Building on a tried-and-true Bakersfield sound, The Derailers just keep on truckin', selling their honky-tonk dream one smoke-filled club at a time. Wandering through the various Tinseltowns of lost and wasted tunes, these Austin natives create classic country in the modern age. For their fourth and latest album, Here Come the Derailers, these twang engineers mix bouncy-up tempo numbers with Latin sounds, tongue-in-cheek ditties, and poignant ballads.
(Some of the new tunes were penned by Jim Lauderdale, who's been widely lauded for his authentic honky tonk.)
Their greasy cover of "Mohair Sam" is dirty with southern soil. Even the Roy Orbison-influenced "I See My Baby" complements their staple of steel-laden roadhouse laments.
And as if working with greats like Dave Alvin and Buck Owens wasn't enough, The Derailers insist on staying on the road more than three hundred days a year.
"One of the things we really appreciate about our heroes like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard is their work ethic," notes guitarist Brian Hofeldt. "One time Buck asked us how we got started. We told him we did by playing anywhere and everywhere we could. Then he told us, 'That's exactly how I started out.'"
Dodging semis as they barrel down the road to your town, The Derailers are workin' hard to bring country music of the past in touch with country music of the future without sacrificing the retro feel that has won them so much attention.
But, as Hofeldt is quick to point out, "It's not retro, it's reverence." Buck Owens would certainly approve.
The Derailers roll into Lynagh's on Friday, November 2nd. The Lazy-Boys will open the show, which gets started at 9:30pm. Tickets are $8. Call 255-6614 for info. -Chris Webb
One of acoustic music's brightest lights, Kentucky-born Sam Bush is already a legend, an unsurpassed multi-instrumentalist with a style all his own. Perhaps best known as the founder and driving force behind the now legendary New Grass Revival, Bush has explored various eclectic tastes, taking bluegrass music on an adventurous detour through Jamaica, Ireland, Motown and more. Not surprisingly, Bush's recording career began in 1969 when he was only seventeen years old. Already holding the title as National Junior Fiddle Champion for three consecutive years, Bush decided to put together a band of inventive and aggressive, high-caliber musicians to challenge the preconceived notions surrounding traditional bluegrass formats. In subsequent years, New Grass Revival would blaze a trail of transition, fusing a wide range of styles from gospel, rock, jazz and country to reggae, pop and back to bluegrass. New Grass Revival finally disbanded on New Year's Eve in 1989, and Bush went on to lead Emmylous Harris's Grammy-winning Nash Ramblers for five years. In addition to several solo records, Bush has managed to tour extensively with artists such as Bela Fleck and Lyle Lovett and record with luminaries including Leon Russell, Steve Earle, and Doc Watson, among others. Wearing dark shades and a crazy shirt, he has consistently mixed and mingled with contemporary music's most compelling and exciting performers for the past three decades. A mandolin virtuoso, Bush is still an innovator, taking audiences on a high-octane musical journey that's as fun to watch as it is to hear.
Sam Bush and the Sam Bush Band play Monday, November 5, for a WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour benefit show. The music starts at 7pm at the Kentucky Theatre. Tickets are $20. There will be an extended performance following the broadcast. Call 252-8888 for reservations. -Chris Webb
The reason The Bee Gees and Oingo Boingo no longer grace the airwaves is the same reason Better Than Ezra continues to.
The New Orleans trio exists in a constant state of evolution, surviving music's passing fads and continuing to record challenging music that defies genre and classification.
When Ezra's label, Elektra, failed to support that growth, the band decided it was time to move on.
"With each record we put out, it seemed that Elektra believed in the band less and less, like we were less of a priority to them. We just were frustrated with that. We had a lot of people there that were friends, and still are, but the higher-ups who hold the purse strings and set the priorities didn't see fit to work hard to promote the band," said drummer Travis McNabb.
McNabb joined Better Than Ezra just before heading into the studio to record Friction, Baby, the follow up to their platinum debut Deluxe. Though the band has ridden across many peaks and valleys, they felt a sense of urgency upon recording their fourth studio album, Closer.
"I think in a way we did kind of feel like Closer was a make or brake record for us. We knew that in making the album it was going to be what got us our next record deal. As far as shopping and talking to labels, they were going to want to hear new music and decide on that, regardless of what we'd done in the past."
