Music News & Reviews

Four great acts crammed into one week

Ben Sollee, left, and Daniel Martin Moore have been touring in support of their folk-based album Dear Companion.
Ben Sollee, left, and Daniel Martin Moore have been touring in support of their folk-based album Dear Companion.

Flip through the arts calendars of your everyday major metropolitan city and you usually will find multiple choices within any given performance field on any given evening.

Now, let's look at Lexington in these hard-broiling days of late July. Not exactly a time one would expect for a doubling up of major-name concert acts.

But this week, four major performances will converge on downtown venues over two nights. Joan Baez and Peter Case come Tuesday; Indigo Girls and the trio of Yim Yames, Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore play Thursday.

Here is a rundown of the four acts, along with a few recent words from each, that will take downtown up a few degrees more this week. Concert details are at the end of each section.

Joan Baez

As one of folk music's true landmark activist artists, Joan Baez is finding the art of performing to be a more peaceable act as her career passes the half-century mark.

"I don't know how long this will last, but as I've gotten older, performing has gotten nicer," Baez, 69, said. "It's easier and less neurotic. I look forward to the tour. I look forward to getting home. Walking out on stage these days, there is no more stage fright. I do what I do best."

But in a career that has taken her from the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 (and again in 2009) to Woodstock in 1969 and Live Aid in 1985 to sets at the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Glastonbury Festival in 2008 as well as a performance last winter at the White House honoring Black History Month, Baez's comfort level in touring runs in direct contrast to the generally irritated state of the world around her.

"I think music crosses boundaries better than any other form of art — better than anything, really," Baez said. "But we're floundering. The world is in such absolute chaos that it's hard to digest what's happening. So how do you write a song about that?

"I just go about my business, which is trying to reach the heart, somehow, in an age of diminishing personal, meaningful relationships. We try to remind people of something other than the madness we're living in."

(7:30 p.m. July 20 at Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St. $39, $49. (859) 233-3535 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.)

Peter Case with Will Kimbrough

Helping to redefine the phrase "wigging out" this year is the great pop songsmith Peter Case.

Born of a post-punk past as chieftain of The Plimsouls, Case, 56, has amassed a library of consistently strong solo recordings that shift from fully realized pop to roots- savvy blues to Americana-based folk. But since his commercial success never quite equaled the heights of his critical reputation, Case remains a working musician who tours constantly between recording projects.

That changed in January 2009. After a medical test revealed 99 percent blockage in a coronary artery, Case underwent double bypass surgery. He was hospitalized for only five days but spent much of past year recuperating enough to hit the road.

"All of a sudden I went from doing my thing 100 miles an hour to having an operation," Case said. "I felt washed out. It did something to my whole spirit. So it just took a bit of time getting up to speed. But I'm feeling a lot better. The doctor says I'm good to go."

With that, Case quickly recorded a studio album called Wig!, a collection of electric roots-savvy songs cut with guitarist Ron Franklin and X drummer DJ Bonebrake. Case doubled on guitar and overdubbed Hofner bass.

"Every once in a while you have one of those experiences that you've always wanted to have," Case said. "We just went in and cut this thing from 11 in the morning to midnight. It was a real fun day."

(8 p.m. July 20 at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. $15. (859) 259-2754. www.beetnik.com.)

Indigo Girls

Nearly 15 years have elapsed since Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — the Indigo Girls, to their fans — have released a concert album. That's some kind of wait, considering the folk-based duo (and sometimes trio and sometimes dutifully rocking band) have long made its reputation from the inviting, familial intimacy of its performances. What better way to let at least a sliver of that charm loose than with a live album?

Thus we have Staring Down the Brilliant Dream, the Indigos' first concert record since 1995's 1200 Curfews. Pulled from performances given from 2006 to 2009, the record covers not only music from the duo's full career (from the 1989 breakthrough hit Closer to Fine through to 2009's Second Time Around) but offers three distinct artist settings: an unaccompanied duo, a trio augmented by keyboardist Julie Wolf and a full band.

"Because it's been 15 years since 1200 Curfews, we had a buildup of tapes and hard drives," Ray, 46, said. "We had played a significant number of shows with the band, a lot with Julie and a bit by ourselves. That was the ground we wanted to cover.

"We also felt it would be a while until we did a new record — probably another year. And we knew we wanted to do a holiday record, which we just recorded. So we kind of wanted to document what we had done up to this point that was original in our shows and move from there."

(Part of the Troubador Concert Series. 7:30 p.m. July 22 at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $44.50. (859) 231-7924. www.troubashow.com.)

Yim Yames, Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore

When last we checked in, Kentucky song stylists Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore were touring the country behind an exquisite folk-based recording called Dear Companion.

Its music came from a heavy Appalachian heart with themes designed to inform audiences outside of the region of the environmental devastation triggered by mountaintop-removal coal mining.

This summer, the duo enlists My Morning Jacket chieftain Jim James — or, as he prefers to bill himself on non-MMJ projects, Yim Yames — for the Appalachian Voices Tour, which opens Thursday at the Lexington Opera House. Yames produced Dear Companion and served as a co-architect for many of its songs.

"It's kind of like a homecoming having Jim back in the mix," Moore said. "In addition to being one of the founding fathers of the album, he's also such a dynamic and generous performer."

Moore hopes the eight-city tour, which also features drummer/percussionist Dan Dorff, will help further the awareness Dear Companion helped ignite last winter about mountaintop-removal mining.

"We've had a lot of great conversations with people in kind of far-flung places who didn't even know mountaintop removal existed," Moore said. "One of the reasons we wanted to make a record was that this issue would perhaps find its way into places that it otherwise wouldn't go. So to have mountaintop removal talked about now in places like indie music blogs means this music has served its purpose."

(8 p.m. July 22 at Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St. $25. (859) 233-3535 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.)

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