Forecastle Festival: Cage the Elephant and Houndmouth impress, strong Sam Smith cut short

The first day of the 2015 Forecastle Festival was July 17 at Waterfront Park in Louisville, Ky. The fest was scheduled to run through July 19. Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley| rcopley@herald-leader.com.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones frontman Paul Janeway on stage at the Forecastle Festival. Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley| rcopley@herald-leader.com.

Click here to see more than 40 photos from day one of the Forecastle Festival.

For a while now, Cage the Elephant and St. Paul and the Broken Bones have been on my short list of bands I wanted to see. I can now cross them off my list, say I found an interesting new act and I have a new impression of a major star after one day at the Forecastle Festival.

This is why we go to music festivals: to see acts we have really wanted to see, make new discoveries and even re-evaluate our preconceptions.

In its 13 years, I have not made it to Louisville’s premiere music event, and there we some hints that maybe this was not the year. There was nostalgia everywhere for last year’s headliner lineup of Outkast, Beck and Jack White, on Facebook, listening to the radio coming in and even in the crowd.

I struggle to remember what kept me from that edition, but this year, we were going to get our butts out there, and on day one, there was plenty to like.

Taking the main stage at dinnertime, St. Paul frontman Paul Janeway recalled that last year the band played an after-midnight Forecastle show at Headliners and said, “I see a lot more faces out there today.”

He also said that he had a Hot Brown earlier in the day and mused about whether that was the best idea for a pre-show meal before launching into a rendition of Broken Bones and Pocket Change every bit as scorching as the late afternoon heat at Waterfront Park.

Friday featured two of several home state acts on the lineup for this year’s Forecastle.

“We’re going to have some family time,” Cage the Elephant guitarist Brad Shultz told the crowd, before he and fellow guitarist Nick Bockrath played an abbreviated version of My Old Kentucky Home to start the Bowling Green band’s set.

Cage the Elephant's Matt Shultz dove into the audience at the Forecastle Festival. Herald-Leader photo by Rich Copley| rcopley@herald-leader.com.

Cage the Elephant’s Matt Shultz dove into the audience at the Forecastle Festival.

It was hard to tell who was energizing who, between the band and the audience. Fans crushed to the front of the barricade of the main stage were deliriously singing along to every word and kept frontman Matt Shultz afloat during numerous crowd surfing sessions. He must still use a wired microphone so he can be reeled back in from his stage dives. It was an amazingly frenetic set showing the band comes by its live reputation honestly.

Houndmouth's Matt Myers on stage at the Forecastle Festival.

Houndmouth’s Matt Myers on stage at the Forecastle Festival.

The band I have been crushing on all year is New Albany, Ind. — Hi, Robyn — act Houndmouth, which has exploded out of the Louisville scene. As they took the Boom stage, resplendent in colorful, far-from-matching bell bottoms — Should drummer Shane Cody’s American flag pattern be a July 4th staple or no? Hmmm. — it was clear Houndmouth was treating this gig as a special event with rousing renditions of everything from set-opening Black Gold to a plaintive late-set rendition of For No One.

I actually found the discovery of the day while I was stuck in traffic on I-64, listening to WFPK-91.9, when San Fermin driving force Ellis Ludwig-Leone was a guest. He talked about forming the band — in which he is the keyboardist and composer, though not the frontman, those duties going to the duo of Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate — and his Kentucky background, as his dad is from Lexington. Yes, there was a shout out to the Cats. So, of course, I had to check them out and Ludwig-Leone put together an intriguing ensemble including the signature baritone sax of Stephen Chen. It was clear why there were fans at the front of the stage who knew every word, and I will join the bandwagon. (I am writing this while listening to San Fermin’s April release, Jackrabbit.)

Chart-topper and multi-Grammy Award winner Sam Smith sang his first concert since throat surgery Friday night at the Forecastle Festival.

Chart-topper and multi-Grammy Award winner Sam Smith sang his first concert since throat surgery Friday night at the Forecastle Festival.

Consensus was Sam Smith was a somewhat odd choice for a festival more focused on edgier, indie acts. But this was an auspicious event for the multi-Grammy Award winner, as it was his first show after a three-month layoff for vocal surgery. He owned the stage from the minute he stepped on it with a crowd deliriously, screechingly happy to see him (Who knows how much crossover there was between his audience and Cage, which had just been there two hours before). While the mood of his album, In the Lonely Hour, is somber, Smith was downright merry. I left about five songs in, which was pretty much right on time, because Smith’s set was cut short by severe thunderstorms that blew into the Louisville area. According to MTV, the set was clipped at about 35 minutes as the festival site was evacuated. SNBRN’s scheduled late-night show on the Belle of Louisville was also scrapped, due to the weather — which appeared to have gotten to Lexington a bit earlier.

Walter Tunis and I are heading back today to catch, among other acts, Kentuckians My Morning Jacket, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. Watch our LexGo Twitter and Instagram accounts for updates and pictures.

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NiFi festival — slated to feature Green Day, Miranda Lambert — canceled

Moon Taxi was slated to play at the now canceled NiFi Festival at the Kentucky Motor Speedway. But they will return to the Moontower Music Festival Aug. 29 in Lexington. Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Moon Taxi was slated to play at the now canceled NiFi Festival at the Kentucky Motor Speedway. But they will return to the Moontower Music Festival Aug. 29 in Lexington. Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

The Kentucky Speedway in Sparta will not rock the last weekend in August after all.

The inaugural NiFi Festival, slated for Aug. 28 to 30 with headliners Green Day, Miranda Lambert and Kings of Leon, has been canceled, according to the event website.

“We simply cannot deliver the NiFi vision and fan experience, at our desired level of excellence,” the post on the front page of the website says. According to some reports, including Cincinnati TV station WCPO, the post at one point added, “given the lack of ticket sales to date,” though it appears that phrase has been deleted.

Also deleted are NiFi’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The post did say tickets will be refunded through the vendor, Ticketfly.

According to the Dallas Morning News’ Guide Live, the festival was supposed to go to the Texas Motor Speedway next year, likely Memorial Day weekend. But the status of that event is unknown. The organizers were Nitro Fidelity entertainment and Speedway Motorsports Inc.

One apparent beneficiary of the cancellation is the second annual Moontower Music Festival, slated for Aug. 29 in Masterson Station Park, and whose headliner, Moon Taxi, was also slated to play NiFi. On its Facebook page, Moontower was offering a 15 percent discount on tickets to people who emailed a copy of their NiFi ticket.

Of course, this does not leave the Bluegrass State bereft of multi-day rock festivals. Louisville’s venerable Forecastle Festival starts this afternoon with headliners Sam Smith, My Morning Jacket and Widespread Panic. Check out LexGo.com over the weekend for updates.

 

 

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Janet Jackson coming to Rupp Arena

Janet Jackson accepts the ultimate icon: music dance visual award at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Photo by Chris Pizzello for Invision/AP.

Janet Jackson accepts the ultimate icon: music dance visual award at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Los Angeles. Photo by Chris Pizzello for Invision/AP.

Janet — Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty — will make a return visit to Rupp Arena very early next year. The hitmaking singer of chart toppers like Nasty, Control and youngest sister of the famous Jacksons family will bring her Unbreakable world tour to Lexington Jan. 30.

Tickets will go on sale 10 a.m. July 20 at Livenation.com, Ticketmaster.com, the Rupp Arena box office (859-233-3535) and all Ticketmaster outlets.

Jackson, 49, will come to Rupp on the heels of releasing her 11th studio album in the fall, launching her own Rhythm Nation Records label and winning a major lifetime achievement award at last month’s BET Awards.

That honor recognized the fact that in the 1980s and ’90s, Jackson authoritatively stepped out of the shadows of her family and her King of Pop brother Michael with albums like Control (1986), Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) and Janet (1993) and hits such as What Have You Done for Me Lately, Miss You Much  and her latest No Sleeep, from the forthcoming album.

This is the latest rock and pop booking to come to the Lexington arena that in recent years seemed to be becoming primarily a country house. Jackson’s booking joins Eagles July 25Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper Oct. 11 and Taylor Swift Oct. 20 as acts that will perform (presumably) sans cowboy hats.

Jackson’s last Rupp Arena appearance was a July 2001 concert at which Herald-Leader critic Walter Tunis said, “Jackson was rhythm personified.” Jackson was also slated to play Rupp in July 1990, but that concert was canceled due to illness, promoters said, and never rescheduled.

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‘WoodSongs’ expands its TV and radio reach

The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour is presented most Mondays at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Ryan Zencka.

The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour is presented most Mondays at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Ryan Zencka.

The Lexington-based WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour has been added to two prominent national outlets that will enable it to reach 14.4 million viewers and listeners worldwide, according to a news release.

The DISH Network satellite service has added the show to its Blue Highways channel starting in July. It will be shown at 7 and 10 p.m. Fridays, 1 p.m. Sundays and noon Tuesdays. According to WoodSongs, that will make the show available to more that 14 million viewers.

WoodSongs has also been added to the Americana Country Channel on the American Forces Radio Network, which is broadcast in 173 countries and all United States Military Bases. The program was already carried on AFRN’s main channel, but WoodSongs says the addition to the Americana channel will make it available to 400,000 additional listeners.

WoodSongs, hosted by musician Michael Johnathon, is recorded most Mondays at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in downtown Lexington for TV, radio and Internet distribution. It is carried on more than 500 radio stations worldwide and on public television stations in the United States. Recent WoodSongs guests have included Asleep at the Wheel and The Fairfield Four.

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Regrouping Lexington Art League seeks feedback from artists, community

Katie Clark(left), of Louisville, and Jeremy Gubin, of Cincinnati, came to the Lexington Art League on a scavenger hunt and stayed for the opening party for the Lexington Art League's new exhibit "Current: An Exhibition of Conceptual Art by Louis Zollar Bickett," in Lexington on Friday, September 6, 2013. Herald-Leader photo by Mark Ashley.

Katie Clark(left), of Louisville, and Jeremy Gubin, of Cincinnati, came to the Lexington Art League on a scavenger hunt and stayed for the opening party for the Lexington Art League’s new exhibit “Current: An Exhibition of Conceptual Art by Louis Zollar Bickett,” in Lexington on Friday, September 6, 2013. The Art League is currently recovering from a financial crisis and working to figure out its direction going forward. Herald-Leader photo by Mark Ashley.

Regrouping from a financial crisis that became public this spring, the Lexington Art League held a forum at ArtsPlace Tuesday seeking input about its direction and relationship to patrons and artists.

Before opening the standing-room-only forum in the ArtsPlace gallery to comments and questions, board members addressed the crisis that brought the organization to this point.

Christine Huskisson, the board president, said the organization tried to expand programming in the last few years and hoped that money would follow.

“That was a risk,” Huskisson acknowledged. “Our intentions were honest and true and stuck to our mission. But that left us in a weakened financial position.”

In 2014, the Art League presented programs mostly outside of its home base at the Loudoun House. That included the moon-like light sculpture at Main Street and Broadway by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett that was the centerpiece of the winter 2014 exhibit Luminosity. Huskisson cited that project as a costly event that generated little revenue for the Art League.

The Art League, board members said (and director Stephanie Harris had previously said), was trying to establish an international profile for the organization. But a lot of conversation from the board and attendees at the forum focused on the League’s relationship to local artists and its role in the community.

Several people at the forum said presentation of national and international art in Lexington will be covered by the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and the forthcoming 21c Museum Hotel, scheduled to open later this year.

The form that renewed focus for the Art League might take depended on who was talking, from returning to former popular programs like the annual nude exhibit to less-costly projects in line with the ambitions of the last few years.

“The programming is off base,” said photographer Don Ament, whose studio is in the Loudoun House. “No one is coming through the door. I’m there every day, when I’m in town. It’s empty.

“I’d like to show up where I don’t have to read six pages to understand the art.
We kind of lost ‘art for everyone,'” he added, referring to the League’s slogan, “and turned into art for artists and people who like to talk about art.”

Audience member Kate Savage said, “define who the customer base is, and figure out how to go after them.”

Among suggestions toward that end were:

  • Bring back party-centered events such as Fourth Friday (which has been revived) and Art Fever.
  • Avoid duplicating programs offered by other institutions such as the Living Arts and Science Center.
  • Focus on Lexington, and build on its status as a “small city.”
  • Drop admission for shows, something the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky did, recently.
  • To rebuild membership, tie membership to events, like attending openings and Fourth Friday parties.
  • Have a greater focus on member benefits.
  • Create easier and more ways for volunteers to participate.
  • Present more shows outside of the Loudoun House.

Several people suggested staff positions focused on grant writing, education, volunteer coordination and a local artist liaison. Earlier this year, the League reduced to a staff of three full-time employees from five, and Harris said employment at the Art League is currently “quarter to quarter.”

There were also numerous ideas about the Loudoun House, from refocusing on it as the league’s premiere presentation venue to refashioning it as artists studios and a place for young artists to develop.

Boar members did point to a number of local initiatives focused on local art, including its artist archieve, its Community Supported Art program and outreach to the Castlewood neighborhood, where the league is based. But clearly, the relationship between the League and local artists needs to be repaired, numerous board and audience members said.

And, of course, the nude show came up numerous times. The Art League dropped the show in 2014. Huskisson. who pointed out the current Art League board is fairly new, said of the nude, “there was a feeling it was beginning to define the organization.”

At this point, the Art League is working to define itself with a new strategic plan and mission statement. After numerous references to “saving” the Art League, board member Anne Helmers said, “We’re past the saving part,” noting mechanisms have been put in place to avoid another financial meltdown, and that the League is stable. “We need to get to what’s next.”

And that seems to be where the group is heading.

Surveys were passed out at the forum, and they are still available online.

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Tony Award winner bows into Lexington ’42nd Street’ cast

Tony Award-winning actress Karen Ziemba, will play Dorothy Brock in the Lexington Theatre Company's production of 42nd Street, July 23 to 26 at the Lexington Opera House.

Tony Award-winning actress Karen Ziemba, will play Dorothy Brock in the Lexington Theatre Company’s production of 42nd Street, July 23 to 26 at the Lexington Opera House.

Tony Award-winning actress Karen Ziemba, will play Dorothy Brock in the Lexington Theatre Company‘s production of 42nd Street, July 23 to 26 at the Lexington Opera House. This rounds out the casting for the company’s inaugural production, which mixes a variety of performers, from Broadway veterans such as Ziemba to local stage favorites and student performers.

The cast, except for Ziemba, was announced last week.

In 2000, Ziemba won the Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical for her performance in Contact, a show consisting of a set of dance plays choreographed and directed by Susan Stroman. The show won won a total of four Tonys, including best musical. She also won the same Drama Desk Award for that performance, and won the 1991 Drama Desk Award for best actress in a musical for And the World Goes Round.

Her other Tony nominations are best actress in a musical for Steel Pier (1997), best featured actress in a musical for Never Gonna Dance (2004) and best featured actress in a musical for Curtains (2007).

Ziemba’s Broadway debut was in the original production of A Chorus Line, and she went on to play the ingenue, Peggy Sawyer, in the original production of 42nd Street. In the Lexington Theatre Company production, she plays the Broadway veteran threatened by the upstart star.

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Phoenix Friday: Go for Ben Sollee, discover Humming House


This afternoon’s Phoenix Friday concert, presented by WUKY-FM 91.3, features well-known Lexington musician Ben Sollee, who is taking the cello places most Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra kids probably never imagined it would go.

But there is a discovery to be made on the bill, for people who have not already heard of Nashville’s Humming House. A number of Lexingtonians certainly have heard the band, which made a stop at the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, earlier this year.

The quintet seemed a bit squeezed to the right hand side of the stage, but quickly let loose with a very muscular take on country and bluegrass, with flourishes like bassist Ben Jones adding to the foundation with a kick drum. The rhythm is strong in the group, but so are intricate arrangements, virtuosic playing and pure energy. Simple, rousing choruses are a Humming House trademark on songs such as Gypsy Django (above) or Nuts, Bolts and Screws and Great Divide from the band’s March release Revelries. The group also has a penchant for covers such as Justin Timberlake’s My Love and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean that really show off its strengths (I had never before contemplated what a treat it would be to hear Billie Jean‘s bass line on an upright, acoustic bass).

Justin Wade Tam and Leslie Rodriguez are a winning combo of lead singers, but regardless of who has the lead, the whole group is always fully engaged. So expect more than a bit of a party at the park, as long as the rain holds off.

 

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AthensWest Theatre Company announces first full season

Carol Hickey, Mark Mozingo, and Victoria Huston-Elem in the original Prospect Theatre Company production of "Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge," Photo by Gerry Goodstein for Prospect Theatre Company.

Carol Hickey, Mark Mozingo, and Victoria Huston-Elem in the original 2009 Prospect Theatre Company production of “Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge,” Photo by Gerry Goodstein for Prospect Theatre Company.

AthensWest Theatre Company, Lexington’s first theater in several decades to regularly engage actors under contracts with Actors Equity, announced its first full season of plays, Tuesday night.

The season, announced at a fund-raising event at Belle’s Cocktail House, includes an American classic that promises to be very popular this year and two surprisingly musical choices. They are:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel, based on the novel by Harper Lee. Directed by Jeff Day. Day, co-founder of the company with Bo List, says in surveying regional theater companies around the country, it was clear that this would be a popular title this year with the 55th anniversary of the novel and Lee’s first published novel since Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman, on July 14.

Watchman was written before Mockingbird, but set after the iconic novel, and has Scout returning home to Maycomb and her father, Atticus Finch.

The show also has a sentimental draw for List, who says Mockingbird was the first play he saw. It plays for three weekends, Nov. 20 to Dec. 6.

33 Variations by Moises Kaufman. Directed by Bo List, musical direction by Tedrin Blair Lindsay. The play parallels a musicologist racing a debilitating disease to solve one last mystery about a piece of music by Beethoven. That is paralleled with Beethoven racing his failing hearing to create that same piece of music. This will be a regional premiere for the work, which had its Broadway debut in 2009. It plays two weekends, Feb. 12 to 21.

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, music and lyrics by Peter Mills, book by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, adapted J.M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. Directed by Margo Buchanan. This bluegrass musical will be something of a homecoming for an Equity actor from the the Lexington area. Mark Mozingo, who returned to Central Kentucky recently, will reprise the role he originated in the original New York production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge by Prospect Theatre Company, which earned strong reviews from outlets such as The New York Times.

“The script, by Mr. Mills and Cara Reichel, delivers smart satire with a dark backwoods accent,” Anita Gates wrote in her April 2009 review, which also called the show “highly entertaining.”

Day and List said the relatively unknown show, which will run two weekends, April 22 to May 1, was the biggest risk on the schedule, but they believe it will pay off.

“It’s a musical nobody knows, but I think people here are going to love it and are going to love Mark Mozingo’s performance,” List said.

For his part, Mozingo, who performed a number from the show at Tuesday’s event, said, “Prospect Theatre gave me my first New York role, and I am so excited to get to do it again.”

Mozingo is the only actor who has been precast, List and Day said. In addition to show dates, audition dates for all productions were also announced, and will be posted on the AthensWest website.

Both 33 Variations and Golden Boy will be regional premieres, and Day said the company was attracted to them as they created events through their collaboration with other artists in the community.

“With 33 Variations, we’ll be working with folks at UK music, and Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge will involve our bluegrass music community,” Day said. “We really want to work with artists throughout the community to do excellent work.”

Like with the theater’s inaugural production of Doubt in February, Day said each production this season is budgeted for two Equity contracts, and all involved will be paid. (Actors Equity is the stage actors union.) Day said that is the model the theater wants to work under, to give Equity actors in the area a chance to work, while not excluding non-Equity performers from its productions.

Mozingo said he is excited for the opportunity to work in the Bluegrass.

“I have been jobbed into smaller communities than Lexington under Equity contracts, and I wondered, ‘Why can’t we have that in Lexington?'” said Mozingo, who also works with AthensWest as director of outreach. Citing Equity theaters in Louisville and Cincinnati, he added, “It’s the right time … we’re just as vital.”

  • All performances will be at the Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street. Tickets will be $25 each, $20 ages 65 and older and active military. Season subscriptions are $60 each, $45 seniors and military. Call 1-866-811-4111.
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Lineup complete for Red, White & Boom 2015

Chris Young is one of the headliners this year at Red, White and Boom. Photo from chrisyoungcountry.com.

Chris Young is one of the headliners this year at Red, White and Boom. Photo from chrisyoungcountry.com.

With an announcement Monday morning on WBUL-FM 98.1, the lineup is now set for this year’s edition of the Red, White & Boom country music romp at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Like last year, it will be a two-day festival, but this year it will be on Friday and Saturday, and it will be the weekend before the the Fourth of July, where the festival started years ago as a downtown Independence Day extravaganza.

 

Like the lineup, headliners Chris Young and Phil Vassar represent country music both new and traditional.

That’s not to say Young is any sort of newcomer. Since winning the competition show Nashville Star in 2006, he has released four full-length albums and had five No. 1 country singles including Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song). His latest is I’m Comin’ Over, and he is currently working on his fifth studio album.

Vassar’s career just predated big singer-competition shows as his first No. 1, Just Another Day in Paradise, dropped in 1999. That same year, he was named ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year, having penned hits for Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina and Colin Raye. Michael Jordan, operations manager for Clear Channel Lexington, said, “Phil’s set is nothing but huge hits.”

Performance days for the artists will be announced Monday afternoon. A limited number of tickets are still available. Here’s a look at the rest of the lineup:

Eric Paslay returns to the fest after a rousing set last year. Like Vassar, he has penned No. 1 hits for several other artists including Jake Owen’s Barefoot Blue Jean Night, and he is continuing to tour off his 2014 debut album.

Kelsea Ballerini. Photo from Sweet Talk PR.

Kelsea Ballerini. Photo from Sweet Talk PR.

Kelsea Ballerini just released her debut album, The First Time, in May, which includes the hit single Love Me Like You Mean It.

The Cadillac Three were just dubbed by Rolling Stone as, “the workingman’s country-rock band,” in a review of their CMA Fest performance. Their big hit is The South, but their latest, White Lightning, is quickly gaining traction.

Michael Ray hails from Eustis, Fla., and after making a big splash in the Sunshine State, he came to Nashville to record his debut album, Livin’ it Up, which includes the single Kiss You This Morning. 

Casey James jumps off the lineup as another musician who first came to our attention through a reality-competition, as a contestant on American Idol in 2010. His latest single is Fall Apart.

LoCash. Photo by Jake Harsh.

LoCash’s Chris Lucas and Preston Brust. Photo by Jake Harsh.

LoCash are the guys who gave Tim McGraw Truck Yeah, and a number of other artists hits. In their own rights, the duo of Chris Lucas and Preston Brust performed for several years as the LoCash Cowboys and have recently renamed themselves LoCash. Their latest single is I Love This Life. It seems to be a safe bet they are also the only artists in the Boom lineup with a signature wine line: Shipwrecked from Stonum Vineyards of Lodi, Calif.

Drake White is probably the only Boom artist with a degree in building engineering, and he worked as a general contractor in Nashville before quitting that job to pursue a music career. (Don’t all Nashville contractors really want to be country stars?) His latest single is It Feels Good.

Mo Pitney presents the options. From mopitney.com.

Mo Pitney presents the options. From mopitney.com.

Mo Pitney‘s debut single Country is a big ol’  embrace of the music and professed lifestyle, and then it makes a much bigger statement. It has more that 1.5 million listens on Spotify. Cleanup on Aisle Five is a much bigger weeper than the kinda fun title suggests.

Haley Georgia might sound like a traditional country artist name — who is actually from Texas — but as her debut single Ridiculous shows, her sound and profile are very modern. Billboard referred to her as “Country in the key of Ke$ha.”

John King (not the CNN anchor) is actually from Georgia, and toured heavily throughout the country before landing a Nashville recording contract. His first EP, On Your Lips, dropped in March with the single Tonight Tonight (Best Night of Our Lives) (we presume the parenthetical is to reduce confusion with the Genesis song of the same name).

And Boom is throwing in DJ Tank, known for some Louisville gigs, to keep the party rolling.

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Montgomery Gentry and Laura Bell Bundy drop new music on the same day

Laura Bell Bundy's 'Another Piece of Me' was released on June 9, 2015. Photo from laurabellbundy.com.

Laura Bell Bundy’s ‘Another Piece of Me’ was released on June 9, 2015. Photo from laurabellbundy.com.

Nobody declared June 9, 2015, new music day in Kentucky, but that’s what we have with new releases from two Central Kentucky artists.

Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry's 'Folks Like Us' is their first new album in three years. Photo from montgomerygentry.com.

Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry’s ‘Folks Like Us’ is their first new album in three years. Photo from montgomerygentry.com.

Newly inducted Kentucky Music Hall of Fame members Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, known to country music fans as Montgomery Gentry, dropped Folks Like Us, their first new album in three years and Blaster Records debut.

Laura Bell Bundy, who may have one of the most multi-faceted careers of anyone is show business today, is out with her latest country release, Another Piece of Me, fresh off turning heads on the Tony Awards red carpet.

Bundy is best known for her film and stage work, including regular roles on FX’s Anger Management and The CW’s Hart of Dixie and Broadway turns in Wicked, Hairspray and her Tony Award-nominated performance as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde — The Musical.

But from her work with childhood friend Amber Rhodes to her solo albums both on independent and major labels, country music has always been a passion project for Bundy, and in interviews, she has said the new album is her most personal project yet.

Another Piece of Me boasts a trademark Bundy dance song, and Two Step is the one here, with Bundy talking us through it like a Broadway choreographer. Regardless of where you put her, there will always be a storyteller in Bundy, and songs like She Only Wants to Dance and China and Wine have moments where that stage interpreter comes out.

And Montgomery Gentry will always be guys from rural Kentucky, as Folks Like Us attests. In the title tune, they sing in the chorus, “Raise ’em up, if you’re thinkin’, This ole’ world ain’t got enough, Boot wearin’, God fearin’, Folks like us.” It is well worn territory for the guys, and frankly they do the small town reminiscing song a lot better than a lot of acts; it seems to come from a more honest place. The clarity is reminiscent of John Mellencamp’s Cherry Bomb. And as Montgomery and Gentry showed at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame ceremony in April, it’s a role they play very well and the audience loves it.

Hillbilly Hippies seems to want to be a summer anthem, and who knows. These next three months always seem bigger than their actual spot on the calendar, and Bundy and the boys are getting them started off right.

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