The result, while not as diverse and experimental as the group's last release How Does Your Garden Grow?, is Better Than Ezra's most compulsively addicting and lyrically solid effort.
"We wanted to take the best things of all the stuff we'd recorded before, learn from what we'd done well and what we hadn't done well, and combine it into one record," said McNabb.
"It seemed we ended up with more straightforward, pop kind of arrangements. We still were able to play with some interesting things but within shorter tangents than on Garden."
McNabb doesn't know where the future will take Better Than Ezra's music.
"One of the reasons that our sound continues to evolve is that we allow ourselves to be influenced by different music without feeling like we have to sound a certain way. When we get into the studio again, where our sound goes will depend on what we've been listening to and where we are in our lives."
Better than Ezra plays Tuesday, Nov 6, 8 pm at UK Student Center Ballroom. Tickets are $15/$20. 257-8867. -Matt Mulcahey
Taj Mahal may not live in the same-named shrine in India, but that doesn't keep him from being an ever-lovin' temple of the blues. The guy's pretty much a walking chronicle of African-American roots music.
Mahal has performed at the Kentucky before, as a solo artist, his natural turf. This visit finds him fronting the Phantom Blues Band, whose efforts were documented on last year's Shoutin' In Key. If that record is indicative, a grab bag of traditional blues and freewheeling highlights is a good bet for this latest visit to the bluegrass.
Mahal is basically a practicing musicologist, whose forays have forged a career of authentic, rootsy compositions in a host of genres.
In the blues business for over 30 years, with at least that many records in the bag, Taj Mahal has managed to bang out a little of everything from soul and reggae to Hawaiian and Caribbean tunes. Call him a mad scientist of the blues. He'd probably just smile and amble into a little tune.
Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band appear November 6th at the Kentucky Theate. 859-231-6997. -Mick Jeffries
What will Leo Kottke bring to town this year?
Some new stories, a few new compositions, and his omnipresent 6 and 12-string (the six will probably be his Olson; in 1990, Taylor built the Leo Kottke 12-string, which has his signature "discreetly inlaid on the fret board").
This self-described "fragile interlocutor" always comes with great tunes and better tales (the byproduct of an entire career spent on the road about 200 nights a year).
Who else would know a lesbian stuntwoman named Montana?
On the subject of rap, he points out, "I think the minimum you should contribute to your career is an unwillingness to be shot."
He's described his (late) mentor John Fahey as someone who lived "a difficult life, by choice." He helped Fahey build a turtle sanctuary in his backyard in Los Angeles, observing, "even the turtles were unhappy."
Kottke's a philosopher, an auto-didact, a baritone in a world of tenors, a virtuoso and if he likes you, the nicest thing he might ever call you is "Pard." If he really likes you, he might play you his version of "Pamela Brown," or "Ring, Ring" (though he did not write either, as are the common misconceptions).
Now well into his 50s (though almost preternaturally preserved by the cold Wayzata winters), Kottke is taking up writing, as he was almost certainly born to do (even though college and a briefly considered prospective career teaching English didn't work out).
As for performing, he says modestly, "I do pretty much the same old thing. I sing and I talk. I don't jump up and down or anything."
What a relief.
Leo Kottke plays November 8 at the Kentucky Theatre.
Betsy Lane High School, Prestonsburg, KY, 1987 We managed to negotiate the Mountain Parkway despite the Beam to get to this benefit show to raise money for the Betsy Lane marching band. I got floor seatsup front. But we get there and the first twenty rows are filled with Dwight's hillfolk kin who were either too old or too awed to move a muscle. This was a rockin' show - the bleachers filled with screaming teenagers. So we danced and crawled up the aisle toward the front. Finally, some good ol' boy, who'd endured the ongoing stand-up/sit-down struggle all night long, decided to stand up and yell, "This ain't no funeral it's a concert!!" We bum rushed to the edge of the stage and Dwight played Bill Monroe's "Down the Road" for an encore. Highlight: Fiddler Brantley Kearns did the moonwalk as Dwight introduced him to the crowd.
