A kinder, gentler Kanye West at the Grammys? Nevermind

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are interviewed at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards Official After Party on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA. Invision/AP photo by by Colin Young-Wolff.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were interviewed at the Grammy Awards after-party on Sunday. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff | Invision

Early in Sunday night’s Grammy telecast, we we observed that, despite the jokes about Kimye and North West, marriage seemed to have calmed Kanye West down. He seemed to be more of a colleague and less of a rabble-rouser. The focus shifted from his antics back to his music.

And that played out during the evening. He gave a good, understated performance of his song Only One and participated in one of the evening’s true highlights, performing with Paul McCartney and Rhianna on her new single FourFiveSeconds. Twitter lit up with photos of him arm-in-arm with Taylor Swift, whose 2009 MTV Video Music Award win he had famously interrupted, demanding that the award instead go to Beyonce.

Bygones. Nice Kanye.

Beck accepts the award for album of the year for “Morning Phase” at the 57th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. AP/Invision photo by John Shearer.

Beck accepted the award for album of the year for “Morning Phase” at the Grammy Awards. Photo by John Shearer | Invision

Then Beck’s Morning Phase won album of the year, and Kanye again took the stage uninvited, apparently once again advocating for Bey, whose self-titled album was expected to win. But he simply grinned and stepped back.

Maybe it was a joke? Maybe new Kanye was having fun at the expense of old Kanye?

No. His interview with E! after the show cleared things up. Beck was his new Taylor.

“I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us,” West said on the entertainment network. “We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.

“Because when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place.”

You’d think Morning Phase was a collection of cookie-cutter covers played by a marginally talented hack, instead of an inspired album by one of pop’s most accomplished musicians of the past quarter-century.

Maybe West should have said that to Beck’s face, although according to Rolling Stone, Beck took the high road in response, saying West is an amazing artist and he had expected Beyoncé to win.

And there was reason for that. The award is called “album of the year,” not “best album,” and if you want to talk about an album that had a resonant impact in the span of the weird calendar the Grammys keep, Beyoncé is it. The surprise digital release of the album in December 2013, with videos for each song, has already altered the way albums are released and marketed. And it was a terrific album — serious, fun, sensual and engaging — all things we expect from Beyoncé.

But as Prince said in presenting the award, “albums still matter,” and really, in that field of nominees — which included Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour, Ed Sheeran’s and Pharrell Williams’ Girl Beck’s Morning Phase was the most accomplished album. It took the artist — yes, Kanye, Beck is an artist, too — in directions far afield from his previous work and tied together disparate styles for an enveloping mood. Certainly it hasn’t had the chart impact of some of Beck’s 1990s output, notably Odelay. But it is a fantastic album, and that West chooses to denigrate Beck’s artistry says a lot more about him than it does about Beck.

And Beck is right. Kanye is extremely talented and has put out some of the best music of this century. But antics like this and a myopic obsession with the idea that only people from his circle of friends rate honor and respect — can we point out that Beyoncé is married to one of the most powerful men in music, who could easily speak up for her if he thought it was warranted? — really threaten his legacy.

I want to like Kanye, but he makes it really, really hard.

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Chris Thile was a great guest host, but is ‘Prairie Home’ ‘Prairie Home’ without Keillor?

Chris Thile in performance with The Punch Brothers. © Invision/AP photo by Photo by John Davisson.

Chris Thile in performance with The Punch Brothers. © Invision/AP photo by Photo by John Davisson.

Around 6 p.m. Saturday, I was waking up from one of those late day naps Saturday afternoon can be perfect for when I heard a familiar song from an unfamiliar voice.
It was the Prairie Home Companion theme — “I hear that old piano, from down the avenue” — but it was in a much younger, technically better voice than host Prairie Home host Garrison Keillor.

“Is that Chris Thile?” I wondered, and soon it was confirmed this was the mandolin master of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers fame hosting the show he has been a guest on numerous times.

Thile was standing in for Keillor this past weekend and next weekend while the Prairie Home creator is on the west coast leg of his tour that brought him to the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts late last year.

