Music News & Reviews

Bluegrass great Doyle Lawson picks Lexington over Grammys

Doyle Lawson will be in Lexington on Monday. His new album will be at the Grammys.
Doyle Lawson will be in Lexington on Monday. His new album will be at the Grammys.

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

Performing for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour with Coaltown Dixie. 6:45 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St. $10. 859-252-8888. Woodsongs.com.

At least one nominee won’t be in attendance Monday as the 58th annual Grammy Awards are handed out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. True to his bluegrass work ethic, Doyle Lawson will be on the job and onstage. Not only that, the veteran bandleader, mandolinist and vocalist will be back in one of the cities that figured heavily during the formative years of his career.

Specifically, Lawson and his long-running band Quicksilver will be in Lexington for Monday’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

Nominated for a Grammy for best bluegrass album for his 2015 release In Session, Lawson is a lifelong Tennessean, although his ties with Lexington date to 1966, when he began gigging with J.D. Crowe. That leg of the partnership lasted, intermittently, until 1971, when Lawson joined the Country Gentlemen. His first lineups of Quicksilver were playing by the end of the decade. Since then, he has released more than 40 albums with various versions of the band.

In Session is a no-frills secular bluegrass outing (gospel recordings constitute a substantial portion of his catalog) that rips out of the gates like a Thoroughbred on the opening song, Roll Big River, with its breakneck string exchanges and gallant harmonies. In Session later settles into the vintage country swooning of I Told Them All About You, then it hits the big lonesome highway for Big Eight Wheeler.

As always, reservations for all WoodSongs tapings are highly encouraged.

Donny McCaslin

8 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St. in Louisville. $15. 502-896-8480. Cliftoncenter.org.

Bill Frisell

8 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Taft Theatre Ballroom, 317 E. 5th in Cincinnati. $29. 1-800-745-3000. Ticketmaster.com.

One of the most beautiful and unexpectedly bittersweet moments on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, comes during its concluding song, I Can’t Give Everything Away. The titleitself is remarkably telling. One can easily view it as the confession of an aging magician who remains cautious and possessive of his trickery.

Truth to tell, Bowie, who died only three days after Blackstar was released Jan. 8, surrenders quite a bit of musical terrain on the record. A versed saxophonist, Bowie farmed out horn duties to New York jazz ace Donny McCaslin throughout Blackstar. But it simply soars amid the warm melodic rush of I Can’t Give Everything Away to create a remarkable sendoff — although, perhaps, an unknowing one to everyone but Bowie himself — to an iconic career.

A veteran of the famed Maria Schneider Orchestra and critically heralded as a vanguard member of a new generation of New York jazz artists, McCaslin visits the Bluegrass for a performance Friday night at the Clifton Center in Louisville. The Bowie connection might give him the headlines, but the record that has him on the road this winter is Fast Forward. Again, the title proves revealing.

The record is an astute, forward-thinking sound collage alive with funk overtones (the title tune), minimalist undercurrents (No Eyes) and the lovely ambient wash of This Side of Sunrise, which eases into a Weather Report-like groove. The most dramatic tune on Fast Forward, though, is one of the album’s briefest entries: a two-minute rampage called 54 Cymru Beats that opens with a raw solo howl reminiscent of early Sonny Rollins before percussion and electric punctuation cast aside all spirits of jazz past.

Should you find such stylistic thrill-seeking appealing, consider another road-trip show. You will have to hit the highway on a weeknight. But any chance to catch the brilliant Bill Frisell in performance is an occasion.

The guitarist has been moonlighting quite a bit of late. He shared a bill in Brooklyn with Wilco this winter and figures prominently on two splendid new recordings by jazz titan Charles Lloyd (I Long to See You) and Americana priestess Lucinda Williams (The Ghosts of Highway 60, which is reviewed on Page 26).

Frisell’s Thursday performance in Cincinnati celebrates his own music — in particular, his radiant new album, When You Wish Upon a Star. The recording is an eclectic reimagining of vintage movie and television compositions that shift from the dark but summery cast of Elmer Bernstein’s immortal score for To Kill a Mockingbird to the joyous abandon in the theme to Bonanza.

Nearly all of the band that cut the record with Frisell will be onstage at the Taft, including violist Eyvind Kang, vocalist Petra Haden and bassist Thomas Morgan. Kenny Wollesen will take over on drums from Rudy Royston.

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