EKU, Richmond, KY (Just Lookin' for a Hit Tour, 1988) Cousin Chad, Daddy Kev Robey and I hooked up to go to Richmond to a show that featured the Babylonian Cowboys, Dwight's touring band. Filling in for Pete Anderson was the late, great Eddie Shaver (Billy Joe's son). Dwight opened and closed the show with Dave Alvin's "Long White Cadillac." Highlight: The three sorority chicks who stood on their chairs in front of us and shook it all night long.
Riverbend Cincinnati, OH (If There Was a Way Tour, 1990) Daddy Kev and I honk it up to Cincinnati to catch this number. We get down front after the season ticket holders leave. Damn, I hate Riverbend! Pete's with him and they play lots off of Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room and If There Was a Way. HIGHLIGHT: Dwight and the band play a rockin' cover the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'."
Louisville Gardens, Louisville, KY (This Time Tour, 1993) Dwight's biggest record and tour to date. My friend Sondra somehow gets second row seats and we watch then-local celeb Andrea Sayre, who is sitting right in front of Dwight. Highlight: Andrea Sayre gazing longingly at Dwight Yoakam.
Riverbend, Cincinnati, OH (Gone Tour, 1995)
Back to Riverbend, where, as if on cue, the entire crowd decides to sit down within fifteen seconds of Dwight's opening song. My wife and I are pissed, so we move over to the far right side. That's the spot where, you know, you can't see anything. We rocked out with two cowboys dressed like the guy from Owensboro on MTV's The Real World. Highlight: The cool-ass cowboys and a killer version of "You'll Be Sorry" from Gone.
Palace Theatre, Louisville, KY (A Long Way Home Tour, 1998) Another great album showcased in the best venue I've been in. HIGHLIGHT: Dwight plays "North to Alaska" during a stripped down acoustic set.
Palace Theatre, Louisville, KY (Tomorrow's Sounds Today Tour, 2001) Back to the Palace, but right after the September 11th attacks, so the mood is a bit subdued. Dwight starts off strong with "What Do You Know About Love" and a great version of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me." Dwight himself seems a bit down, so the show felt kinda short. All the hits are played and he introduces a couple of new tunes as well. Highlight: A rebel in the crowd holds up a lighter during the acoustic "I Sang Dixie."
See ya at Rupp!!!
Dwight Yoakam plays Heart of Rupp Arena, Friday, November 9.
-Scott Luallen (formerly of 9 Lb. Hammer)
These cats really do have Nine Lives. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, Aerosmith have somehow managed to sell nearly 100 million albums in the last quarter of a century. And they've not only survived, they've thrived. Going beyond the trends, the boy-band fads and the fashion follies, Aerosmith are a modern-day marvel and amazingly, one of the most durable forces in modern popular music. Unique among other classic rock acts, Aerosmith remain a potent chart force with all original members alive and kicking. With current status as rock's elder statesmen (even among critics who once disdained them), Aerosmith still sound lively despite the insane amount of drugs the Toxic Twins may have ingested in their time. Forever a part of rock's vocabulary, Aerosmith will continue as a cock-rock force to be reckoned with. What other band could pull off a line like, "I'd rather be O.D.-in' on the crack of her ass?"
Aerosmith will rock Rupp Arena on Saturday, November 10. The Cult will open the show, which starts at 7:30pm. Tickets range from $35 to $68.50. -CW
Jay Farrar is a one-man tour down this country's musical highways and byways. Like a backwoods, truck-drivin' philosopher, Farrar took his rural roots down an off-the-map gravel road and founded two of the truly great Americana bands, Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt. And though he still leans ever-so-slightly on his old-timey country conscience, Farrar is now painting his masterpieces with R.E.M.-style experimentation as a solo artist. Scouting out new sonic territories, Farrar's first solo release, Sebastopol, is his most accomplished work since Son Volt's Trace. The impressionistic lyrics are still there, but Farrar is obviously writing these new tunes with a broader palette. Full of prickly gems, this record showcases Farrar's blend of the countrified and psychedelic. Weaving in and out of a Gram Parsons meets Flaming Lips haze, Farrar's new sound is taking his folk fixation to exciting new levels. And if the past is any indication, it'll take the rest of the music world with it.
Jay Farrar plays at Lynagh's Music Club on Friday, November 9th, with Anders Parker of Varneline. The show should start around 9:30pm. Tickets are $12. Call 255-6614 for more info. (Ace's interview with Farrar will be in next week's issue.) -CW
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