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

But it was a chance to contemplate Prairie Home without Keillor, who founded the show and has hosted it and it’s various incarnations for more than 40 years.

Thile, an open fan of the show, did a very good job, bringing his own cadence and personality to the Fitzgerald Theatre microphone while maintaining many of the show’s standing features. The music was great with guests The Punch Brothers and Sarah Jaroz, and poetry from former United States poet laureate Billy Collins. Thile participated in radio acting company bits, including one about a Stradivarius banjo. The one thing you really can’t do without Keillor is the Letter from Lake Wobegon. So instead, Minneapolis-based writer Tristan Jimerson, known for his appearances on another public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, took that block of the show with a very entertaining story about how he tracked down an identity thief.

I have been a fan of Prairie Home and Keillor, and in 2000 found myself in public radio geek heaven going to St. Paul to cover a broadcast of the show and interviewing Keillor and the cast and crew to preview the show’s November 2000 broadcast from the Singletary Center for the Arts. But Saturday was the first time I have listened to the show straight through in quite a while. Frankly, the format and routines have just gotten stale and there’s a real déjà vu feeling whenever I listen. I know that is a heretical statement to many fans of the show and public radio, but there it is.

So the change in voice did the show some good, even if it was essentially the same format.

But is Prairie Home a show that needs to think about handing off hosting duties, or is it a show that simply needs to end when the founder and host retires?

Keillor, 72, has no stated intention to retire — he did say in 2011 he would retire in 2013, but later recanted that statement, and clearly he hasn’t.

On the Prairie Home Facebook page, Thile generally got good reviews from listeners, some discussing him as a potential permanent replacement for Keillor. But Thile, 33, has a pretty active and lucrative music career in a genre, acoustic Americana music, where age is not necessarily a negative. It is hard to imagine him hanging that up for dozens of Saturday nights a year to become a radio show host.

And it is hard to imagine Prairie Home would be the same show without Keillor at the helm. It is his baby, and even if I say it has become stale, it does rely on his personality and profile — the Minnesota-ness, Lutheranism, literacy, even his attempts to sing and his corny jokes. Some shows can change hosts but continue the franchise. Prairie Home does not feel like one of them.

Guest hosts would probably be a great idea, breaking the show and even Keillor out of some ruts. But when he retires, the show probably needs to retire with him.

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Review: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ at the Lexington Opera House

Rick Elice's play "Peter and the Starcatcher," based on the book by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. plays at the Lexington Opera House Feb. 6-8, 2015.  Photos by Scott Suchman.

Rick Elice’s play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” based on the book by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. plays at the Lexington Opera House Feb. 6-8, 2015. Photos by Scott Suchman.

In some interpretations, Peter Pan can come across as such a little brat — the ultimate perpetual adolescent that you wish would just grow up and get a clue.

But like many a good prequel, Peter and the Starcatcher tells us there’s more to the story. The desire to never grow up is not just the result of an immature wish to hold on to boyhood.

The Tony Award-winning play opened Friday night at the Lexington Opera House in a production where virtually everything worked beautifully, from the comic timing to the physical acting.

It all starts with a witty and deceptively wise script by Rick Elice, based on the book by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry — yes, that Dave Barry.

Prentiss (James Crichton), Boy (Bryan Welnicki) and Ted (Nick Lehan).

Prentiss (James Crichton), Peter (Bryan Welnicki) and Ted (Nick Lehan).

Peter (Bryan Welnicki), we learn, started as a no-name orphan, relegated to an orphanage where beatings were the norm and orphans were told they would never go to heaven. This place makes Miss Hanniagn’s Annie orphanage look loving and compassionate, particularly when the orphans are sold into slavery, essentially to be fed to a snake.

But on the ship, called The Neverland, they meet Molly (Aisling Halpin), the bright, talented and energetic girl — a girl! — who is a starcatcher in training.

Molly’s father (Andy Ingalls) is on another boat, The Wasp, which is quickly taken over by pirates led by a flamboyant buccaneer named Black Stache (Joe Beuerlein), for his substantial upper-lip facial hair. We can see very early where his character is going.

A wicked storm and landing on an island set the stage for events that lead up to the familiar Peter Pan story. But a cathartic musical drama a la Wizard of Oz prequel Wicked this is not. The play is often Monty Python silly, loaded with pop culture references, non sequiturs  and an obliterated fourth wall. You have no trouble at all believing this sprung from the mind of Barry, though in an interview with the Herald-Leader, he and Pearson credited Elice with loading the stage version with jokes.

Black Stache (Joe Beuerlein) and the "Peter and the Starcatcher"  company.

Black Stache (Joe Beuerlein) and the “Peter and the Starcatcher” company.

The cast of this production is up to the task, led by Beuerlein, who totally makes you forget you are not seeing Christian Borle’s Tony Award-winning performance in this role. He beautifully plays Stache as the fop who fancies himself frightening and carries off jokes like Stache’s … ummm … dismemberment with far more laughs than the scene seems to have deserved. Elice wrote the part brilliantly, but the role needs the right actor to deliver it. This is a star turn for Beuerlein.

Same for Halpin, whose Molly is the epitome of fetching tomboy, able to be a consensus leader and present Peter his greatest temptation to grow up.

The other key role is Smee, comic relief in Pan or this show, brilliantly played by Andrew Sklar.

Peter (Bryan Welnicki) and Molly (Aisling Halpin).

Peter (Bryan Welnicki) and Molly (Aisling Halpin).

As Peter, Welnicki is a straight man. But he also has the essential role of showing us why Peter never grew up. It’s heartbreaking. In him, we see the belief that adults lie and leave, and he wants the boyhood he never had. If a prequel works, you will never look at the original the same way again, and thanks to to Welnicki’s performance, I will never see Peter Pan quite the same.

Rarely do you see a show where blocking is so essential, but the stage movement in Peter and the Starcatcher is critical, and done with precision here. Note the scene where Molly looks behind multiple “doors” to find the “pigs.” Brilliant.

And I don’t want to give anything away, but if you go, make sure you are in your seats for the beginning of Act 2. It’s an absolute scream.

The Broadway series here and elsewhere is usually loaded with musicals, contemporary plays needing to find regional theaters to mount them. So it is a rare treat to see Peter and the Starcatcher, a play, in a national touring production including Broadway elements such as Kentucky native Darron L. West’s Tony Award-winning sound design.

It is great the show’s producers chose to tour this play and fantastic that the Opera House booked it. The only disappointment Friday was about as many empty seats as I have seen at a Broadway Live series opening night. If you enjoy entertaining, intelligent, creative theater, you need to see this production of Peter and the Starcatcher, which is here through Sunday.

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Notebook … ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Live

Keir Dullea as astronaut David Bowman in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Keir Dullea as astronaut David Bowman in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

In 2012, the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary with a movie music concert that included John Williams’ theme from Star Wars. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have probably heard that theme more than 1,000 times, but it was still a revelation to hear that music performed live, in the same room I was in, by a real orchestra.

But what about seeing movie music live, with the movie?

The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra rehearsed for its presentation of "2001: A Space Odyssey Live" in the concert hall of Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington, Ky, on Jan. 27, 2015. Photo by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra rehearsed for its presentation of “2001: A Space Odyssey Live” in the concert hall of Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington, Ky, on Jan. 27, 2015. Photo by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

The Singletary Center for the Arts brought that experience to town Saturday night with its presentation of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey with the soundtrack performed live by the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and the UK Chorale. They are the first college ensembles to present this program, which has been performed by some of the nation’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.

What this was, simply, was a screening of the movie — as perplexing as ever — with the university ensembles playing all of the familiar score comprised of music by Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Aram Khachaturian and György Ligeti.

We felt the impact almost immediately as the film begins with Richard Strauss’ majestic  Also sprach Zarathustra, which gives the percussion section an early and repeated workout.

