Music News & Reviews

After 4 decades, Wishbone Ash makes what could be its Lexington debut

Wishbone Ash now features Andy Powell, left, the only original member; Joseph Crabtree; Muddy Manninen, and Bob Skeat. original member.
Wishbone Ash now features Andy Powell, left, the only original member; Joseph Crabtree; Muddy Manninen, and Bob Skeat. original member.

Wishbone Ash

8 p.m. May 15 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $20, $25. (859) 309-9499.

Now here is a name we didn't expect to pop up on anyone's concert calendar this spring: the long-running British guitar rock band Wishbone Ash.

At the dawn of the '70s, when British psychedelia paved the way for guitar- dominated troupes that built on the standard blues and boogie riffs of the day, Wishbone Ash reigned with a double-guitar sound informed by folk, prog, pop and jam-dominated improvisations.

Though it never amassed much by way of commercial hits — at least not in this country — several of the band's early albums were huge critical favorites, including 1970's Wishbone Ash, 1971's Pilgrimage and especially 1972's Argus.

Through its 42-year history, Wishbone Ash has undergone scores of personnel changes and even a few reunions of early lineups. Guitarist Andy Powell is the only original member, with co-guitarist Muddy Manninen (who joined in 2004), bassist Bob Skeat (1998) and drummer Joseph Crabtree (2007) completing the present-day roster.

Despite the revolving-door lineups, Wishbone Ash has continually cut albums of material that reflect often radical shifts in its sound, from the metal-savvy crunch of Twin Barrels Burning (1982), to the all- instrumental Nouveau Calls (1988), the electronica-savvy Trance Visionary (1997) and the all-acoustic Bare Bones (1999).

Still, of the 25-plus recordings released under the Wishbone Ash banner, it's the '70s classic Argus that is widely viewed as the band's finest hour. Recorded with the band's original lineup, which placed guitarist Ted Turner alongside Powell, Argus continues to define Wishbone Ash's double-guitar design.

The album-opening Time Was builds from reflective folk-pop reminiscent of the Moody Blues to a more severely rockish boil. The two-part, 10-minute song also sports some of Powell's finest recorded guitarwork. A touch of post-psychedelia fuels Sometime World, while Strawbs-like prog-rock fancy fuels Leaf and Stream, another fine but reserved showcase for Powell.

A wonderful 2002 remastered edition of Argus also sported a hearty bonus: the impossible-to-locate Live From Memphis, a 32- minute concert EP recorded while Wishbone Ash toured in support of Argus nearly 40 years ago. It existed previously only as a promotional album for radio stations.

The band issued its newest album, The Power of Eternity, in 2008, and a new recording cut last year in France is due for release later this year.

If Wishbone Ash has played Central Kentucky before, we can find no evidence of it. Given the frequency of its U.S. tours over the years, however, a show somewhere in the region during the early '70s cannot be ruled out. Regardless, Cosmic Charlie's will be rolling out the welcome mat this weekend for one of England's great unsung rock ensembles of decades gone by.

Vandaveer returns

Former Lexingtonian Mark Heidinger, of Apparitions fame, is back on home turf this weekend in his folk stylist guise of Vandaveer.

Often compared to the wistful folk music of such British greats as Nick Drake, Vandaveer will be at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade, on Saturday to showcase music from his third and newest album, Dig Down Deep.

Ferraby Lionheart will open (8 p.m., $10). Call (859) 259-2754 for reservations.

Emmanuel returns

Acclaimed not just for his consistent artistic vision but for his open and congenial personality onstage and off, Tommy Emmanuel has been a favorite of Central Kentucky audiences for years.

The Australia-born finger-style guitarist has been a guest artist of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra and a frequent solo performer. On Monday, he will return as the lone guest of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at The Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street, to spotlight works from his 2010 double-CD set Little by Little (6:45 p.m. $20. (859) 252-8888 for reservations.