The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Gov. Steve Beshear and country music star Tom T. Hall announced a new initiative Tuesday to promote U.S. 23 as the Country Music Highway that will include an American Idol-style competition and an education fund.
“I’m retired, and I’ve been retired for a number of years,” Hall said to the crowd gathered in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday morning for the announcement. “The only thing that will get me off of the farm and into a clean shirt is an invitation to come home to Kentucky.”
The Olive Hill native is one of numerous Kentucky musicians from the area surrounding the 144-mile north-south highway who have gone on to country music fame including sisters Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, the mother-daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, Keith Whitley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam and a number of other chart toppers.
In 1994, the Kentucky State Legislature designated U.S. 23 as the Country Music Highway.
“Why all that talent?” Jeffrey W. Crowe, president and CEO of the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism-Development Association asked. “We hear that it’s in the water. I can tell you that I drink a lot of water, and you don’t want me to sing along the country music highway.
“We know there’ s a lot of talent out there, the next Loretta, the next Billy Ray, and the next Tom T. Hall. All we need is to give those people the opportunity to shine, the opportunity to be a star of Kentucky.”
The public centerpiece of the new Highway initiative will be the Road to Fame competition, which will be held March 14 to 17 in Eastern Kentucky and will include a grand prize of a $25,000 scholarship for career development and coaching at PCG Nashville, an artist development firm. Runners up will receive an acoustic guitar. Details of the event are still being worked out and sponsors are being sought for the competition which is open to aspiring artists ages 13 to 35 who live in the counties along U.S. 23. Dates and venues for the competition will be announced Feb. 7.
Along with the competition, organizers announced the Country Music Highway Road to Fame Arts Education Fund, which will be administered by the Bluegrass Community Foundation.
“One of our main goals is to put money back in schools for arts education,” said Cindy Wheat, executive director of the Paintsville Recreation and Tourism Commission. “The budgets are being cut drastically, as much as 80 percent in some schools. So with this program, we will be able to go in and talk to music educators and say, do you need music, do you need instruments, what do you need and how can we help in the long term plans with the music that you want to offer, because the money is just not available to them anymore from the schools.”
Wheat said funds would be drawn from private donors and proceeds from the competition.
“We hope that winners of the competition will go on to develop careers and appear all over the world, not only to make themselves famous, but to make Kentucky famous,” said Beshear, who warbled a line of Harper Valley PTA in honor of Hall’s presence.
Hall said, “Kentucky is really a hard sell, because we have so much going on here. I am particularly partial to music, but as has been mentioned before, we have the greatest bourbon whiskey in the world, we’ve got the fastest horses, the most beautiful women, all of the scenery … So when you start talking about Kentucky and inviting people, you’re offering them a buffet, and today we’re going to put country music and Kentucky’s music legacy on the front burner of the buffet.”
Honestly, I have tried really, really hard to find something exceptional in One Sonic Society’s full-length debut, Forever Reign.
With modern worship acts such as Delirious and the David Crowder Band closing up in the past few years, I have wanted to hear new worship with creativity and urgency. And One Sonic Society was reason for excitement with a Delirious pedigree: guitarist Stu Garrard, who was in the group until its dissolution in 2009. This worship supergroup is rounded out by Austrailian Paul Mabury, whose resume includes Hillsong, and West Virginian Jason Ingram, who has enjoyed a solo career and time fronting The Longing.
Mabury and Ingram are maybe best known as producers, and on repeated listens, it sunk in that this could be both a strength and weakness for One Sonic. The sound is gorgeous. The production is spacious and nuanced, a sort of sound that lifts the listener. It is that sound that stays with you, but do any of the songs?
For me, not really.
The album, culled from three prior EPs, includes several songs that have had notable releases from other artists including the title track recorded by Hillsong and Almighty God recorded by Rebecca St. James. The band sounds solid. Jason Ingram’s singing is strong, Stu G’s guitar playing is, as usual, rousing and the production really highlights Mabury’s powerful drumming.
If you want to add a contemporary worship album of mostly vertical songs in the sort of Hillsong/Passion style to your collection, Forever Reign is a fine choice.
But therein lies one of the chief problems with this album. Given all of the talents that have gone into the project, Forever Reign sounds like something we have heard before.
The History channel’s American Pickers is coming to Central Kentucky in March, and hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz want to see your junk. It could become their treasures.
For the uninitiated, American Pickers is a History channel show in which Wolfe and Fritz travel the country looking for discarded items or pieces people may have a sense is valuable, though they don’t know what to do with it. Wolfe and Fritz work to restore items back to their former glory. Along the way, there are usually some lessons about history and culture.
The show’s website says, “If you think the antique business is all about upscale boutiques and buttoned-up dealers, this show may change your mind – and teach you a thing or two about American history along the way.”