It also wasn’t long until we hit some of the most demanding music of the night when the mysterious black monolith appeared to the music of Ligeti’s eerie Requiem, a piece that is not often heard live no doubt in part because the atonal work is so difficult to sing. But the Chorale ably handled the challenge, making the piece all the more haunting in its presence and illuminating the different voices we heard coming from the stage.

The musicians and conductor John Nardolillo had multiple difficult tasks. In addition to performing demanding music, it had to be synchronized to the film. Kubrick not only matched the music to scenes, but moments to music. There was nary a time I could detect they were out of sync. There were moments like the late-in-the-film star gate sequence where it was fun to try to discern what were sound effects from the film and what was the Ligeti masterpiece Atmospheres, which the orchestra will perform again on its Feb. 27 concert.

Aside from the music, another impressive feat of the evening was selling out the 1,500-seat concert hall (though some seats were taken to make way for the movie projection and sound system) when directly competing with the UK men’s basketball team, which stomped Alabama 70-55 in Rupp Arena. It goes to show that with the right program, you can create as much excitement as the Cats.

For those who chose the game or couldn’t get a ticket Saturday, the performance repeats at 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb.1), and Nardolillo promises you will be out in time for the Super Bowl. (Go Seahawks!)

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Listening to … The Lone Bellow, ‘Then Came the Morning’

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin are The Lone Bellow, whose new album, "Then Came the Morning," was released Jan. 27, 2015. The trio will open for Eric Church at Rupp Arena May 7. Photo from TheLoneBellow.com.

Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Pipkin are The Lone Bellow, whose new album, “Then Came the Morning,” was released Jan. 27, 2015. The trio will open for Eric Church at Rupp Arena May 7. Photo from TheLoneBellow.com.

The Lone Bellow came to my attention through an unusual convergence of sources. Let’s put them in radio station terms: the very-WBUL Eric Church concert, which The Lone Bellow is opening, that was recently announced for May 7 at Rupp Arena and the WEKU/WUKY associated nprmusic.org, where the band’s new album was previewed on its “First Listen” page.

TheLoneBellow-albumAs usual, NPR Music was pointing us toward something good, and it is a wonderful The Lone Bellow will have a forum like Church’s tour to share its beautiful and engaging sound.

The group was in part born of Zach Williams’ journals he was keeping, particularly as his wife was recovering from a horseback riding accident. A friend encouraged him to put the journals to music, and after some solo projects, he joined voices with equally talented musicians Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to sing honest songs with real friends,” Williams said to NPR.

And those are the hallmarks of this band, which released its second album, Then Came the Morning, Tuesday: beautifully woven harmonies and songs so personal, sometimes you wonder if you should be listening.

Among those are Marietta, a song about betrayal and resolution, and If You Don’t Love Me. Then there is gospel fervor of the title song, about emerging from pain, and the barn-burner Heaven Don’t Call Me Home, which you can add to the list of great songs about Georgia.

When Williams and Pipkin’s voices unite, there is an unmistakable echo of The Civil Wars, which sort of makes sense, considering the Bellow’s self-titled debut was helmed by CW producer Charlie Peacock. But under the guidance of The National’s Aaron Dessner for this follow-up, the bellow seem to have found something even more grounded and unvarnished. The Lone Bellow is more rooted than a lot of what passes for country music today — seriously, listen to this and then tell me what it is you get out of bro country — and if they can be part of bringing the worlds of country and Americana together, that’s a good thing.

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Parks and Rec shows it can revive Downtown Arts Center

Downtown Arts Center director Celeste Lewis straightens framed posters on the Downtown Arts Center's wall of fame, featuring productions that had been presented there, which was put together by technical director Tom Willis. The Downtown Arts Center has been managed by the Lexington Department of Parks and Recreation as one of several cultural facilities it manages since July 2014. Photos by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

Downtown Arts Center director Celeste Lewis straightens framed posters on the Downtown Arts Center’s wall of fame, featuring productions that had been presented there, which was put together by technical director Tom Willis. The Downtown Arts Center has been managed by the Lexington Department of Parks and Recreation as one of several cultural facilities it manages since July 2014. Photos by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

When the Lexington Department of Parks and Recreation took over management of the Downtown Arts Center in July, new director Celeste Lewis was prepared for a getting-to-know-you period before arts groups and presenters bought into the new era.

