Music News & Reviews

Kentucky native Ricky Skaggs comes home for a night at Renfro Valley

Lawrence County native Ricky Skaggs.
Lawrence County native Ricky Skaggs.

Ricky Skaggs

7 p.m. July 2 at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center's New Barn, Renfro Valley. $25-$35. 1-800-765-7464.

Here is a celebration befitting a Fourth of July weekend: a performance Saturday night by Kentucky-born country and bluegrass pro Ricky Skaggs.

From early performance days in the region with Ralph Stanley, J.D. Crowe and his own Boone Creek to a late-'70s tenure in Emmylou Harris' esteemed Hot Band to current bluegrass innovations with his mighty ensemble Kentucky Thunder, Skaggs has forged a progressive string sound of his own while embracing all manner of the music's tradition.

Along the way, the multi-Grammy-winning Skaggs has jammed with some unexpected contemporaries, including Elvis Costello, Phish, Bruce Hornsby, The Raconteurs and Peter Frampton. But the prolific output he has offered in recent years on his Skaggs Family label captures some of the most arresting music of his career.

It includes 2006's Instrumentals, which highlights the immensely sharp playing of Kentucky Thunder, particularly fiddler Andy Leftwich; 2008's Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass, Skaggs' most specific and attentive presentation of traditional string music; 2009's Solo, an unaccompanied tour de force exploration of traditional bluegrass and country; and 2010's Mosaic, a far-reaching musical reflection of Skaggs' Christian faith.

Next up for the Lawrence County native is the July 19 release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style, which recasts many of the chart-topping singles that Skaggs cut for the Epic label during the '80s (including Crying My Heart Out Over You, Country Boy and Highway 40 Blues) within a string band-savvy framework.

Tony Patino

2 p.m. July 2 at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone. (859) 233-3472.

Blackberry Smoke

9 p.m. July 2 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $12 advance, $15 day of show. (859) 368-8871.

Admittedly, the new and relocated Red, White and Boom and its daylong card of country music will rule the holiday weekend Saturday. But what if country isn't exactly your preference? Here are two alternatives.

At CD Central, punk rock's past will catch up with its vital present thanks to Tony Patino. A Lexingtonian by way of Tampa, Fla., Patino has worked as a music journalist, producer, promoter and record label representative, but he has become familiar with the lifestyles of the touring musician — especially those of your everyday mobile punk rocker.

He has assembled his reflections and recollections from such punk and indie greats as Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, The Lemonheads, Dead Kennedys, Camper Van Beethoven and more in a new book called The Road.

Patino will sign copies of the book during his visit to CD Central on Saturday. There also will be an afternoon of live punk-infused music to set the mood. Performing will be The Infected and The Loaded Nuns, who are featured in The Road, along with Frank Rocket.

On Saturday night, contemporary Southern-rock fave Blackberry Smoke returns to town to light up Buster's Billiards & Backroom. Having toured extensively with the likes of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd and, more recently, the Zac Brown Band, Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke boasts a guitar-centric, hook-laden sound that regularly rubs elbows with honky-tonk tradition.

The band's songs have often — and correctly — been compared to the '80s neo-country crunch music of the Georgia Satellites. The quintet is touring this summer behind its 2009 album, Little Piece of Dixie.

Waterfront Independence Festival

5 p.m. July 3 and 4 at Waterfront Park, 129 East River Rd., Louisville. Free. (502) 574-3768.

Far be it from me to suggest that you bolt from Lexington this weekend and spend the Fourth in — dare we speak its name? — Louisville. But the simple fact is that the city's two-day Waterfront Independence Festival sports an impressive lineup of free music that, for once, won't be going up against our own Red, White and Boom.

Sunday's all-country lineup will feature Celebrity Apprentice winner John Rich of Big & Rich as headliner, with country rapper Cowboy Troy and Mississippi-born Tyler Dickerson as support acts.

But the festival's real fun kicks in on the Fourth itself, with a multigenerational soul summit. The activist groove music of Michael Franti and Spearhead tops the bill, but the opening acts include the poetic soul and jazz-informed hip-hop troupe Arrested Development, which, like Franti and Spearhead, promotes the kinds of positive lyrical themes and organic instrumental backdrops that many rap contemporaries all but disown; and the grand soul diva Bettye LeVette, who, at age 65, masters a powerfully emotive vocal charge steeped in tradition.

And so Fourth

Finally, we offer more holiday weekend picks that require a modest road trip to the north.

■ Friday night marks the return to the region of "guit-steel" man Junior Brown. A favorite of many Lexington shows, he has been absent from local stages in recent years. You will have to journey to Southgate House, 24 East Third Street, Newport, to catch the mix of traditional country fire, surf-music savvy and mutated psychedelia that Brown pulls from his self-designed, double neck "guit-steel" guitar. (8:30 p.m. $25. (859) 431-2201.

■ In the great outdoors of Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, Saturday brings the pairing of Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow. Country/rock/rap king Rock is touring behind his Fourth-friendly album Born Free. The addition of Crow might make for an odd-couple concert bill, but remember that the two singers teamed for the original version of Rock's massive country hit, Picture, in 2002. (7 p.m. $22-$72. (513) 232-6220 or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or