With their Kentucky visit coming up, History sent out a list of items they are looking for, including places like barns, deserted buildings, basements and items like pre-1950s vending machines, taxidermy, early Boy Scout items, old rodeo items, folk art, vintage BB guns and cap guns, vintage election memorabilia, vintage gas pumps, strange woodcarvings, Civil War antiques and vintage collegiate collectibles.
If you think you have an item the pickers might be interested in, email AmericanPickers@Cineflix.com or call (646) 493-2184.
It feels like Kellie Pickler walked into a roadside joint, slapped 100 Proof on the bar and said, “How y’all like me now?” with as much of a drawl as she could muster.
And she could muster more than we thought.
Following Carrie Underwood’s season on American Idol, Pickler looked like a possible successor to one of the show’s most successful winners, but went out in sixth place. Singles from her first two albums only got her into the Top 10 on the country charts once and she was also known for things like a dismal appearance on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? that had my kids singing, “Are you smarter that Kellie Pickler?”
On her third album since Idol, it feels like Pickler knows what people thought of her and set out to change their minds.
The junior album opens with two tracks – Where’s Tammy Wynette and Unlock That Honky Tonk - that almost try too hard to assert Pickler’s country bona fides. But it works.
“I stayed torn between killing him and loving him,” she sings opening the album with Tammy Wynette, sending the message this will not be the pop-country affair of her first two albums.
It’s an album that lives up to its title as a rousing country party with other gritty tunes like Tough, a swoon in Turn on the Radio and Dance and a couple of beauties with Mother’s Day and an honest-to-God, tear-jerking heartbreaker in The Letter (To Daddy).
To be totally honest, when 100 Proof was announced, particularly up against Tim McGraw’s new one last week, I had zero interest in it. Is Kellie Pickler still trying to record albums? But thanks to a slow stream on new releases and some surprisingly favorable reviews, I gave Pickler’s latest a shot.
You should too.
Advance tickets are on sale for Kentucky Crafted: The Market, which returns to Lexington at the Lexington Center on March 1 to 4.
The annual art fair, presented by the Kentucky Arts Council, started at the Kentucky Horse Park in 1981. But since 1988, it has been in Louisville. In addition to items for sale from more than 200 vendors, the event boasts entertainment and food. Kentucky Crafted is split into two parts: On March 1 and 2, it will be open only to business owners who will sell products in retail outlets. On March 3 and 4, it will be open to the public.
The Courier-Journal reported that Kentucky Crafted attracts more than 600 wholesale buyers and 8,000 people on public days. Tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door for one day, $12 online and $15 at the door for two days. Children 15 and younger get in free. Kentucky Crafted is also seeking volunteers to work March 3 and 4. Learn more at the event website.
If you have ever wanted to perform some of the immortal lines from The Graduate like, “Do you want me to seduce you?” and “Plastics,” Studio Players is holding auditions at 6 p.m. March 18 and 6:30 p.m. March 19 for its production of the stage version of the iconic movie, which runs May 17 to June 3.
Director Bob Singleton will be casting for four to five men in their 20s to 50s for Benjamin Braddock, Mr. Braddock, Mr. Robinson, Hotel Clerk (“Are you here for an affair?”) and the priest and four to five women in their 20s to 40s for Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Braddock, Elaine, a stripper and a psychiatrist (there’s extra material in the stage version). Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.
I have to admit, the prospect of this show has generated a little in-office chatter about who would be good in what roles, so we’re really interested in seeing who Singleton ends up casting.
Hey, hey, hey …
The lineup for the 14th annual One World Film Festival has been announced with 11 cross-cultural films scheduled Feb. 12 to March 18. This year’s lineup includes numerous noteworthy and critically acclaimed films including the 2011 Oscar winner for best documentary. All showings are free. The films are:
Feb. 12: The Rape of Europa (2006, U.S.A.). A documentary about the Nazis’ theft of art throughout Europe and the efforts to return the works. 2 p.m.; Transylvania University Carrick Theatre in Mitchell Fine Arts Center, 300 N. Broadway.
Feb. 16: Last Train Home (2009, U.S.A.). A documentary about a rural Chinese couple who went to the city for work and found themselves estranged from the daughter they left behind to be raised by her grandparents. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre, 241 E. Main St.
Feb. 19: Inside Job (2010, U.S.A.). The 2011 Academy Award winner for best documentary shows the corruption that led to the global economic meltdown of 2008. 2 p.m.; Transylvania’s Carrick Theatre.
Feb. 23: No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009, Iran). An Iranian couple is stymied in its attempts to form a rock band because they cannot play in Iran and can’t get passports to play abroad. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
Feb. 26: Gasland (2010, U.S.A.). A documentary exploring the negative effects of a controversial form of natural gas drilling also known as “fracking.” 2 and 4:30 p.m.; Transylvania University Cowgill Center.
March 1: Budrus (2009, Israel). A documentary exploring an incident in the longstanding struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 4: Beyond Belief (2010, U.S.A.). A documentary about two women who meet after their husbands are killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and travel to Afghanistan to meet women whose husbands were killed by violence. 2 p.m.; Transylvania’s Carrick Theatre.