But quite the opposite happened.

Downtown Art Center

Celeste Lewis.

“I think there’s kind of a hunger for this to be ­inclusive,” Lewis says. “People are coming to us with great ideas and great hopes and dreams for what this space can be. And we’re listening.”

Amber Luallen, cultural arts director for the Department of Parks and Recreation says, “It was like, the doors were opened and people came flooding in. They are meeting with people daily, booking daily, booking into 2016. People seem really supportive and enthusiastic about a new direction.”

The center opened early in 2002 under the management of LexArts, which was then named the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council.

For much of its almost 13-year history, the center had a reputation for costly rentals and uncooperative management. In recent years, it had floundered after the departure of Actors Guild of Lexington, the center’s onetime resident theater company. Early last year, amid complaints that the DAC was underused, LexArts publicly expressed a desire to relinquish management of the city-owned building, saying it was a drag on the arts council’s core mission of fundraising. (Since then, former LexArts President and CEO Jim Clark has retired, and his successor, Ellen A. (Nan) Plummer began work in late November.)

Downtown Art Center

Downtown Arts Center director Celeste Lewis and technical director Tom Willis on the center’s unfinished third floor.

And Luallen and Lewis were interested in taking it over, seeing an opportunity to reinvigorate an underperforming venue. In addition to booking the black-box theater and opening the first floor City Gallery, Lewis and technical director Tom Willis are thinking about ways to use the center’s third floor, which has never been finished, and its fourth floor, which held the offices of ­Actors Guild until the company moved out in 2009.
And no, none of those plans involve Frisbee golf or other things normally associated with Parks and Rec.

When news came out that her office would take over management of the center, Luallen said, she anticipated dissenting voices asking what her department knew about running an arts center.

“What we know, and what a lot of people don’t know, and we spent time talking to council about, was when this building was built as the Downtown Arts Center and the city entered into the agreement with LexArts, we didn’t have anyone in the government to do that,” Luallen says. “In the years since, we have developed a pretty strong arts department, and the infrastructure and professionals to take it on. That’s what we felt when said, ‘Give us a shot.’ Our whole job is working with the community and working with arts groups.”

In addition to the DAC, the Cultural Arts Department manages the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater, which Lewis also oversees, and the Artworks Cultural Center on Patterson Drive, which offers performing and visual arts classes and workshops for children and adults. The department also presents or co-presents Ballet Under the Stars, the Woodland Art Fair, and Jazz at Ecton Park, to name a few.

Students from the Sayre School explored the new City Gallery at the Downtown Arts Center Wednesday afternoon.

Students from the Sayre School explored the new City Gallery at the Downtown Arts Center Wednesday afternoon.

But in the DAC, city ­employees are aware that they are taking on a high-profile project, which is partly why they think it should work.

Even when arts leaders complained about the rent, terms of use and other ­issues, they would say they loved the Downtown Arts Center space. They particularly lauded the flexibility of the black-box theater and the high-profile location in a busy section of Main Street.

One advantage to city management of the center is a much more seamless interaction with other departments, notably maintenance. A knock on the center had been that it was hard to get in touch with someone when things went wrong, particularly on the weekends, when arts venues are often in use.

“We know how to navigate the bureaucracy of the city,” Luallen says. “We know how to work with council, we know how to work with maintenance, we have these relationships.”
Lewis says, “The collaboration with the different divisions of the city has been amazing. General services, parks and rec, council — there has been a real march forward together on this that has been so delicious.”

The most important collaborations are with arts groups. From them, through last fall, Lewis and her team generally received rave reviews.

Asked what was most improved, Bo List, whose AthensWest Theatre will present its debut production at the DAC next month, said, “Reliability and predictability. And service with a smile. The rates are reasonable, the personalities involved are friendly and trustworthy, and there’s a genuine interest in programming and community service — fulfilling the promise of the facility.”

With calendars that line her office walls filling up with bookings by AthensWest and Message Theatre, the dance groups Movement Continuum and Blackbird, concerts by WRFL-FM and other events, reactivating the center is happening. Lewis does note that unlike before with Actors Guild, she does not plan to have a resident theater company in the DAC.

The third floor of the Downtown Arts Center is currently being used for storage. Center directors are considering several possibilities for developing the space.

The third floor of the Downtown Arts Center is currently being used for storage. Center directors are considering several possibilities for developing the space.

Lewis says she can start to consider goals such as raising the profile of the building’s exterior and finding the best uses for the fourth floor offices, which she says could become office space for several area arts groups, and the wide-open third floor, which has been considered for a performance space and artists’ studios.

“We have to carefully consider how the third floor would best serve the Lexington arts community as a whole,” Lewis says.

Says Luallen: “That’s the thing we have to consider being a city-owned building, managed by the city: We have no other agenda but to assess the needs of the city and serve them.”

IF YOU GO

Downtown Arts Center
Where: 141 E. Main St.
Contact: (859) 425-2550 or (859) 425-2349.
Online: Bit.ly/1BiirSu.
Email: Director Celeste Lewis at clewis2@lexingtonky.gov .
Upcoming events
Jan. 30: Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, with soprano Karen Slack and pianist Cliff Jackson.
Feb. 6-15: AthensWest Theatre presents Doubt
March 6-8: LexArts Arts Showcase Weekend, with performances and presentations by Lexington Children’s ­Theatre, Balagula Theatre and artist Marjorie Guyon.
March 6: UK historic preservation symposium.
March 20: Gallery Hop. City Gallery presents work by Charles Ellis and Anne McCracken.
March 27 & 28: Bluegrass Community and Technical College theatre presents The Greater ­Watauga County Annex’s 17th ­annual Hollerin’ Contest, ­Sponsored by Mabel Meriwether’s Blackberry Jam by Jonathon Fitts.
April 3, 4: Movement Continuum Dance Theatre.
April 10, 11: Blackbird Dance Theatre.
April 17, 18: Sayre School theatre presents Whale by David Holman.
April 24, 25: SCAPA performs works by O. Henry.
May 1-3: Message Theatre ­presents Good Black Don’t Crack by Ron Penny.
May 15: Gallery Hop. City Gallery presents Creative Arts Alliance.
May 22-24: Movement Continuum presents Returning Home.

Note: This article is slightly longer than the print version that appears in the Living Sunday section of the Jan. 25, 2015, edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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Posted in Actors Guild of Lexington, Balagula Theatre, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Central Kentucky Arts News, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Classical Music, dance, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Children's Theatre, Music, SCAPA, Theater, Visual arts | Tagged , , , , | Comments

‘Justified’ Season 6 premiere

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder and Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder in the season premiere of "Justified." (c) FX photo by  Prashant Gupta.

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder and Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder in the season premiere of “Justified.” (c) FX photo by Prashant Gupta.

Life in Harlan has gotten complicated in five seasons, particularly for Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder.

The Season 6 premiere of Justified included several reflections back to the series’ first hours, when Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) was just a loose gun in the Marshal’s office, Boyd (Walton Goggins) was pulling off penny ante crimes and Ava (Joelle Carter) had just gotten rid of the biggest problem in her life.

Now, as the series embarks on its final chapter, all their problems are so much bigger.

Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in "Justified."

Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in “Justified.”

It says a lot that it’s a chapter that starts with Winona (Natalie Zea) looking at her and Raylan’s daughter and wondering what could be better than being there, with them in Florida.

Before Raylan can get there, he needs to settle one final score — really the only score left: taking down Boyd, once and for all.

That makes his life hard and Ava’s life really hard.

To avoid being shipped back to prison, she has to help Raylan and his colleagues catch Boyd. But she could be facing a fate far worse than prison if Boyd figures out what’s going on before she sufficiently rats him out.

While Raylan would like all this to be done now, the season premiere makes it clear all of this business will be a slow burn, and Raylan and Boyd’s final showdown will not be until sometime in May.

The most explosive moments come from Boyd and his latest group of goons pulling off a rather audacious bank heist, which seems to be Boyd’s new enterprise. But this premiere really focuses on some quieter, more conversational moments, two of which involve Raylan.

He and Ava have a couple dark bridge meetings, and in the second one, he coaches her in how to handle informing on Boyd, who has a strong sniffer for rats. When we first met Ava in Season 1, she had just killed her abusive husband, Bowman Crowder, Boyd’s brother. Raylan reminds her she pulled it off by playing things cool, so Bowman never suspected a thing until she shot him in the chest.

Probably easier said than done, this time for Ava. And things might just get scarier if she finds out what happened to Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman). He’s released from prison with the cocky confidence of having won judgments against Raylan and the Marshals.

But soon, he begins to re-realize he is just a pawn in the game between Boyd and Raylan. But his troubles come to an end as, in a somewhat touching scene that borders on Of Mice and Men’s final scene with George and Lenny: Boyd is talking to Dewey about the older simpler days and their ancestors, when he shoots Dewey in the head.

Did he think Dewey was ratting him out? Had Dewey just become too much of a nuisance?

It’s not clear, but we do get the message that Boyd’s finger is never far from the trigger.

And in his one scene, Art (Nick Searcy) reminds a cocky Raylan  that things might not go according to plan. Instead of cleanly killing Boyd or sending him to prison, Raylan could end up handling things badly and going to prison himself. Or he could take a bullet, as Art is living proof that can happen.

It’s more foreshadowing than action, but in several instances, very nicely played, which is a quality we have always appreciated in Justified.

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Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame 2015 class

Author Hunter S. Thompson, right, speaks on the influence of the news media on the recent national elections during a panel discussion at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., on Dec. 7, 1972.  Frank Mankiewicz, center, who was campaign director for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, is also a member of the panel, which is moderated by Yale Political Science professor Robert Dahl, left. (c) AP Photo.

Author Hunter S. Thompson, right, speaks on the influence of the news media on the recent national elections during a panel discussion at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., on Dec. 7, 1972. Frank Mankiewicz, center, who was campaign director for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern, is also a member of the panel, which is moderated by Yale Political Science professor Robert Dahl, left. (c) AP Photo.

The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning has announced five new members of the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame to be inducted in a ceremony Jan. 28, in addition to Wendell Berry.

Berry, who was previously announced, will be the first living inductee into the hall, which was started in 2013 and currently has 13 honorees, including Robert Penn Warren, James Still, James Baker Hall, Rebecca Caudill and Thomas Merton.

“To be recognized in that way at home is a very pleasing thing,” Berry said to Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen, earlier this month. “And a relieving thing, actually.”

The inductees are selected by public nominations, recommendations from a committee headed by Kentucky Arts Council director Lori Meadows and including former Kentucky poet laureates, and final selections by the Carnegie Center’s Hall of Fame Creation Committee. Center director Neil Chethik told Eblen there were more than 75 nominees this year.

The deceased inductees are, in alphabetical order:

Guy Davenport (Fayette County). Davenport taught English at the University of Kentucky for three decades and his writing included essays, poetry, translations and short stories, which is what he was best known for. Born in Anderson, S.C., he was educated at Duke University, Harvard and Oxford, and had a who’s who list of artistic and literary friendships including Ezra Pound. He died in 2005 at age 77.

Elizabeth Hardwick (Fayette County). A Lexington native, Hardwick co-founded The New York Review of Books in 1962. She published three novels, four books of criticism and a short story collection. Upon her death in 2007, at age 91, The New York Times described her as a woman, “who went from being a studious Southern Belle to a glittering member of the New York City intellectual elite.”

Jim Wayne Miller (Warren County). Born in North Carolina, Miller studied at Berea College and Vanderbilt University and became known as one of the leading Appalachian poets, winning honors such as the Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award and the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award. He taught at Western Kentucky University and died in 1996 at age 59.

Effie Waller Smith (Pike County). Smith was born to former slaves in the Pike County town of Chole Creek in 1879. She studied at Kentucky State University and published three volumes of poetry. The town was integrated, which was unique at that time, and her parents sent her to college, realizing the importance of education. Following the death of her husband, she moved to Wisconsin, where she died in 1960 at the age of 80.

Hunter S. Thompson (Jefferson County). Known as the father of gonzo journalism, Thompson became a pop culture figure with pieces he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine and books such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream. His 1970 piece, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved introduced his style of journalism where the writer is involved and becomes a central figure in the story. A Louisville native, he died in 2005 in Colorado at age 67.

The induction ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Carnegie Center, and will include readings from the writers’ works by living Kentucky authors and a speech from Berry. Admission is free.

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Eric Church is coming to Rupp Arena in May

Eric Church performs at the American Country Countdown Awards at the Music City Center on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © AP/Invision photo by Wade Payne.

Eric Church performs at the American Country Countdown Awards at the Music City Center on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © AP/Invision photo by Wade Payne.

As often happens, after one country show wraps up at Rupp Arena, another one is announced. On the high-heels of Miranda Lambert’s boots, Rupp announced Monday that genre-bending country star Eric Church will be bringing his “The Outsiders World Tour” to Lexington May 7. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for $25 to $61.50 at the Lexington Center Ticket Office, all Ticketmaster locations and, of course, online at rupparena.com.

Church attracted more than 13,000 fans to Rupp in 2012 when he came through town on his first headlining arena tour.

“This was a night where arena-size guitar rock, regardless of the country billing, clearly ruled,” LexGo.com critic Walter Tunis wrote of the show, echoing one of the primary characteristics of Church’s music.

“Church is arguably both the mainstream country artist of the year and the mainstream rock artist of the year,” the Memphis Commercial-Appeal wrote of his show and his latest album, The Outsiders, which dropped just under a year ago.

That album has Church in contention for three Grammy Awards on Feb. 8: best country solo performance and best country song (with co-writer Luke Laird) for Give Me Back My Hometown and best country album for The Outsiders. He’s also nominated for best country duo/group performance with Keith Urban for Raise ‘Em Up from Urban’s 2013 album, Fuse.

Brooklyn-based trio The Lone Bellow, whose new album Then Came the Morning comes out Jan. 27, will open.

 

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Listening too … Sleater-Kinney, ‘No Cities to Love’

Sleater-Kinney still are Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker.

Sleater-Kinney still are Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. Photo by Brigette Sire.

The question posed by Sleater-Kinney‘s first new album in nearly  a decade is, can you still be a group of riot grrrls when one of your members in now a red-carpet-walking celebrity and American Express pitchwoman and another is a mother of two?

150120SK-NoCitiesA few songs into No Cities to Love the answer is an emphatic YES. Like the band’s previous seven efforts, the new album is loud, proud and unapologetic. But it acts the band members’ ages, approaching 40-something life with a wise and weathered perspective. For S-K’s fellow-forthysomething fans, it is an affirmation that you can grow up and still approach life with the same attitude and vigor of your 20s. And for those whose only connection to the band is being fans of guitarist and singer Carrie Browstein’s sketch comedy show Portlandia, with Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen (himself the frontman for Late Night with Seth Meyers’ 8G Band), No Cities is confirmation that she once was and still is a formidable rocker.

With Brownstein reunited with singer and guitarist Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, the trio pretty much picks up where it left off, though with a looser feel than 2006’s arena-aspiring The Woods. Price Tag sets an aggressive tone for the album as a middle class rant with Brownstein and Tucker tuned low — as usual, so we really don’t miss the bass — and Weiss pounding with authority. The ladies haven’t exactly been resting on their catalog since going on hiatus in 2006. Browsnstein and Weiss even reteamed in the quartet Wild Flag and Tucker has released solo projects, among other endeavors.

If there is a difference, it is a polished sound coming from more experience and resources. But in all, No Cities to Love is as strong and relevant a reunion record as we’ve heard in years. Sleater-Kinney serves as an affirmation that you can grow older, wiser and more experienced without losing your vital edge.

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