lineup — Creager, fellow cellist Daniel DeJesus and percussionist Catie D'Amica (who plays concert bass drum, djembe and ankle bells, prompting Creager to call her "a Native American drum machine") — will bring such ancient sounding tales from modern times to life with a Saturday concert at Cosmic Charlie's.

Let's hope for a slightly cooler climate for Creager's return, as well. One of the band's last Lexington performances was during the dead of August at the now-demolished Dame when the venue's air conditioning was on the fritz. The saunalike conditions made for what was, in every sense imaginable, one of the hottest local club shows in recent memory.

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