Sight Unsound: Take a load off, go exotic, smell some grass; Ray Smith re-creates ‘The Last Waltz’ at The Rud

Jan 2, 2007 at 7:27 pm
[img_assist|nid=3580|title=Tula|desc=Lexington’s Tula, above, and a host of Louisville singer/songwriters will recreate “The Last Waltz.” The legendary concert by The Band turned 30 last year.|link=|align=left|width=200|height=133]Tula. The name says it all. Or rather, it says nothing in particular.
Trying to avoid deliberate connotations and not wanting to nourish prejudices among would-be listeners, Ray Smith opted to name his latest band after a term he picked up during one of his lengthy stays in Mexico. In part, he claims, this decision was modeled on one of the best, yet least pretentiously named, bands to ever play rock ’n’ roll.

Smith is referring to the band, The Band. By the end of the 1960s, they had evolved from merely backing the likes of Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan into an independent and timeless sounding Americana outfit quite popular in their own right.

The Band’s original mix of R&B, gospel, folk, blues and primitive rock ’n’ roll was celebrated both in the music press and by a legion of fans. Early album titles from their catalog, such as Music From Big Pink, are consistently evoked as important and indicative of that classic period in rock. Even today, any casual FM listener would be acquainted with its ubiquitous radio hits “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” and “The Weight” (take a load off Annie …).

As the 1970s progressed, this luminary ensemble’s cutting-edge output became increasingly erratic. That fact and other correlated variables (such as steadily deteriorating internal relations) became the cue for The Band to take its final bow. So on Thanksgiving Day 1976, in grand fashion, The Band was officially put to rest. To mark the occasion, an all-star farewell concert was organized and immortalized by Martin Scorsese in his film “The Last Waltz.”

Dozens of friends and admirers, such as Neil Young (who is comically captured in the movie with a mysterious white powder caked on his upper lip), Muddy Waters, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton (who had actually intimated that he wanted to become an official Band member at one point) were on hand to participate in what many see as the end of an era.

There were several partial and ill-fated reunions attempted, but “The Last Waltz” still remains an important moment in music history.

To pay homage to his influences and to raise money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Smith has organized a concert that will try to recreate the spirit and the songs of “The Last Waltz.” Though he prefers to keep a low profile, Smith, a Hazard native, is no stranger to the regional music scene. He previously led the obscure but celebrated Household Saints, and the enormously popular roots rock act the Mojo Filter Kings.
Still, he only recently returned to Kentucky and, as it happens, to music after stints in Mexico and New York City teaching creative writing. As such, this event will serve as Tula’s River City debut.
Tula, a remarkably quirky and capable unit, will be joined throughout the evening by a rotating cast of participants. A ridiculous amount of musicians, local celebrities and nationally acclaimed writers are already on board, he said.

Head down to The Rudyard Kipling (422 W. Oak St., 636-1311) — yes it’s still open — on Saturday, Jan. 6, to see why the timeless tunes of The Band are still significant, and to see if Ray Smith and crew can actually pull it off. Other performers include Joe Manning and Tyrone Cotton.
The show is 21 and over and starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. As you might remember from other features in LEO, KFTC is a non-profit, activist organization specializing in issues of social and environmental justice. They are a worthwhile bunch indeed.

After six seasons with the Kentucky Opera, Lucy Bickett is moonlighting as a jazz singer. She will be the guest leader of the much-respected Paul Davis Trio for two shows at the Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St., 992-3242) tonight.
Expect a wide range of jazz standards and heart-felt emotions from this class-act. The performances start at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the show is 21 and over. Tickets are a steal at $3.50.
Al Sur brings the exotic Thursday at the Brown.
Al Sur brings the exotic Thursday at the Brown.
Are your ears ready for something exotic? Check out the crazy-cool sounds of the Louisville Orchestra paired with a real live flamenco band, Al Sur, on Thursday.
The production, billed as “Latin Fever,” will include selections such as Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” and Ravel’s “Bolero.” The show starts at 6:30 p.m. at the W. Lyons Brown Theatre (315 W. Broadway, 562-0100). Tickets range from $20-$26.
Love him or hate him, he is a local, long-haired institution. And he throws a good party.
Join River City madman Eddy Metal Friday night at the Phoenix Hill Tavern (644 Baxter Ave., 589-4957) for his latest gathering. Bands featured are Never the Man, Prey for Maria, The Revenants, Vinal, Thorn and Antikythera.
Also on Friday, the Kentucky Fried Pickers will serve up some tasty bluegrass. Traditional grass, old-time fiddle tunes and more will be part of their set at Clifton’s Pizza Co. (2230 Frankfort Ave., 893-3730). The all-ages show starts at 8:30 p.m. The cover charge is still TBD.
Bluegrass fans clamoring for the old school and willing to make a little road trip may opt to see the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys this Friday at the Shepherdsville Music Place.
This family-friendly show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20. For more information and directions, call C.R. Wilson (no relation) at (502) 239-8004. If you’ve never seen the good doctor, now is the acceptable time to do so. He turns 80 next month. Someone call Scorsese!

Contact the writer at [email protected]