Music News & Reviews

Bettye LeVette comes to Louisville and Ruthie Foster returns to Lexington

Bettye LaVette, who turns 66 this month, isn't slowing down. She put out an album in 2010.
Bettye LaVette, who turns 66 this month, isn't slowing down. She put out an album in 2010.

Bettye LaVette

8 p.m. Jan. 13 at Clifton Center Eifler Theatre, 2117 Payne St. in Louisville. $33, $35. (502) 896-8480.

'WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour': Ruthie Foster and Marquise Knox

6:45 p.m. Jan. 16 at Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $10. (859) 252-8888.

Who is to say whether it was a coincidence that Bettye LaVette and Ruthie Foster happened to wind up with return engagements in Louisville and Lexington this weekend? Regardless of the reason, the musical traditions that both women embrace will unquestionably be in step with Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.

LaVette, who turns 66 later this month, is the astounding soul-music matriarch who is riding a remarkable career renaissance. She began recording and performing traditional soul-style music in the 1960s, but LaVette never really enjoyed lasting popularity until her soul-drenched, Joe Henry-produced album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise was released in 2005.

LaVette's newest R&B delicacy is Interpretations, a 2010 album of soul revisions of vintage British rock staples.

Although perhaps not as well known, Foster is a powerful contemporary blues voice who hails from the Brazos Valley region of Texas. She returns to WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on Monday with Canadian fiddler/step-dancer April Verch, having played the program in 2003 with Jason Ringenberg.

That engagement remains notable because it came in the aftermath of a severe winter storm that left much of Lexington in a blackout. Her performance that night was a spark of electric life when much of the city sat in stark, wintry stillness.

Big Bill's blues

Talk about your midwinter blues. Guitarist, vocalist and all-around blues ambassador Big Bill Morganfield returns to town Friday night for a performance at The Crossroad, 286 Southland Drive. (9 p.m.; $10, $12, $15.)

A frequent visitor to the Lexington area over the past 15 years, Morganfield worked as a teacher for much of his adult life until the death of his father, electric blues patriarch Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield), in 1983. That's when he began pursuing music in general — and the blues in particular — with devoted passion, winning the prestigious W.C. Handy Award for best new blues artist in 2000.

Today, Bill Morganfield operates his own label, Black Shuck Records, which issued his newest album, Born Lover, in 2009.

For more information and table reservations, call (859) 309-3904.

Afroman time

He was born Joseph Edgar Foreman, but to a devout club audience that has steadily grown over the past two decades, he is known as Afroman.

Growing up in Palmdale, Calif. — a region saturated over the years by everything from Frank Zappa music to scores of West Coast hip-hop styles — Afroman built a career around rapping about oddly domestic themes.

Admittedly, that's not the first impression one receives when listening to his 2000 Internet hit Because I Got High. But rather than pointedly glorifying drug use, the song mocked a self-obsessed generation's inability to cope with the most mundane of everyday responsibilities while in a chemically altered state.

The drug and alcohol references only grew from there. But so did Afroman's sense of humor, culminating in such comedic holiday releases as 2004's Jobe Bells and 2006's A Colt 45 Christmas.

Afroman spreads a little post-holiday cheer Friday night at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue. Local groove troupe Soul Funkin' Dangerous opens. (9 p.m., $20. (859) 309-9499.

It all happens Thursday

Better start weighing the options now. Come Thursday, you will have to pick from three prime performances.

■ At the Kentucky Theatre, we have the return of contemporary bluesman Keb' Mo'. A consistently strong concert draw, the singer/guitarist/songwriter has been one of blues music's most popular crossover acts. Never has that been more apparent than on The Reflection, a new studio recording that embraces pop and soul as much as the blues. Mo' (born Kevin Moore) will discuss his ever-evolving music in this weekend's Living Sunday section. (7:30 p.m. $50.75. (859) 231-7924.

■ At Natasha's Bistro and Bar, 112 Esplanade (just across the street from the Kentucky), bluegrass-and-more bassist/vocalist John Cowan performs. An Evansville, Ind.-born, Louisville-bred artist, Cowan has long been a pioneer of mixing bluegrass tradition with electric pop and soul. He will perform as part of a trio with guitarist Jeff Autry and fiddler Shad Cobb. (8 p.m. $15, $18. (859) 259-2754.

■ At the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair Street in Frankfort, famed saxophonist and bandleader Branford Marsalis performs with his long-running quartet. Among the members: composer/pianist Joey Calderazzo, who released an extraordinary album of piano/sax duets last year with Marsalis titled Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. (7:30 p.m. $55-$80. (502) 352-7469.