March 8: Stonewall (1995, U.S.A.). A drama set against the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, considered to be a seminal moment in gay history. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 11: The Black Balloon (2008, Australia). A drama about a boy who has to keep tabs on his older brother, starring Gemma Ward and Toni Collette. 2 p.m.; Central Library Theatre, 140 E. Main St.
March 15: The Hedgehog (2009, France). An erudite girl decides to kill herself on her 12th birthday but begins to question that intention when she meets some like-minded people. 5 and 7:30 p.m.; Kentucky Theatre.
March 18: A Small Act (2008, U.S.A.). A Swedish citizen funds the education of a Kenyan boy and inspires a passionate, lifelong love of learning. 2 and 4:30 p.m.; Central Library Theatre.
Kentucky Conservatory Theatre/SummerFest and the University of Kentucky Theatre both announced lineups for next season, today. For KCT/SummerFest it is the first time announcing a year-long lineup. The SummerFest lineup also boasts the first local production of Legally Blonde – The Musical, the show that catapulted Lexington native Laura Bell Bundy to a Tony Award nomination when she originated the role of Elle Woods in 2007.
Neither announcement came with dates, but you will notice one show is on both of them.
University of Kentucky Theatre
- Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton
- On the Verge (or the Geography of Yearning) by Eric Overmyer
- Winter Dance Concert
- Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman
- Spring Awakening – A New Musical, music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater
Kentucky Conservatory Theatre/SummerFest
- 24 Hour Theatre Project – An event in which theater artists will create a 10-minute play in 24 hours.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
- A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
- Legally Blonde – The Musical, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and book by Heather Hach
- The Girl Project – Original works created by conservatory students and mentors.
- Spring Awakening – A New Musical, music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater
Jim and Melissa Wilkeson are doing something this weekend they have not done in 16 years of marriage: they’re performing opposite each other in a play.
Both Wilkesons are familiar to Lexington theatergoers. Jim has played roles such as Dub in Dearly Departed and Christmas Belles and the title role in Fortinbras at Studio Players. Melissa played Patsy Cline’s biggest fan in Studio’s blockbuster production of Always … Patsy Cline and recently had multiple roles in Balagula Theatre’s The Book of Liz.
They have been in the same shows a couple of times recently — as in Christmas Belles — and in the Midway 10-Minute Play Festival.
But no show has brought them together on stage until The Woodford Theatre’s production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, which opens Friday (Jan. 27, 2012) and runs through Feb. 12 at the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center in Versailles.
“Our dogs aren’t very happy,” Melissa says. Jim adds, “Our dogs hate us right now. They’re like, ‘Are you ever going to be home again, ever again?’”
Aside from the canine conundrum, Jim says, “It’s great to finally be in something together and see how it works, see how we look on stage. We looked pretty good on the altar.”
While the Wilkesons have not shared the stage much since tying the knot, their union was born of nine intense months at the Burt Reynolds Institute of Theatre Training in Jupiter, Fla., where they were both students and company members. There, they worked long hours, sometimes performing in a children’s theater show, a black-box show, a mainstage dinner theater show and in lessons with Reynolds — all in one day.
“We were together all the time,” Wilkeson recalls. “We did nothing but theater from the time we woke up until, literally, sometimes Burt Reynolds would come in and say he wanted to have a class at midnight.”
Their relationship grew quickly as they started dating in November 1993 and got engaged soon after, on Christmas Eve. But they had a long engagement.
“There was no way on God’s green earth I was going to marry him after not living in the real world for nine months,” Melissa says of the institute.
They tied the knot Oct. 21, 1995, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington. Four days later, they moved to New York — “pursuing our theater dream,” Melissa says.
With all the chatter about Justified‘s return last week, we kind of overlooked the fact that another basic cable hit series of local interest was also coming back.
USA Network’s Royal Pains has returned (new episodes at 10 p.m. Wednesdays) and Divya, the character played by University of Kentucky graduate Reshma Shetty, is in some hot water having prescribed the wrong medication to a patient. In last week’s season premiere, she went through several painful admissions to the patient, art dealer Eric Kassabian (Wilmer Valderrama), and her friend and hospital administrator Jill Casey (Jill Flint). But if previews are any indication, her slip-up could take a toll on her professional relationship with Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) whose concierge medical service in the Hamptons she helped co-found.
Shetty was one of the stars of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre in the early 2000s and earned her master’s from UK.
Since Royal Pains premiered in 2009, her character has gone on an extensive personal journey from the confident and coddled daughter of an Indian-American family trying to stealthily pursue a medical career against her family’s wishes to this season, where she is on her own after having refused her family’s desire for her to enter into an arranged marriage. This season’s screwup will be another challenge to keep us tuning in, as well as Evan’s (Paulo Costanzo) roller coaster romance with Paige (Brooke D’Orsay), the on-again, off-again romance between Jill and Hank and all those dramatic medical crises - the one percent sure do get sick a lot.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich