The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
SCAPA and Governor’s School for the Arts alum Jacob Yates has teamed up with veteran Broadway actress Jessica Hendy to form J String, a unique voice and cello duo that will make its live premiere with a concert at Newport’s Thompson House on Friday night.
The duo met over the summer, when Hendy was performing in Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s production of Next to Normal and Yates was playing cello and keyboard for the show.
“We started collaborating and making music videos together,” Yates said via email, “and those videos got some attention from sites like Broadwayworld.com and Playbill.com, so we started getting booked for gigs.”
The attention grabber was Britney Spears‘… Baby One More Time, and the duo has tackled a mashup of One Direction’s You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe and their first video, a cover of Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory (with a nod to J.S. Bach). That video is posted on Hendy’s YouTube page, on which she writes, “His name is Jacob Yates, and he is brilliant.”
The videos have progressed quickly from a hipster, home-made feel to the latest, a sleek production for a cover of David Guetta’s Titanium (above).
Yates graduated from SCAPA in 2011 and is studying at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In 2010, Yates organized a successful fundraiser for Haitian earthquake victims, that featured another well-known Lexington cellist, Ben Sollee. Hendy is a graduate of the school and has appeared on Broadway in Cats, Aida and Amour.
- At CMT’s blog, Alison Bonaguro gives Laura Bell Bundy a lot of credit for doing her own singing while dancing her — off.
While there were many accolades and a lot of credit for clearly not lip syncing her performance of Giddy on Up - work a few more pauses into the choreography next time; girl’s gotta breathe - there were also many dissenting voices such as these:
- Looks like the Britney Spears of country music, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
- What that heck is a Laura Bell Bundy? She’s NOT Country. lol
- Just bc you say giddy up & wear chaps, doesn’t make you country!
- Do you ever wonder if Johnny Cash is turning in his grave when he hears Laura Bell Bundy?
Harsh. But therin lines the big challenge for our Lexington Broadway Baby-turned-Nashville Star: country credibility. Though it may not always seem like it looking at the country music landscape these days, this is a genre where “credibility” counts, and even if you dreamed of a country career since birth, coming straight to Nashville from New York City will make you a little suspect.
So will smashing the mold.
A big factor in the divisive reaction to Laura Bell was that her performance didn’t look like anything else on the ACMs, though it would have been right at home on the Grammys. (You have to imagine some of her new peers were watching thinking “I can’t do that.”) That was set into even starker contrast Sunday night because while Laura filled the stage with dancers and lights and sported a revealing cowgirl getup, female vocalist of the year Miranda Lambert and entertainer of the year Carrie Underwood both performed ballads in modest settings. A few tweeters were even lecturing Laura Bell that Miranda’s performance is how country is supposed to be done — like there’s only one way to perform country.
Of course, you don’t have to have “cred” to be a successful country artist. Shania Twain became one of the best-selling artists of all time though some country fans never accepted her. And Taylor Swift — despite leaving the ACMs empty handed — is still the star du jour, while taking a regular slagging from portions of the country crowd.
But Laura Bell can’t be happy having her performance reduced to Laura Bell Bundy channels Britney Spears.
While it probably took a song and production like Giddy on Up to get a country newcomer like Bundy a performing spot on the ACM’s, there are ways in which the song does her a disservice. It really is not representative of of the rest of her debut album, Achin’ and Shakin’, which is getting critical props for it’s old-school softer side. And the video and Sunday’s performance can come across as someone bringing her Broadway act to Nashville. Following her career the last 12 years, there have always been hints that a country career was something Laura Bell wanted to pursue, including her 2006 independent release, Longing for a Place Already Gone, which is rootsier country than anything you heard from anyone on the ACMs. But most of the people that tuned in the ACMs Sunday night are just getting to know her.
Now that Bundy has everyone’s attention, it’s time to start telling more of her story.
- Interesting P.S.: Laura Bell Bundy posted this on her Facebook fan page this evening: “And, now I understand why some artists choose to lip sing when they dance like crazy! Woo! I’ve finally caught my breath, and I gotta do it again tomorrow at 8 am! again thank you to the fans, I am OVERWHELMED by your support! xo”
- She is scheduled to be on Good Morning America at 8 a.m. April 20.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich