Music News & Reviews

Wanda Jackson is an ageless wonder

Wanda Jackson will play at Cosmic Charlie's and Woodsongs.
Wanda Jackson will play at Cosmic Charlie's and Woodsongs.

Wanda Jackson

■ 8 p.m. Sept. 12 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $15. (859) 309-9499.

■ 7 p.m. Sept. 13 with Billy Bragg at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main for WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. $20. (859) 252-8888.

Rockabilly music has had few torch-bearing voices as tireless and pure as Wanda Jackson's.

If you saw either of the performances that the singer gave in recent years at the two locations of The Dame, then you know the kind of authority she can lend to hits that are 50 years old (or older).

Mean Mean Man, for instance, was infused with barroom solemnity, Let's Have a Party boasted a rich, celebratory jubilance and the beat manifesto Funnel of Love rocked with an undeniably youthful zeal.

Now at age 72, Jackson returns to Lexington for two performances — on Sunday at Cosmic Charlie's and on Monday at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour — and a pair of new honors. One champions her remarkable career, the other opens a new chapter of it.

The career triumph is Jackson's 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the second honor is a newly completed album produced by rock journeyman Jack White. A double-sided vinyl single was released last winter as a preview to the as-yet untitled album. It featured updates of Shakin' All Over (which has been recorded by everybody from Johnny Kidd and the Pirates to The Who over the years) and, more unexpectedly, Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good.

Wanda covering Amy produced by Jack? Now that's rock and roll.

Night of the living guitars

Normally, when an evening featuring the musical invention of the California Guitar Trio rolls around, we cut to the chase and simply say, "Go."

After all, the CGT is one of those ensembles that can all but guarantee a great time for its audience. As instrumentalists, the players — Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya — are nothing short of virtuosos.

As composers, they conjure all kinds of imaginative and progressive soundscapes. In fact, its upcoming album, Andromeda, will be its first recording to focus exclusively on original works.

And as for sheer stylistic invention, the CGT has proved that it can interpret almost anything for its musical makeup of three acoustic guitars — be it movie themes, Japanese folk tunes, classical works, prog rock classics and, yes, even Free Bird.

Wrap all of that up in an ensemble performance persona that is as inviting as it is unassuming, and toss in one of Lexington's finest guitar dynamos, Ben Lacy, as opening act, and the CGT's performance Thursday at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade becomes something of a no-brainer as a recommendation. (8 p.m. $20. (859) 259-2754.

But — and you probably sensed a but was coming — guitar enthusiasts will face not just picking but choosing on Thursday. The same night the CGT plays Natasha's, veteran jazz guitarist Larry Coryell will perform a free concert at 8 p.m. at Berea College's Phelps-Stokes Chapel.

Coryell has been a vital, creative jazz force for more than 40 years, exploring avenues of electric innovation (with his landmark '70s fusion band The Eleventh House), acoustic daring (his remarkable late-'70s solo albums and collaborations with the great French guitarist Philip Catherine), traditional styles (his concerts regularly dip into the compositions of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and other iconic artists), and world music.

The latter will take precedence at the Berea concert. Coryell will perform as part of the East-meets-West ensemble Bombay Jazz that includes George Brooks on saxophone, Vijay Ghate on the percussive tabla and Ronu Majumdar on the bamboo flute known as the bansuri.