Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Ben Sollee headlines show of local notables

Ben Sollee performs Friday night at Phoenix Park.
Ben Sollee performs Friday night at Phoenix Park.

Ben Sollee, Coralee and the Townies and Josh Nolan

Performing for WUKY Phoenix Friday, 5 p.m. Aug. 22 at Phoenix Park, S. Limestone and W. Main St. Free. (859) 257-3221.

After a pair of performances showcasing up-and-coming national acts, WUKY-FM's summer-long Phoenix Fridays series brings it all back home with a pack of notables from our own backyard.

Headlining will be Ben Sollee, whose visibility as a performer over the past decade — from his work with Abigail Washburn in the Sparrow Quartet to gigging with Louisville's My Morning Jacket at Bonnaroo — more than qualifies him as national act as well as a local favorite.

This has been another typically busy summer for the cellist, songsmith, activist and avid bicyclist. Late last month, he headlined a larger scale version of Phoenix Fridays, the Waterfront Wednesday series in Louisville (the performance was recorded and is available for download from This past weekend, Sollee played the 24th Annual Folks Festival in Lyons, Colo., and was promoted by sponsoring station KUNC as one the event's "3 Young Artists We Can't Wait to See" (the indie-pop troupe Hurray for the Riff Raff and folk-pop songstress Sarah Jarosz were the others).

Then in September, he heads overseas for a two-week tour that will continue to promote 2012's fine Half Made Man album with concerts in Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Topping all the touring activity, though, will be another return to the region. Sollee will perform at the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts on Oct. 16 for a performance that will seat the audience onstage with the artist.

Also on the bill will be the tireless Coralee and the Townies, the honky tonk soul troupe that has been hitting outdoor stages all summer. Their roadwork has included stops at two inaugural events, Cincinnati's country and Americana heavy Buckle Up Festival-and Harrodsburg's roots driven Well Crafted Festival. Along with a hometown stop last weekend at the Green Lantern, Coralee and company's Phoenix Friday set will serve as part of the lead-up to the September release of Criminal Pride, the band's full-length album debut.

Opening the show right at quitting time (5 p.m.) will be Lexington-by-way-of-Stanton pop-Americana stylist Josh Nolan, whose summer activities also included a set at the Well Crafted Festival as well as a July outing at Buster's with Shooter Jennings for the Summer Slam Music Festival.

For more info on tonight's performances and remaining Phoenix Friday shows, go to

Two Hags

Father and son Haggards will convene at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, 2380 Richmond Street in Renfro Valley, this weekend, although not on the same night.

Sunday brings the return of the truly iconic Merle Haggard, still touring at age 77 as one of the founding fathers of West Coast-rooted country music.

It has already been another celebratory year for the elder Haggard. He began 2014 by singing one of his most enduring hits, 1968's Okie from Muskogee, at the Grammy Awards alongside Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Blake Shelton. Then, over the summer, Haggard received the Crystal Milestone Award in honor of his 50 year career. The honor was given in July by the Academy of Country Music. (5 p.m.; sold out)

The singer's son and one-time bandmate, Marty Haggard, will perform at Renfro Valley Friday on a bill with Dion Pride and Jett Williams.

The younger Haggard was born in 1958 while his father was incarcerated at San Quentin Prison for a robbery conviction. Son Marty's career in country music included several stabs at the charts with 1980s-era singles that included Trains Make Me Lonesome. More recent recordings have leaned to Christian-themed music, although he has recorded several of his father's songs as tributes. (8 p.m.; $20, $25)

For tickets, go to (800) 765-7464) or go to