Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Mickey Hart and his band are always in a groove

Mickey Hart and his band will play the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival.
Mickey Hart and his band will play the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival.

Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival

Sept. 6-9 at Terrapin Hill Farm, 3696 Mackville Rd. in Harrodsburg. $30-$50.

At the height of its late '70s heyday, George Clinton's renegade psychedelic funk band Funkadelic used the title of its then-current album to define not only the nature of the music that moved its members but the entire society in which they thrived: One Nation Under a Groove.

If you consider the music of percussionist Mickey Hart, that credo would have to be expanded. Given the ethnic traditions and multicultural makeup of his songs, bands and recordings, along with the continually progressive view he maintains to keep his music on the move, a more telling title might be One Planet Under a Groove.

Why stop there? How about One Universe Under a Groove? Take a listen to any of his recordings — from international percussive summits like 1991's Planet Drum and 2008's Global Drum Project, both of which were Grammy winners, to more contemporary and eclectic outings like 1996's Mickey Hart's Mystery Box and the new Mysterium Tremendum. You will discover how Hart has found unified grooves for rhythms from down the block, around the globe and, seemingly, across the cosmos.

Of course, to many, Hart will always be half of the drumming duo that fueled, for nearly three decades, the Grateful Dead. And to be sure, Dead classics like West L.A. Fadeaway, Friend of the Devil and his own Fire on the Mountain, populate his current shows with the Mickey Hart Band. But so do newer tunes from Mysterium Tremendum, including Starlight Starbright and Let There Be Light, both of which are collaborations with longtime Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

The Hart Band, one of the featured acts at this year's Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival in Harrodsburg, is something of a global community. Jam band enthusiasts forever fixated on the Dead undoubtedly have picked up on the fact that Hart has enlisted Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools for Mysterium Tremendum as well as the current tour. But the band also includes Nigerian talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, who has been a Hart ally since the late '70s.

The Mickey Hart Band, which performs about 9:30 p.m. Friday, unquestionably is the star attraction of the festival, but the weekend event also will play host to a number of other acclaimed jam-oriented acts, including Karl Denson's Tiny Universe; songwriter David Gans, who hosts the syndicated Grateful Dead Hour, heard locally at 9 p.m. Sundays on WUKY-91.3 FM; and the Michigan string band Greensky Bluegrass. Local and regional favorites like Born Cross Eyed, with Dark Star Orchestra drummer Dino English sitting in; The 23 String Band, and Rumpke Mountain Boys will fortify the bill.

For a full schedule of events and ticket options, go to


■ "When I should have stayed put, I was on the run," Chris Knight confesses during the home stretch of his fine new album Little Victories, which hits stores next week.

As you might surmise from that line, there is a level of restlessness within Little Victories, just as there is with all of the John Mellencamp-esque recordings the Slaughters, Ky., native has cooked up. But there is also a lighter, warmer cast to the songs, thanks to the complimentary production of Ray Kennedy and the contributions from a notable guest list. John Prine, Buddy Miller and Dan Baird all help out on the record.

On Friday, though, Knight will utilize only his road-tested band as he brings Little Victories to life at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester Street. (9 p.m. $25. (859) 368-8871.

■ Summer isn't over yet, not if Robert Earl Keen, one of the Lone Star State's most consistently engaging songwriters, has anything to say about it. His 2011 album Ready for Confetti is a bona fide seasonal treat that, in its lighter moments, could pass for Jimmy Buffett, provided Margaritaville was somewhere in the Hill Country of Texas. But more sobering sagas such as I Gotta Go and Lay Down My Brother prove Keen remains, after nearly 30 years of making records, in an Americana class by himself. He performs Tuesday at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair Street, Frankfort. (7:30 p.m. $25-$45. (502) 352-7469.

■ I have been yammering for years about the California Guitar Trio — about its extraordinary instrumental command, its wild stylistic variety (from classical to surf to prog) and its thoroughly unspoiled approach to performances. In short, the ensemble of Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya come recommended for any taste, age and temperament. At 8 p.m. Thursday, the trio returns for a free convocation concert at Berea College's Phelps Stokes Chapel. That's right: See the CGT for free. You really have no excuse for missing out. For more info, call (859) 985-3359 or got to

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader