Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Friends of Bluegrass gather at Meadowgreen; Miguel Zenon's long-awaited return

Miguel Zenon is a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow. He performs on tenor sax in Louisville Friday night.
Miguel Zenon is a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow. He performs on tenor sax in Louisville Friday night.

Kentucky Friends of Bluegrass Music Concert Series

Saturdays through April 11 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane in Clay City. (606) 663-9008.

In a fall that has included recent shows by Paul McCartney and Garth Brooks and with a weekend at hand that boasts area performances by Dave Mason, Daughtry and Lucinda Williams on successive nights, it's easy to overlook one of the most appealing staples of the concert year.

Already underway in Clay City is the annual autumn-to-spring series of live Saturday night shows that bring some of the most spectacular bluegrass acts from the region and the entire country to one of the most intimate, informal and inviting concert venues you will find anywhere.

This Saturday's entries bring in the New Coon Creek Girls, descendents of the storied Central Kentucky Appalachian music ensemble that dates back to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance programs of the 1930s. The Kirby Knob Boys will share the bill (7 p.m., $10).

The remaining fall performers include Farm Hands Quartet (Nov. 15), Southland Drive (Nov. 22), Wendy Miller (Nov. 29) and Bobby Osborne (Dec. 6). The series then takes a month-long break for the holidays and resumes on Jan. 3 with shows that run through April.

For a full performance schedule, go to Kyfriends.com.

Interludes

■ The road trip pick of the weekend is for the jazz lovers. The extraordinary Puerto Rican born saxophonist Miguel Zenon performs Friday night at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne Street, in Louisville. Introduced through a series of recordings on Branford Marsalis' record label (Marsalis Music), Zenon is a player who displays an intense but immaculate tenor sax sound in concert. A Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, Zenon hasn't played in Kentucky since a 2005 performance with the SF Jazz Collective in Louisville (8 p.m., $18). For tickets, go to Cliftoncenter.tix.com.

■ On their own, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have cultivated myriad new voices for the banjo. Rooted in traditional bluegrass, Fleck has taken the instrument into fusion, classical and world music scenarios. Washburn's Appalachian-leaning roots have regularly reached across continents to incorporate Asian inspirations. Together, the husband and wife duo have come up with a fine self-titled album of traditional works (Pretty Polly) sacred harp tunes (And Am I Born to Die), classical interpretation (Bela Bartok's For Children) and more. And it's all done exclusively with banjos and voice. Fleck and Washburn will showcase the new album with a visit to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on Monday at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street. Also performing will be Madison Shepherd. (6:45 p.m., $20). For reservations, call (859) 252-8888.

■ If you thought the beautifully plaintive 2011 album Tell Me told the whole story of Jessica Lea Mayfield, then you better reach for the earplugs. That atmospheric, Americana-tinged sophomore album is nothing like the new, grunge-savvy Make My Head Sing. Where Tell Me was light, expansive but still a little unsettling, the new record is loud, jagged and a whole lot unsettling. An online review from Pitchfork.com went so far as say the opening tune Oblivious sounds like "a school bus falling into a ravine." That might be clouding the issue a bit, but the record's abrasive, woozy feel is no less fascinating than the more feathery soundscapes offered up throughout Tell Me. Combined, the disparate styles of the two albums seriously whet the appetite for Mayfield's Thursday (11/13) return to Cosmic Charlies, 388 Woodland Avenue (10 p.m., $10, $12). Bombadil will open. For more info, call (859) 309-9499 or go to Cosmic-charlies.com. We'll have more on Mayfield in next week's Herald-Leader and at LexGo.com.

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