Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Lexington Jazz Festival features Nashville guitarist Denny Jiosa

Denny Jiosa is the headliner at Sunday's Lexington Jazz Festival.
Denny Jiosa is the headliner at Sunday's Lexington Jazz Festival.

Lexington Jazz Festival

1 p.m. June 2 at Talon Winery and Vineyards, 7086 Tates Creek Rd. $25 in advance, $30 at the gate; free for children 12 and younger. (859) 971-3214.

Things will turn very electric for the fourth annual Lexington Jazz Festival, which takes over the Talon Winery for a four-act, six-hour run on Sunday.

Headlining will be Nashville guitarist Denny Jiosa, whose playing sides as often with pop and rock as it does jazz. A four-time Grammy nominee — three of those nods came from three collaborations with contemporary gospel artist Yolanda Adams; the fourth, curiously, was for work with polka stylist Lynn Marie — Jiosa's playing has been compared to numerous rock artists whose playing had regularly overlapped into jazz — specifically, Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana. Jiosa's newest album, 2011's On the Edge, packs that musicianship into a tight power-trio format that moves away from the smooth jazz overtones of past recordings like Among Friends and Inner Voices into shades of blues-drenched boogie (Spytime), funk (Blue Line to Largo) and amped-up guitar rock (Dynamite).

Also performing on Sunday will be O-Zone, the Jamey Aebersold Quartet and the Library Players.

The event will be held rain or shine.

Queen Loretta

Nothing stands in the way of Loretta Lynn's summer concert rounds. At age 81, the pride of Butcher Hollow continues to champion a parade of groundbreaking hits in a career that shows no signs of decelerating.

She has downplayed music from her 2004 Grammy-winning, Jack White-produced comeback album Van Lear Rose in recent years, but Lynn's current shows remain ripe with torch-bearing hits that cemented her popularity in the late '60s and early '70s, including Blue Kentucky Girl, You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man, Fist City, Coal Miner's Daughter (still her traditional show closer) and the intriguing family-planning mash-up of The Pill and One's on the Way.

The undisputed queen of country music performs Saturday at the New Barn Theatre of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, 2380 Richmond Street in Renfro Valley. (8 p.m. $55-$65. 1-800-765-7464.

Enter BOB

You would think someone had rolled back the years to the early '70s, a time when bluegrass was the dominant musical force in Lexington clubs. Starting Monday, and leading up to the Thursday inauguration of the 40th Festival of the Bluegrass, you will hear from a friend we will come to know as BOB.

That stands for Best of Bluegrass, a festival that will link performances in a host of local venues — nearly all of which will be downtown — that prioritize bluegrass music in a way that hasn't happened in close to four decades.

We will give you the full lowdown on BOB and the Festival of the Bluegrass in this weekend's Living Sunday section. But we want to give you a heads-up on two early-week performances that will help introduce BOB in a big way.

The first comes at 8 p.m. Monday by way of a free performance at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade. The featured act will be Gangstagrass, the hip-hop flavored string band responsible for the theme music for FX's popular Kentucky-set series Justified. Call (859) 259-2754 or go to

Then Tuesday, it's the return of Alison Brown to Willie's Locally Known, 805 North Broadway. Brown is a heralded banjoist and band leader whose day job is head of the equally championed bluegrass and roots music label Compass Records. Call (859) 281-1116 or visit

For a full listing of BOB-o-rific fun next week, go to


Aoife O'Donovan and Joe Louis Walker at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour: The most enjoyable tapings of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour revolve around featured performers that are distinct to the point of being stylistic opposites. The magic then comes when a level of common ground is discovered — or, in some cases, simply stumbled upon — that is a surprise to the artists as much as their audience.

Such was the case last week when blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker, who performed with gospel fervency within a highly electric quartet, and Americana songstress Aoife O'Donovan, whose solo acoustic set possessed a delicate but almost incantatory urgency, shared the WoodSongs bill at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center.

Walker, a recent inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame, obviously reveres the great Buddy Guy. While little of the elder stylist's monstrous tone was appropriated, Walker promoted a cheery, rockish accessibility within songs like Too Drunk to Drive Drunk (which was performed twice, with the second version unleashing the evening's most assertive guitar work) and Ride All Night.

But it was during Soldier for Jesus that Walker's vocal drive, a singing style drenched in the kind of gospel/R&B bravado that has long been integral to Guy's music, was placed front and center.

O'Donovan, whose debut solo album, Fossils, is still three weeks from release, is poised to be the next celeb performer in Americana music following tours this summer with Garrison Keillor and Yo-Yo Ma's all-star Goat Rodeo Sessions. You could detect a different reason why in each of the five fine Fossils songs she performed.

Red & White & Blue & Gold reflected subtle folk melancholy, Fire Engine emphasized the hushed urgency of her singing, Beekeeper mixed New England coffeehouse folk intimacy with '70s-era West Coast folk expression and Lay My Burden Down proved an exquisite showpiece for captivatingly quiet vocals that navigated tricky melodic turns with schooled cool.

But the show stealer was Oh, MamaFossils' finale tune — which bloomed into a very impromptu Band-like jamboree. Keyboardist Eric Finland (from Walker's band) supplied a solo full of churchy calm before Walker chimed in with leisurely slide guitar that fell right in line with the folk-roots groove that sat at the heart of O'Donovan's charming song.