By Matt Wickstrom
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Alt-country rising star Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, The Po Ramblin’ Boys at the 46th annual Festival of the Bluegrass and the return of Cincinnati funk master Freekbass highlight this week’s live menu. View all of my top picks for June 3-9 below and the entire menu here.
Join me from 9-11 a.m. on Monday, June 3 for episode 69 of Wick’s Picks on Lexington Community Radio. For the show I’ll be joined by Justin Carlson and Will Solomon to discuss the collaborative Rest EP that each had a hand in along with Sean Sullivan and Bryson Willoughby of Mojothunder to discuss their new Loose Lips EP and release show on June 7 (details below). Listen to the show live on 93.9 FM or by streaming online at LexingtonCommunityRadio.org.
The straightforward southern croon of North Carolina alt-country songwriter Sarah Shook returns to Lexington on June 4 when the artist comes to The Burl. Shook’s fusion of punk and pedal steel heavy country and rock tells tales of a troublesome past equipped with a vocal trill and tell it like it is mentality that makes no apologies for itself. Shook possesses an authenticity that has struck a chord with listeners, who’ve highly praised both Sidelong (2017) and Years (2018) along with supporting the artist feverishly on tours both stateside and abroad. Shook & The Disarmers will be supported by local artist Logan Fox for Tuesday’s show.
On the cutting edge of funk, pop, soul and rock is Cincinnati music icon Freekbass, who returns to Lexington for a midweek bash at Cosmic Charlie’s on June 5. The artists will be joined by rotating all-star collective The Bump Assembly, this time around comprised of drummer Rico Lewis (previously with George Clinton) and Sky White on keys (Foxy Shazam) along with special guest Sammi Garett, who sings on and co-wrote on Freekbass’ latest All The way This. All The way That, of Brooklyn based power funk group Turkuaz. Combining analog sounds from his childhood with arrangements that at times seem almost alien, Freekbass continues to excel by exhibiting an eagerness to explore the unknown, taking his sound to often quirky but bountiful places. The result is a live show as theatrical as they come, with Freekbass and co. often donning out of this world attire to match their futuristic sound that manifests an environment like that of a modern day disco.
Mouth-watering barbecue collides with a spicy blend of local music on June 7 and 8 for Smiley Pete’s Bluegrass BBQ Fest on the Courthouse Plaza in downtown Lexington. An eclectic blend of rock, bluegrass, blues, soul and roots music from some of the region’s best performers will grace the festival stage including 70’s neo soul outfit Joslyn & The Sweet Compression, world-renowned blues guitarist Tee Dee Young, Cincinatti-based rootsy porch pickers Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, swampy southern rockers Magnolia Boulevard, songbird Maggie Lander and fiery string pickers Restless Leg String Band, among others. For more information on the event stay tuned for my column this week on the festival in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Louisville rockers Mojothunder will celebrate the release of their Loose Lips EP on June 7 at The Burl with support from Lexington hard rockers Ivyrye and quirky Bowling Green outfit sugadaisy. For more on Mojothunder and their evolution brought forth on the new Loose Lips EP go here.
The 46th annual Festival of the Bluegrass gets underway on Thursday, June 6 at the Kentucky Horse Park and runs through June 9. Throughout the weekend some of the fiercest performers on the bluegrass music circuit, from old-time heavy hitters to flashy progressives on the cutting edge, will take the stage in front of some of the most diehard and devout festival goers in the region. Music on tap throughout the week includes hard-driving Carolina roots group Town Mountain along with longtime festival regulars The Seldom Scene and Russell Moore and Iiird Tyme Out. However, the weekend’s most intriguing performance may be from Tennessee’s Po Ramlbin’ Boys, winners of Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2018 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. Led by mandolin and lead vocalist C.J. Lewandowski, the band mashes together the best of both veins of bluegrass with tails of despair featuring a strong emphasis on both strong harmonies and precise and wicked fast string picking.