Dr. Ralph, Kentucky’s Tunstall, further North

Patty Larkin: Photo by Jana Leon

Patty Larkin: Photo by Jana Leon

Thursday, May 15: The last thing you want in a good night’s sleep are apparitions and bumps in the night, but that’s exactly what Patty Larkin got when she spent the night at a bed and breakfast in western Massachusetts.

“I switched rooms because I was in the ghost’s room,” Larkin says. “I stayed up all night and got out of there first thing in the morning.” The restless night inspired her to write “Walking In My Sleep” off her latest album, Watch The Sky.

Larkin recorded most of the songs on the record on her own Pro Tools setup with assistance from longtime collaborator Ben Wittman. Together, the two endured repeated multiple equipment failures but chalked those up to boundless experimentation. “I wouldn’t say I was meticulous. I was more like a kid playing,” she says. “By the end, I think I had one microphone and one mic cable that worked. If something broke, I would just move on to something else.” Larkin celebrates her CD release Thursday at the Clifton Center (2117 Payne St., 896-8480) with Winterpills. Tickets are $18. Showtime is 8 p.m. —Mat Herron

Friday, May 16
Somewhere between the pure pop of his father’s band, Crowded House, and the more textural sounds of King Crimson lies Liam Finn. While Crowded House concentrated on the sunshine-y side of pop, Finn instead concentrates on the more subdued, introspective side of the verse-chorus-verse.

His latest album, I’ll Be Lightning, is fast becoming the headphone album of the year, built around Finn’s inner battle between experimenting with loops, sound textures and ’70s-influenced pop. All of this collides live when Finn builds his songs from the ground up, traveling from instrument to instrument.

“The loops are my band,” he explains. “It evolved out of my need to be different. There are so many bands out there and so many singer-songwriters out there that it naturally evolved out of my need to be different.”
Friday’s headliner, Laura Veirs, comes to town solo. Something odd about that: Her 2007 album, Saltbreakers, was named for the band she expected to have by her side. The musicians were all old friends, including drummer Tucker Martine. Veirs is upfront about it all: “It’s like a family, and families get weird.” Martine is still a constant in her life, but onstage now she stands alone.

It’s not difficult to imagine that Veirs’ songs of nature imagery and skeptical romanticism might be best suited to an intimate setting. The singer likes to tell the story behind “To the Country.” Martine had this gorgeous Saltbreakers tour de force, which sets Veirs above a precise church choir, recorded in a special little building in the Tennessee woods. As she puts it, “it was kind of mystical to be in Johnny and June’s cabin.”

One reason Veirs is touring often and sans accompaniment is “we lost a lot of money” when full-band tour plans with The Decemberists suddenly collapsed.

Both play the 930 Listening Room (930 Mary St., 635-2554). Tickets are $10 in advance, $13 at the door. —additional reporting by T.E. Lyons

Saturday, May 17

If we ever build a Mount Rushmore in Appalachia, Ralph Stanley’s wizened mug will no doubt be included. The 79-year-old has performed on 170 albums, won three Grammys, earned countless spots in the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame and, in 1976, picked up an honorary doctorate from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., an accomplishment he’s embraced ever since, calling himself “Dr. Ralph Stanley.”

These days, Stanley’s high tenor is the heart and focus of his music. “I’ve never tried to sound like anybody else or anything else, and it’s just my natural voice,” he says. “I put more into my singing now than I ever did. That’s one reason I’ve set my banjo down.”

Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys perform a free concert Saturday at Jefferson Memorial Forest (11311 Mitchell Hill Road). Stanley says he’s proud to continue contributing to a genre he helped define and refine, even if he’s not humble about it. “I guess if there ever was a legend, I’m probably one of them.”

Saturday, May 17: Louisville is a metal town. Our fair city has seen a steady stream of multi-band bills troop through, providing all the bludgeoning power, guttural vocals and violent imagery anyone might need.
But the month of May finds us especially blessed, as “Mayhem in May” is scheduled for May 17-18.

More than 30 bands will be featured at the 18-and-over show at Uncle Pleasant’s (2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147), including Incantation, Diabolic, Vital Remains, Demiricous and, my favorite, Tennessee’s own Coathanger Abortion. Get your best grindcore T-shirt dry-cleaned and make a weekend of it. More info is at myspace.com/mayheminmay. —Jay Ditzer

Monday, May 19
One of the most infectious pop hooks in recent memory has to be the “woo hoo’s” from K.T. Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” a song so infectious, its hook stays in your head for days (trust me on this). The most startling fact about this song and that damn hook is that it almost didn’t enter the cultural lexicon. “I played that song on (U.K. television show) ‘Later with Jools Holland,’ and the song wasn’t on my album, and it was the first recorded version of the song,” she says.

Tunstall isn’t the stereotypical “girl with a guitar.” She’s playful, inviting and effervescent. “The hard thing is when you read someone that doesn’t get it. It’s when they haven’t listened to you, or they’ve just seen a picture of you,” she says. “People come expecting to have fun, and I have to deliver.”

On her current tour, which stops at the Brown Theater (315 W. Broadway, 584-7777) Monday, Tunstall will concentrate on an acoustic sound. But don’t expect this to be a laid-back affair. “All the really rockin’ ’50s stuff was played on acoustic guitars. To me that’s really exciting and where I should be going musically.”
Tickets to the all-ages show are $30. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 21

What the North Mississippi All-Stars do is built on the belief that butt-shaking rock ’n’ roll always stirs an audience.

“I think part of our attraction is that the music we play is well-timed and appropriate,” says bandleader Luther Dickinson, who is on break from touring with his other band, The Black Crowes. Much like his work with the Crowes, Dickinson and his bandmates in the All-Stars lean on guitar-centric, R&B infused rock ’n’ roll to draw audiences of all ages into their web.

“We get crowds with people our parents’ age and younger people as well,” he says. The band plays Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088). 9 p.m. $15.  

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