Rock on the block
A little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll

By Kevin Elliot Reynolds

Many seem to think country music isn’t country anymore. The original honky-tonk twangin’, banjo pickin’ “tear in my beer/kicked my dog/shot a deer” sounds of old are being replaced by slick producers and corporate sponsorship set on “crossover” success. Who could blame them? With the multi-million album selling success of such “crossover” artists as Shania Twain and The Dixie Chicks, corporate bigwigs have taken over the entire genre and are slowly but surely changing the face of country music. There are others though, who have taken country music to a whole new level. It began as alternative country with acts such as Drive By Truckers and Whiskey Town fronted by the great singer/songwriter Ryan, (not Bryan), Adams. The alt-country movement added an energetic rock and roll edge to the classic vibe. Others such as The Legendary Shack Shakers, (playing The Dame 10/13), and Reverend Horton Heat, (playing The Dame 12/3), took their country roots another direction in a style known as rock-a-billy, or psych-o-billy, incorporating hard-core early era punk rock with the traditional Bluegrass sound. Last weekend the Lexington scene offered a variety of country including a classic guitar virtuoso and a few of the New Agers with unforgettable displays of their innovative styles. This week will present more great live musical entertainment with an Americana pioneer and the long awaited performance of another musician who incorporates a little country with a whole lot of rock and roll, the King of the Trailer Park, Kid Rock.

Last weekend kicked off with a bang-bang as Latin rock enthusiasts Mandorico put on a high-energy full horn section meets blazing guitar extravaganza Friday night at The Dame. The band had even the audience’s most dance-illiterate performing strange interpretations of the Conga. This Latino light-footedness carried over to Saturday as Fiesta Latina was held in Triangle Park as a tribute to the Lexington Latino population. Hundreds poured into the downtown park to have fun with family members, enjoy great Latino delicacies and of course, hit that sly piñata. Good times. But back to Friday night as one of Lexington’s forerunners of this new, groundbreaking take on country headlined the night. The high voltage outlaw country of Sunday Valley took the stage around midnight and brought with them an Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test blend of Johnny Cash and Joey Ramone topped with a dash of Emo. An original combination, to say the least, performed with powerfully confident stage presence.

Saturday night Lexington welcomed world-renowned Americana singer/songwriter Buddy Miller. Miller has been playing and writing music since the ‘60s, collaborating with such artists as Steve Earl, Lucinda Williams, the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, Hank Williams III, and Emmylou Harris who says Miller is, “one of the best guitar players of all time.” Miller is a compassionate performer with a warm sound that blends Americana with blues-tinted country and old-school rock and roll. He brought that sound to The Dame Saturday night to a large crowd of anxious fans. With seasoned professionalism he performed hits from his collection and from that of other country greats such as Willie Nelson.

“You can’t play a show without a little Willie,” said Miller in his encore performance. The audience agreed. Other Saturday night highlights included a performance by the Chris Cheatham Trio at Cheapside. The CC3 redefined blues-rock with an edgy, sometimes hip-hop vibe that awed the packed house. Performing the classics as well as some catchy “sing-along after the first chorus” originals, the CC3 were nothing if not entertaining. Chris Cheatham is actually the drummer for one of Lexington’s favorite Nashville imports August Christopher. The CC3 is merely a side project for the percussionist, though with a great voice and incredible talent on the six-string he clearly enjoys being the frontman. At one point Cheatham climbed atop a table and serenaded an audience member! Was that included in the cover?

Saturday night also offered another alt-country act in The Zombie Cowboys at High On Rose. The Zombies lean more towards the Drive By Truckers sound in the ever-expanding rocking country genre. With skillfully crafted originals the ZCB commenced at midnight to an elated crowd. Punk-rock newcomers City Mouse opened the show with an aggressive display of style.

Thursday night, Cheapside is offering a sure thing with Eric Cummings and Lexington’s own guitar virtuoso Ben Lacy. Lacy is nothing less than a six-string magician whom can make a guitar talk. Also Thursday night The Dame will host the multi-genre master singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet performing some of his past alt-country hits and his new funky-blues pop tunes from his new album Age of Miracles. Shhh, can you hear that? That’s the sound of the town buzzing in anticipation for this week’s big show featuring the American Badass himself, Kid Rock. Not only is Rock an extremely talented songwriter, but also he is also one hell of a versatile musician. If you have not had the chance to see him perform, you will not want to miss it. Even if you are not a fan, the money for tickets is worth every dime in entertainment value. Rock puts on one of the most tenacious stage shows touring today. He also gets a chance to show off his talents as he takes turns on the guitar, the bass, the drum kit and even the turntables with malevolent showmanship. Rock will be taking over Rupp Arena Friday night at 7:30. Haven’t got your tickets yet? No worries, simply make haste to the Rupp box office or the nearest Ticketmaster outlet and pick some up. The listed price is $33 bucks for all seats! Money well spent on entertainment that comes only once every few months in this town. Go buy your tickets and see what a real rock show is all about.

Friday night will take you back to a time of funk and soul as Lexington faves G-Funk will perform in their outlandish style at The Dame playing hits from the ‘70s. High On Rose will present the young though uber-talented melodic rock of Heart Throb Jesus. These kids are skilled beyond their years, check them out Friday.

Saturday night you can catch one of Lexington’s favorite troubadours in George Molton performing at the Austin City Saloon or catch Larry Redmon exciting the masses at his club. Natasha’s will host the Billy Blues CD release party with a performance by none other than Billy Blues as the staff at ACE will be celebrating a special someone’s birthday at the same venue. Swing by Cheapside to grab a bit to eat and catch DJ Rice and the Payin’ Dues Blues Band for a new take on the traditional rocking-blues style. If it is Indie rock you are looking for, drop in at High On Rose to see Dig Shovel Dig perform their hybrid-genre jams.

Now that should be enough music to satisfy anyone! As you can see, the Lexington scene is as hot as it has been in years, maybe ever. Get out and enjoy it, be safe, be responsible and as always…Support Local Music!!!! n