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MUSIC BOX: Country and Cabaret
Holiday, Strayhorn and string-laced ’20s cabaret
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – My first YouTube stalk of singer-songwriter/actress Nellie McKay featured the London-born New Yorker sitting solo at the piano on late night television in 2006. McKay mordantly rambled a spoken word, Tom Waits-esque rant full of social commentary and injustices.
The upcoming Center Theater performance will feature McKay accompanied by the jazzy string stylings of two-time Grammy award-winning Turtle Island Quartet. The two entities share improvisational realms matched with Doris Day charm and find “amazing, fun and beautiful ways to dance together,” said fiddler David Balakrishnan. Balakrishnan also complimented McKay as “always being mysterious,” springing from her jazzy edge as a multi-instrumentalist (marimba, piano, ukulele) and boundless creator. McKay’s career has been somewhat cryptic in nature, a hard-to-pin-down free bird that continues to forge in unpredictable directions.
In a floating, dreamy quality merging Astrud Gilberto vibe with Zooey Deschanel’s role in She & Him, McKay houses a smoky, old-fashioned vocal quality. Match that with a fair amount of innovative rhythmical moments from Turtle Island, and this particular collaboration may raise some curious brows. The music of Billy Holiday, Billy Strayhorn and the Weimar cabaret of the 1920s could easily be treated with a historical traditional reference, but I don’t think this will be one of those moments.
Nellie McKay with members of Turtle Island Quartet, 7 p.m. on Friday at the Center Theater. $40-$55. JHCenterForTheArts.org, 733-4900.
A Pyle of Western folk-pop
With a refined finger-style approach on the acoustic guitar, insightful storytelling and consistently genuine songwriting, Chuck Pyle has stayed the course for more than 40 years. While John Denver, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Suzy Bogguss have recorded Pyle’s songs, country fans know him best for writing “Cadillac Cowboy” which was recorded by one of Wyoming’s greatest musical exports, the late Chris LeDoux, as well as “Jaded Lover” recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker. A rootsy Western folk style rolls easy with The Zen Cowboy, a relaxed performer with plenty to offer in and out of song. You have two nights to choose from.
Chuck Pyle, 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Jan. 8-9, at Dornan’s in Moose. Tickets are $15, available at Valley Bookstore and Dornan’s. 733-2415.
Texas ’tude at the Tav
Inching closer to the cookie cutter lyrical tracks of CMT’s top hits with lines like “A buckle bunny in a halter top/With a rockin’ little body that just won’t stop/Her legs go on and on and on ’til I lose my mind,” Casey Donahew Band comes from the Texas school of no holds barred twang n’ trash. It all started with the downhome scenes depicted in the 2006 Texas hit, “White Trash Story.” The year 2012 brought “Double-Wide Dream,” and the recent album STANDOFF debuted at number one on the iTunes Country Chart and number 32 on the Billboard Top 200.
“We’re big supporters of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms and standing up for what you believe in,” Donahew said. “We thought it was a great concept for the new album, hence the title. It also sums up a lot of how we’ve spent our career in the music business too. We’ve done it on our own as outlaws outside the system. I’m very excited to take this new collection of songs out to the fans.”
Casey Donahew Band, 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Town Square Tavern. $15. 307Live.com, 733-3886.