Music News & Reviews

All you have to do is cross the street to catch Richard Thompson and then Peter Case

Peter Case is scheduled to hit the stage at Natasha's Bistro & Bar at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Peter Case is scheduled to hit the stage at Natasha's Bistro & Bar at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Peter Case

9 p.m. April 9 at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. $15. (859) 259-2754.

Richard Thompson

7:30 p.m. April 9 at Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St. $40. (859) 231-7924 after 4 p.m.

Forgive me if I look past the weekend and into the heart of a downtown on Tuesday.

Veteran British songsmith Richard Thompson, who has become a semi- regular of the Troubadour Concerts Series, will be at The Kentucky Theatre. This outing will differ from past visits. Instead of a solo acoustic performance, Thompson — in keeping with the theme and title of his newest album, Electric — will perform with an amped-up trio. He will discuss more detailed Electric tales in this weekend's Living Sunday section.

But what really, and unintentionally, distinguishes Thompson's return is that his performance will fall so close in time and proximity to that of another storied songsmith, Peter Case, who will be across the street at Natasha's Bistro & Bar.

Like Thompson, whose career ignited in the late '60s during his tenure with the vanguard British folk-rock troupe Fairport Convention, Case's career began to catch ears on the West Coast at the dawn of the '80s in the post-punk pop brigade The Plimsouls. A solo career ensued in 1986 with a self-titled T Bone Burnett-produced recording. From there, the emphasis shifted more toward songcraft, whether it was through records of concert- performed cover tunes (1993's Peter Case Sings Like Hell), more-folk derived sets of his own songs (2000's extraordinary Flying Saucer Blues) or spirited blues reflections (2007's Grammy- nominated Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John).

Case has a grand gift for storytelling in and out of his songs. In 2006, he published a paperback memoir of the earliest days of his career, concentrating on his relocation to California after spending his childhood and high school years in Buffalo, N.Y. The book, As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport, is loaded with characters and scenarios of an especially colorful youth.

"Johnny lives in a junk yard on the Bay in Sausalito," Case writes in an early chapter titled "Yogananda Streetfights." "And he's invited me to check it out sometime. It's supposed to be a swell place to crash in a pinch."

Case's newest album is The Case Files, a hodgepodge of outtakes, demos, cover tunes and more with a seemingly purposeful lack of credits and liner notes. A 2005 trio version of the roots classic Milk Cow Blues, for example, is listed as having been cut "live at some joint in Houston."

Details and particulars notwithstanding, Case is simply one of the best: a writer as attuned to the mischievous nature of the human condition as he is to the boundless stylistic possibilities that are available to bring his storytelling to life.

Case's concert is set to begin at 9 p.m. Let's hope the good folks at Natasha's hold the show until about 9:30, which is a good estimate for when Thompson's concert should wind down at The Kentucky. These are performances that appeal to very like-minded audiences. It seems a shame not to let that fan base enjoy the full scope of all the wonderful music that will be emanating from both sides of Main Street on Tuesday.

Last Call for Meadowgreen Park

One of the brightest concert celebrations of the fall and winter months is the series of Saturday night bluegrass shows at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane, Clay City.

On Saturday, the venue closes shop for the season with American Drive, which is essentially the final lineup of J.D. Crowe's New South band with Josh Hymer taking over banjo duties. Banjo great Crowe retired from full-time touring and bandleading at the end of 2012. Custom Made Bluegrass will open. (7 p.m. $12. (606) 663-9008.


Leonard Cohen at the Louisville Palace: "Best Easter ever."

That was the roar that came from the Louisville Palace balcony as Leonard Cohen wound down an almost mercurial version of So Long, Marianne.

Easter Sunday was still a few hours away, but the Zen-like reserve and regality underscoring the veteran songsmith's performance more than spoke to the occasion.

Throughout the extraordinary 31/2-hour program, Cohen wore one hat (a stylish fedora, an accoutrement also adopted by most of his band members and stagehands) but played many roles. Depending on the song from his 45-year recording career, Cohen portrayed elder romantic, poet philosopher, enlightened mystic, jazz hipster and, yes, even dirty old man. At 78, he has won the right to inhabit all of those roles.

Cohen's eight-member band served as an orchestra of sorts, coloring each song with what can best be described as a lush hush. Veteran pop-soul keyboardist Neil Larsen's Hammond organ leads and the solos of Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, who also played cittern-style banduria and the lutelike archilaud, provided much of the exotic cool behind songs such as Darkness, one of six works performed from Cohen's 2012 album Old Ideas, and Tower of Song.

But as spiritually forthcoming as classics such as Hallelujah seemed and as regally poetic as chestnuts like Bird on the Wire still sounded, Cohen wasn't above going low. Anyhow was all sly carnal deviousness, with Cohen singing his decrepit come-ons ("Even though you have to hate me, could you hate me less?") with the sort of whispery sleaze that brought Frank Zappa's I'm the Slime to mind.

Perhaps the wildest aspect of the show was how youthful and genuinely gracious Cohen appeared. He regularly descended to bended knee to sing, placed his fedora over his heart when a particular solo struck him and seemed genuinely apologetic when announcing early into the show that co-guitarist Mitch Watkins was substituting for the recently hospitalized Roscoe Beck (the band's musical director) on bass.

"I hope you won't feel any disgrace to the enterprise," Cohen said.

Not a chance. With Easter — the best one ever, mind you — at hand and songs that ran from the basest urges of earthly desire to contemplations of redemption, Cohen was the epitome of sagely, poetic grace.