Record Store Day
■ 9 a.m. April 20 at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone. (859) 233-3472. Cdcentralmusic.com.
■ 11 a.m. April 20 at Pop's Resale, 1423 Leestown Rd. (859) 254-7677. Popsresale.com.
It's easy to view Record Store Day as just another commercial ploy, a glorified means of using a level of sentimentality that borders on scare tactics to camouflage what is, at the end of the day, another act of commerce.
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But interest in the event in many cities, including Lexington, has grown into daylong celebrations fortified by live music. After all, record stores and live performance are the building blocks of any music community. So when one of those components finds itself on the endangered species list of artistic resources, it sometimes takes a blatantly commercial ploy to help save the day.
What prompted an event like Record Store Day? Some might say nostalgia for the days when record stores were daytime hubs for music lovers, a place to mull over the latest new releases and debate with others about which recordings were cool and which weren't.
Record stores also were home bases for the cultish strongholds that continued to champion vinyl recordings as the format began to dwindle at the end of the '80s. (Vinyl has mounted a hearty comeback in recent years. In fact, with revenue from compact discs continuing to nosedive, sales of vinyl recordings have increased during the past year).
But Record Store Day goes beyond all that. I could happily bore you until next week about the role record stores have played. But the event has taken on new importance of late. The digital age of music has provided us unimaginable convenience when it comes to accessing and distributing music. But that accessibility also has devalued recorded music. Illegal downloading and file sharing might have destroyed the grossly corroded music industries of decades past. But they also have made it next to impossible for indie bands of any level to collect much by way of hard profit from their work. Sure, they can sell CDs at their gigs — most acts do — but reclaiming any serious royalty compensation from online sales and services, even the legal ones, is often a lost cause.
So if it takes a purely commercial venture like Record Store Day to remind us of recorded music's artistic worth, so be it.
Besides, look at what fun Record Store Day has become. Among the artists that are releasing exclusive recordings Saturday will be The Avett Brothers with Randy Travis, Marco Benevento, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Billy Bragg, Eric Church, Elizabeth Cool, Mike Cooley, Bob Dylan, Justin Townes Earle, Alejandro Escovedo, The Flaming Lips, The Grateful Dead, Patty Griffin, Grizzly Bear, Iron and Wine, King Crimson, Tift Merritt, Mumford & Sons, Willie Nelson, Ra Ra Riot, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, The Roots, Josh Rouse, Sigur Rós, Richard Thompson, Paul Weller and Steven Wilson.
At CD Central, which will open an hour earlier than usual, Record Store Day comes with a full lineup of free live music from Lexington and beyond. Here's the schedule: Italian Beaches (1 p.m.); 193 Sound showcase featuring Birmingham, Ala., visual artist/musician Lonnie Holley (2 pm), Fifth on the Floor (3 p.m.) and Blood Pheasant (4 p.m.).
Over at Pops Resale, Shozo will perform.
For more information on the kind of local, global and cultural event Record Store Day has become, go to Recordstoreday.com.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Richard Thompson at The Kentucky Theatre: It was at the five-minute mark of an almost impossibly intense guitar solo that Richard Thompson's blend of jaw-dropping technique, tireless performance stamina and remarkably mature rock 'n' roll nerve came to a boil.
The song that established such a sublime pileup was Can't Win, a neglected powerhouse from the British songsmith's 1988 album Amnesia. After the tune's dark story line of conformity and mistrust was played out ("we harpoon dreams, we stiletto in the back"), Thompson, 64, let his fingers do some especially wicked strolling. He conjured long, sinewy lines that tightened around the melody like barbed wire. With the highly flexible groove of drummer Michael Jerome and bass guitarist Taras Prodaniuk under him, the break yielded an atypically solemn form of guitar shredding. Thompson's facial expression was stoic to the point of being sphinxlike. But the sound he conjured was like Armageddon. No wonder Jerome bowed his head in seeming exhaustion at the tune's conclusion.
And that was just one highlight from the nearly two-hour performance. The true charm behind the concert was that the power trio — as well as a program highlighted by the first six songs from the new Buddy Miller- produced Electric album that caters generously to the format — offered an insightful look into Thompson's considerable instrumental strengths.
The harmonic invention of his acoustic playing underscored the dance hall shuffle of Al Bowlly's in Heaven, the dizzying picking within 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and the deconstructing groove of Easy There, Steady Now, which Thompson tagged as a "jazz odyssey."
But between the jagged folk dance structures at the heart of Electric tunes such as Sally B and Stony Ground and the dark power chords protruding from Shoot Out the Lights, there were generous glimpses of the amplified Thompson working within jams and improvisations of fearsome richness.
Playfully tagging his power trio potency as "wimpy," Thompson purposely addressed convention by opening the second of two encore sections with a cover of the '60s warhorse anthem Hey Joe. But truer fireworks came with the show-closing Tear Stained Letter, a blast of hearty folk/soul fire that was pure, unrelenting fun.