Review: Sundy Best – ‘Salvation City’

Prestonsburg natives and Lexington residents Nick Jamerson and Chris Bentley, aka Sundy Best, already made a big splash this year with their March release, Bring Up the Sun. But, as if they want to make sure we don’t forget them at year’s end, they are dropping a second 2014 album Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Cover art for Sundy Best's Salvation City.And we mean album. It’s not a live compilation, a b-side collection (like there are b-sides these days), EP or tribute disc.

Salvation City is a full-fledged album of mostly new material that expands the duo’s sound while keeping its personality and spirit in tact.

It is not an album that finds them making a big play for country radio, as there aren’t nearly enough songs about trucks, bonfires, tanned girls in cut-off jeans, beaches, small towns, heavy drinking or country braggadocio for that.

While the material is more varied, it is fundamentally sincere, coming from the same place songs like I Wanna Go Home and Mountain Parkway came from.

The primary change here is a group that has previously recorded mostly acoustic, stripped down music is now adding more elements, filling out its sound. Under the direction of producer R.S. Field, the changes suit the band well.

One holdover from Best’s earlier material is the ballad Distance, which reflects some of the changes Salvation City represents with a wash of electric guitar and drums. It’s a different take on the song about separation, though the original, more spare acoustic version suits the lyrics better. But this recording shows the guys’ tunes can hold up to interpretation.

The production works for songs like Four Door, sprinkles of pedal steel and fiddle seeming like the world swirling around the couple alone in the title ride.

Then there’s I Want You to Know (World Famous Love Song), sounding like a Latin-infused piece of 1970s-era country and western. It may be the one we are most curious to see in Sundy Best’s traditional duo alignment. Fishin’ is a deceptively fun track that starts out with low-slung banjo grit and slowly gears up to a guitar-driven bounce — and am I hearing that lyric right, “Hillbilly dopamine”?

Really, for less than a year between releases, the thing Salvation City reflects most is a striking maturity. Lyrically, Best’s perspective is broader and musically, the guys are far more adventurous, lo, experimental. There aren’t any songs that could be categorized as trying too hard, and as much as we love their Kentucky pride, the home state is becoming less of a theme for the guys.

But they do love home, and the album does have hints they miss it.

Get Back to You has its roots in the past year with lyrics about wanting to get away from crowds of strangers and back to loved ones — OK, a specific loved one.

Far from a quickie release, Salvation City is the work of a band that had something else to say in 2014.

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Movies are not books, and vice versa

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” AP/Lionsgate photo by Murray Close.

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” AP/Lionsgate photo by Murray Close.

I am going to speak what may appear to be heresy to some people here: it does not matter if a movie was as good as a book or stays true to the book.

Yes, it can appear to matter, and at one point, it seemed to me it did. You read a book, you go to see the movie version, you want the pages to unfold before you onscreen like they did in the book.

Here’s the problem: movies are not books, and books are not movies. They each have their own ways of telling stories that are unique to themselves. Books use words that create images in your head, unbounded by space, time, or anything except your imaginations. Movies are visual stories told by writers, actors, directors, designers and other specialists that are very confined to what they create on the screen. In many ways, they do the imagining for us, though in their best executions, movies spark our imaginations.

But books and movies are not the same, so to argue a movie is not as good as the book is an inherently unfair argument. A movie cannot be a book, and vice versa. The complaints came to the forefront recently with the latest installment of The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, Part 1. As reviews came out saying the movie couldn’t stand on its own, was dark and somewhat lifeless, readers piled on as they can now do in the social media age complaining the critics didn’t get it because they had not read the book.

But that doesn’t matter.

I haven’t read the book. I probably won’t. I am more of a nonfiction reader. I have other things to do. But I have liked the first two Hunger Games movies. I will go see Mockingjay, Part 1,  for the cinematic experience. What I am reading tells me I may be disappointed by a movie that comes across as a big “and” between Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Part 2. That sometimes happens in series. For all the devotion to The Empire Strikes Back (1980), which was a very well done movie, it was an “and” between Star Wars (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983). It really did not stand alone as a movie.

That seems to be the same sort of criticism Mockingjay, Part 1 is getting: it appears to be a bridge between two movies, not an entity unto itself. You know what? If you read and loved Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay novel, those movie reviews in no way invalidate your experience of the novel. And even if you love the movie, a critic’s review does not invalidate that either. It’s all opinion, and yours is really the most important to you.

But also, don’t jam a critic for what you perceive as his or her lack of knowledge about a book when they are reviewing a movie. That’s not their job. Their job is to review a movie. Did it work as a movie? What did it accomplish and not accomplish as a movie? If the critic has read the book, he or she may mention how it compares, but that is not the film critic’s job. The question a movie critic is there to answer is, how was the movie?

If that’s what you disagree with, debate on! But leave your literary snobbery as the box office.

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Listening to … Bryan Ferry and ‘Mockingjay’ soundtrack

Bryan Ferry performs at the 2014 Coachella Music and Arts Festival on Friday, April 11, 2014, in Indio, Calif. © AP photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision.

Bryan Ferry performs at the 2014 Coachella Music and Arts Festival on Friday, April 11, 2014, in Indio, Calif. © AP photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision.

A few weeks ago, I was listening Bryan Ferry‘s Bête Noire album, enjoying the sensuous beats of songs like The Right Stuff and Limbo, remembering seeing the album’s tour in August 1988, which I still rate as the best concert I have ever seen, and generally reveling in the mood. It brought back specific memories that sort of made me think, “maybe I’m a bit old for this now.”

Then it occurred to me that Ferry wasn’t a whole lot younger than I am now when he recorded the album. And really, Ferry and Roxy Music’s work has always been rather adult; not much puppy love or teen angst here. It’s music that ages well.

And now, at 69, Ferry has proved that again with his latest album, Avonmore. Some tracks on the new release such as One Night Stand seem to echo right out of the Bête Noire era with an insistent beat and smooth vocal. Loop De Li opens the with a title that sounds ridiculous, but a delivery that comes across as cool as a white dinner jacket.

But the tour de force is a total remaking of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. The song has always been a meditation on human folly from someone who’s been around long enough to recognize it. Couched in Ferry’s beat, flourishes and unflappable delivery, that perspective is a guy who is going to take stylish cool right into his 70s.

Mockingjay albumWhat is not aging well is the music of The Hunger Games series. When the first movie came out in 2012, it was accompanied by a T Bone Burnett soundtrack that echoed the real region where the post-apocalyptic story is set and remained surprisingly earthy for the big names on the project such as Taylor Swift and Arcade Fire.

The Mockingjay soundtrack was curated by Lorde, and while it carries the heavy tone of the series’ current chapter, it is rarely engaging outside the quite brilliant Lorde centerpiece, Yellow Flicker Beat.

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Spotify affects artists in various ways

Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek in Stockholm, Sweden.  Spotify's Swedish CEO has voiced disappointment that Taylor Swift pulled her music off the popular music streaming service, denying claims it's making money "on the backs of artists." (AP Photo/TT/Janerik Henriksson)

Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek in Stockholm, Sweden. He has voiced disappointment that Taylor Swift pulled her music off the popular music streaming service, denying claims that it’s making money “on the backs of artists.” © AP photo by Janerik Henriksson.

The other night, I ended my workday finishing up a story about Jessica Lea Mayfield’s scheduled gig at Cosmic Charlie’s. Filling out the “If You Go” box on the story, I entered, “Opener: Bombadil.”

Hmmm. “What is this Bombadil?” I wondered. That question stayed with me as I got on the elevator to leave, so I got out my phone, hopped on Spotify, entered Bombadil and sampled the North Carolina band on my drive home.

This is one of the beauties of the mobile Internet age. Back in my days of recreational concert-going, if I wanted to sample the opening act, I had to go down to the record store, see if they had the band’s music and then shell out something in the neighborhood of $10. And I had to be really interested to do that.

Now, for $10 a month, I have a vast music library at my disposal. I can listen to almost anything I want and download onto my phone stuff I want full-time access to.

Except Taylor Swift.

Well, Taylor and a few other bands that have chosen for various reasons to sit out Internet streaming. There’s no AC/DC on Spotify, or other streaming services. No Beatles. Until recently, there was no Led Zeppelin. Garth Brooks isn’t there, and Jason Aldean just yanked his latest album off Spotify, which is the most prominent of numerous streaming services. Two others are Rhapsody and Pandora.

The move by Swift and her label was to make a point about what they think are small payouts by Spotify to host her music on their site.

Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Swift’s record label, Big Machine Records, told Time magazine, ““Don’t forget, this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career?”

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has responded to contentions by Swift and others that streaming and file-sharing services have cut into album sales. Ek said he co-founded Spotify to help protect artists against piracy, which pays artists nothing, whereas Spotify was set to pay artists more than $6 billion this year. His contention is that Spotify is building a new platform for music that will be profitable for artists, and that Swift seems to be advocating returning music distribution back to 1989,  (the title of her new album, which is not on Spotify).

That all caused me to wonder, because we have recently written about several Lexington-area bands, most of whom have their music on Spotify, along with top artists Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Drake and Swift’s buddy, Ed Sheeran. How did they view Spotify and its impact on their livelihoods as musicians?

All the Little Pieces are (clockwise from left) Rhyan Sprague (singer, keyboards, guitar, songwriter), Thomas Suggs (guitar), Billy P. Thomas (bass) and Chris Jones (drummer). Lexington-based band All the Little Pieces has released its new album, "Broken Little Soul," Nov. 1. This photo was taken at a rehearsal Nov. 4, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

All the Little Pieces, from left: Rhyan Sprague (singer, keyboards, guitar, songwriter), Thomas Suggs (guitar), Billy P. Thomas (bass) and Chris Jones (drummer). The Lexington-based band All the Little Pieces released its new album, Broken Little Soul, Nov. 1. Photo by Rich Copley | Staff

Julian Karpinski, who helps manage All the Little Pieces, fronted by his stepdaughter Rhyan Sprague, says, “If someone finds ATLP on Spotify, then that helps us more than if we hold out to make a sale on iTunes. And as outdated as it sounds, most of ATLP’s CD sales are of the actual disc at shows. People go to see a band and they like to grab that CD. We hardly ever sell a download card at a show. People either purchase the download online, or buy the disc at the show. Not sure that a band at this level is hurt by Spotify. Looking at our oline sales of music, we see more transactions for Spotify than any other form of distribution.”

Kim Smith, Joshua Wright, Severn Edmonson and Seth Murphy are Bear Medicine. Lexington-based Bear Medicine has released its debut full-length album, "The Moon Has Been All My Life," in October 2014. These photos were taken at a noon performance at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital on Nov. 11, 2014. Photo by Rich Copley | Herald-Leader staff.

Kim Smith, Joshua Wright, Severn Edmonson and Seth Murphy are Bear Medicine. The Lexington-based band released its debut full-length album, The Moon Has Been All My Life, in October. Photo by Rich Copley | Staff

Seth Murphy, bassist and cellist of Lexington’s Bear Medicine, says that streaming services such as Spotify are not how he would like fans to engage with the group’s new album, The Moon Has Been All My Life. He would prefer that they get the CD or record and experience it uninterrupted (free versions of Spotify and other services drop in ads every few songs). But he also understands the need for exposure.

“If it helps point them in our direction, then mission accomplished,” Murphy says. “If they enjoy the music and connect to what is happening, I believe that people who come into contact with our album will choose to purchase the album, forgoing distractions inherent in this new age of streaming media.

“Supply and demand work the same in the music business as in any other business. Once an artist reaches a level of fame where their music is accessible everywhere, the demand to posses their album starts to hold less value. In order to best connect with these fans, artists pull their music from streaming sources like Spotify and YouTube and make purchasing albums the only option.”

Clearly, there are a lot of sliding scales in this discussion. For All the Little Pieces and Bear Medicine, there could be clear advantages to being on an international platform like Spotify, in which people who probably don’t have a chance to buy their record at a gig can hear your music, even if they don’t make much from the plays. But as their star rises, does the same platform become a detriment if people continue to listen and download at $10 a month for the whole service rather than buying a physical copy or paying for a download? Can they make that up at the box office, as we hear many artists do today, so that the $100-plus concert ticket is becoming the norm?

Swift’s representatives have claimed that other artists also want to leave Spotify, which the service doesn’t want to happen because it would devalue the brand. Since subscribing, part of my routine on Tuesdays has been to check out the new releases and listen to the latest tunes. That’s cool if I am confident that most artists I want to hear are there. I will buy some of the albums if I decide that I really want to own them. A music-service download is not owning, as Swift’s move proves: If you had downloaded her previous records on Spotify, you no longer have them. I still have the first records and CDs I bought in the 1970s and ’80s.

If the service is suddenly a collection of oldies and “Who’s that?” artists, Spotify and other streaming services will lose their value. I’m not paying $10 a month to hear Uncle Dan’s Accordion Band cover Shake It Off.

I have seen some possible solutions in the past. Swift herself did not post her Red album on Spotify or other services until a while after it came out. So people who were dying to hear the new music did have to pay. And that makes sense for an artist at that level. When I used the legal, subscription version of Napster, which was eventually bought by Rhapsody, many artists allowed only streaming, and you had to buy the album to take it with you on a device or burn it to a disc.

It seems there could be happy mediums to make the streaming services valuable while still getting artists fair market value for their music. And that, as a music lover and consumer, is what I want. Certainly, I don’t want to lose the world where I can dial up a band that interests me while standing at the elevator. But music is a product of work. It is valuable, and the artists deserve to be paid, whether they’re Taylor Swift or your favorite local hopeful.

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Actors Guild of Lexington lays off Eric Seale

Former Actors Guild of Lexington artistic director Eric Seale. (c) 2011 file photo by Angela Baldridge.

Former Actors Guild of Lexington artistic director Eric Seale. (c) 2011 file photo by Angela Baldridge.

Actors Guild of Lexington has laid off its artistic director, Eric Ryan Seale, the last employee on the theater’s payroll.

Last month, Seale said the theater had left its home in the South Elkhorn Village shopping center off Harrodsburg Road because it was no longer able to pay for the space it had occupied since late 2010. Seale told the Herald-Leader Wednesday that he understood that the theater did intend to re-emerge in another location, possibly the Downtown Arts Center.

“They have decided the best thing they can do is remove the expense of a full-time employee, so they’re letting me go,” Seale said. “It’s because of money. There’s just not enough of it.”

Actors Guild board chairman Jim Gleason said, “I cannot emphasize enough, this is not a reflection on performance. Eric has been a hero and carried the company on his back the last four years.”

Gleason said both Seale’s layoff and the departure from the South Elkhorn Theatre were necessary for the company to regroup financially and continue.

“We’re going into hibernation, not dissolving, not shutting down,” Gleason said. “We’re getting into a place where we don’t have the burden of overhead and Eric’s salary so we can figure out a way to reboot and continue to do the work we do.”

Gleason said he hopes that Seale, 33, will be part of Actors Guild’s re-emergence, but he also understands that the director needs to get on with his own life and career.

The developments are the latest travails in the turbulent history of Actors Guild, which at one time was viewed as Lexington’s flagship theater company. The most recent crisis was a 2009 financial meltdown that resulted in the theater departing from its home in the Downtown Arts Center. About the same time, artistic director Richard St. Peter and managing director Kimberly Shaw departed to pursue other opportunities.

Seale was named acting artistic director and eventually artistic director, and he led the theater’s move from downtown Lexington to the Harrodsburg Road area.

“I have sacrificed several years of my life entirely to its survival,” Seale said of Actors Guild. “It was gone. It was dead, and I said I was willing to try to breathe life into it.

“It was incredibly hard, and if I have any regrets, it was things I missed out on while working those 18-hour days. I guess now I will have a chance to look into some of those things I missed out on.”

Gleason and Seale said that although Actors Guild had numerous successful productions in its nearly four years at South Elkhorn, the loss of several streams of financial support and loss of a rehearsal space, thereby limiting the number of shows the theater could produce, made staying there unsustainable.

“Ticket sales were good,” Gleason said. “But as we often say in this business, we can’t survive on ticket sales alone. We need support from the community and hope we will find that.”

In the past year, the Downtown Arts Center management was taken over by the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department after LexArts said it wanted to give up that role, and LexArts has hired a new director, Ellen A. (Nan) Plummer, who will start work Nov. 17. Gleason said he hoped both of those developments will help create a more supportive environment in which Actors Guild can re-emerge.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Gleason said. “We’re taking a breather.”

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Reality check: ‘Saturday Night Live’ has always been hit-and-miss

Colin Jost and Michael Che during "Weekend Update" on October 25, 2014. Photo by Dana Edelson |NBC.

Colin Jost and Michael Che during “Weekend Update” on October 25, 2014. Photo by Dana Edelson |NBC.

So I was surfing comments on Entertainment Weekly’s wrap-up of the Chris Rock-Prince episode of Saturday Night Live on Sunday when I stumbled onto a group of commenters who had actual — Wow! — perspective.

“The actual truth is that the show has always been really hit-and-miss,” a guy identified as StewyStan wrote. “Go back and watch some of the full 90-minute episodes from the 70s, and you’ll be amazed by how uneven the show was even during the supposed golden era.”

He’s right. As a longtime SNL fan, I have some of those seasons on DVD, and yeah, there is quite a bit of drek amongst the golden nuggets.

A poster identified as Gary Middleton put it brilliantly:

1976: “The show hasn’t been funny since Chevy left”.
1980: “The show hasn’t been funny since the original cast left.”
1985: “The show hasn’t been funny since Eddie left.”
1986: “The show hasn’t been funny since Crystal left.”
1994: “The show hasn’t been funny since Hartman and Carvey left.”
1998: “The show hasn’t been funny since Norm Macdonald was axed.”
2003: “The show hasn’t been funny since Will Ferrell left.”
2008: “The show hasn’t been funny since Fey/Poehler left.”
2012: “The show hasn’t been funny since Kristen Wiig left.”
2014: ?

I have been saying for a while that Saturday Night Live nostalgia fetishists are the biggest bunch of cranks on the Internet, besting people who think there has been no good music since the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, et al were amazing, and they established one of the most enduring entertainment franchises in television history. But they were not the only ones who did it well. When I was a teenager, it was Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Billy Crystal, Victoria Jackson, Dennis Miller and Co. who made us laugh and satirized the era we were in. Subsequent years have given us David Spade, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig and Seth Meyers. Give me another show with that kind of track record.

Is the current season, No. 40, struggling? Yes. Yes it is. It has put me to sleep more than it has made me laugh out loud — guest host Jim Carrey’s Matthew McConaughey-Lincoln ad satire has been the best thing of the season, thus far. The new casting of Weekend Update is simply a mistake, and I have loved Michael Che’s work on The Daily Show. But Cecily Strong was carrying that segment after Meyers left, and for some strange reason, she was booted. Strong, Kate McKinnnon and Aidy Bryant are the most reliable players along with longest-serving cast member Keenan Thompson, but they aren’t enjoying much support.

Lorne Michaels has enough of a track record to know this. In comedy, more than any other field, you know when you are bombing. And Michaels has proven that he can right this ship. I have clear memories of the post-original cast era, when it appeared that Saturday Night Live really might have been done. The show has had dark days and heydays. I look forward to the latter returning.

Post Script: I sort of have to thank SNL for helping prove my point. Last Saturday at 10 p.m., NBC aired an archive episode from 1979, hosted by Rick Nelson, that contained nary a laugh. It actually prompted my 15-year-old to say, “So is Saturday Night Live a show that got better over the years?” Not necessarily. But it did make the subsequent repeat of the Bill Hader episode from this “inferior” season look like an absolute scream. Like I said, it has always been a show of hits and misses — though I was sort of baffled why they aired that ’79 stinker.

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Taylor Swift coming to Rupp Arena next year

Taylor Swift played a red Les Paul during a concert at Rupp Arena in April 2013 as part of her

Taylor Swift played a red Les Paul during a concert at Rupp Arena in April 2013 as part of her Red Tour.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Herald-Leader staff

Fresh off its biggest music event ever with Garth Brooks’ four-show stand last weekend, Rupp Arena announced Monday morning that Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour — named for her latest album, not any revolutionary time-travel breakthroughs —  will come to Lexington on Oct. 20, 2015.

Swift has played Rupp three times in the past, most recently her mammoth Red Tour in April 2013.

The 1989 Tour will launch in Louisiana in May and will get to Kentucky fairly quickly, on June 2 at KFC Yum Center in Louisville.

Rupp Arena consistently attracts top-tier country acts, but since the opening of the Yum Center, rock and pop shows have tended to gravitate to Louisville. Swift says 1989, which was released last week, marks her transition from country to pop, but she is keeping a date with Lexington.

Tickets for some venues are scheduled to go on sale Nov. 14, but Rupp Arena tickets will go on sale at a later date, Rupp spokeswoman Sheila Kenny said. Prices were not included in the tour announcement.

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Red, White & Boom unplugged?

Hunter Hayes.

Hunter Hayes

If big shows by Garth Brooks and Jason Aldean have not been enough for Bluegrass-area country fans this fall, WBUL-FM 98.1 is ending the year with a lineup that echoes its big July festival.

Call it Red, White & Boom unplugged.

The Bull calls it Acoustic Jam 2014, 7 p.m. Dec. 2, and the crowd at the Lexington Opera House will be a fraction of the size of the Boom audience at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. But that is part of the appeal of seeing shows by national artists at the 940-seat Opera House: being up close and personal with the stars.

Topping the lineup for this show will be Hunter Hayes, David Nail, Joe NicholsAmerican Idol champion Scotty McCreery, and both parts of Jessamine County’s country-star Montgomery family: John Michael Montgomery and Montgomery Gentry — John Michael’s older brother, Eddie Montgomery, and their friend Troy Gentry.

Also in the lineup is Sam Hunt, whose debut album dropped this week to rave reviews; Voice competitor RaeLynn, whose current song is God Made Girls; Kristian Bush of Sugarland fame and Maddie & Tae, whose hit is Girl in a Country Song.

Also, as with WBUL’s RW&B, there will two acts to be named later. But tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday (Nov. 7) for $107.50, including fees. Proceeds benefit Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

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Review: Boz Scaggs at the Lexington Opera House

Boz Scaggs.

Boz Scaggs.

More reading: Walter Tunis — ‘Silk’ is but one texture of Boz Scaggs’ career

Heading to the Lexington Opera House Tuesday night, it was easy to wonder which Boz Scaggs we would see: the radio hit maker of the 1970s and early ’80s or the bluesy Boz of recent albums and PBS specials.

It turned out the 70-year-old guitar master was able to meld his various personas into an eminently satisfying hour-and 45 minute set, even if he didn’t play your favorite song from his catalog (No Jojo? May have been too disco Boz.).

In recent years, Scaggs has returned to the bluesy roots of his career, particularly on his 2013 album Memphis, recorded in the title town and delivering heavy doses of Delta blues from the frets.

And that’s where the evening started, reaching all the way back to 1971 and Runnin’ Blue, a fitting introduction to Scaggs’ distinctive voice and the crack seven-person band he brought with him. Fast forward 42 years, and we got the Willy DeVille tune Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl from Memphis. 

Having set the bluesy tone with a few more numbers, we began to navigate into Scaggs’ signature West Coast cool hinted at in a lovely rendition of Sierra, which demonstrated how well a big group of musicians can come together to create something of subtle beauty. That is also an apt description of Scaggs’ cover of Brook Benton’s Rainy Night in Georgia, a near perfect selection for the rainy evening we had come in from, and would depart into.

But there are songs Scaggs cannot get away without playing, and the energy of crowd clearly spiked as drummer Gene Lake smacked into the opening of Lowdown with bassist Rich Patterson getting a cheer for plucking off the song’s signature two-note bass accent. We were at the singing-along-to-every-word point in the show — Scaggs reflexively backed away from the microphone as the crowd bellowed “Low, low, low down,” heading into the bridge. That’s where we stayed for a while through radio fare such as Harbor Lights (a showcase for saxophonist Eric Crystal and keyboardist Mike Logan) and Miss Sun, featuring a playful call and response between Scaggs’ guitar and singer Conesha Monét Owens, aka Ms. Monét.

Monét got the stage to herself to run through some R&B hits such as Sly and the Family Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) and the CCR-via-Tina Turner classic Proud Mary. Though she tended to overdo hand motions to illustrate the lyrics, her voice was glorious, and at that point in the show she had done the best job of bringing the crowd to its feet.

That was, until the encores.

After a sound-plagued rendition of Lido Shuffle, the band did the obligatory departure to return after just a few minutes with What Can I Say from Scaggs’ iconic Silk Degrees album (along with Lido and Lowdown)  and then launching into a cathartic rendition of Loan Me a Dime, another song he’s been playing since at least the early 1970s.

In this performance, Scaggs gave some of his most emotional singing, fretting “This girl’s been gone so long, it’s worrying me, you know it’s worrying me,” and taking tack sharp blues runs on the guitar. But what really made this star-turn affirm Scaggs still has “it,” was how much he relished being one of the boys in the band, particularly trading tasty licks with guitarist Michael Miller and supporting the sideman’s solos with some jazz riffing.

That could have ended the evening on a powerful note, but it was powerful enough for the crowd to demand and receive one last encore of Sick and Tired. (It almost seemed we were going to get a third, but a spent-looking Scaggs returned to simply say goodnight.)

In less than two hours, we went from wondering which Boz would show up to being glad he showed and affirmed his body of work holds up very, very well.

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Jian’s gone, but the show must go on

Jian Ghomeshi, former host of CBC radio's Q. CBC Photo.

Jian Ghomeshi, former host of CBC radio’s Q. CBC Photo.

Fans of intelligent cultural coverage, particularly those who tuned in that sort of stuff on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Qhad to be disappointed by yesterday’s news that the show’s host, Jian Ghomeshi, was fired following very serious sexual allegations by a former girlfriend.

My hope is that the situation, including other allegations, will work out in a way that justice is served. I refuse to speculate further because, as I often say, no one really knows what happens in a home once the doors are closed except the people involved. You really do not know, so stop speculating.

My interest is in great radio and great cultural coverage, which has consistently delivered from Ghomeshi and other hosts, and I hope will continue now that he is gone.

has always impressed me as an outlet more interested in art than celebrity, something of a rarity in the star-obsessed national and continental media that seems to regard being on a two-bit reality show like 16 and Pregnant as enough accomplishment to merit coverage of every hookup and breakdown in In Touch Weekly (You sent me all those emails, eventually I was going to say something).

In its several years on the air in Central Kentucky on WEKU-88.9 FM, even if I scoffed at someone had on its guest list, I presumed they must have some cultural value for the show to have booked them. Ghomeshi and his colleagues’ interviews always drew out the best and most enlightening discussions. That’s what he brought, and that’s what I currently presume his successors Brent Bambury and Piya Chattopadhyay will continue. (A moment of levity: In the grand scheme of NPR, I think Chattopadhyay, by her name alone, is the obvious heir to the the throne.) The local pairing of at 2 p.m. and Fresh Air at 3 gives listeners two hours of the best talk in the nation.

There are many, many iconic programs that have survived multiple host changes. Tonight Show, anyone? We are used to Ghomeshi, but it is fairly obvious however this situation shakes out, that is over. His personality, which did rub some listeners the wrong way, is a big part of the show. But in a new era, with new hosts, the focus may shift more toward the guests and topics. There is a tradition of great interviewing highlighting great artists and important topics. I, for one, am pulling for that to continue.

Note: Rich Copley contributes a weekly commentary to WEKU-FM.

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