Music roundup for May 1, 2014

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By Bill Livick, Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Leon Russell at 7 p.m. Friday, May 2, The Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Tickets: $39.50. Call 414-286-3663.

Beginning in the 1960s and for a decade afterward, Leon Russell was one of the most connected and respected performers in rock music. He might be best known as one of the first super-session men, having worked with everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis and Phil Spector to Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. But he also has maintained a solo career as a country-blues gospel performer.

Russell grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and studied classical piano from ages 3 to 13. At 14, he learned to play trumpet and formed his own band. He lied about his age to land a job at a Tulsa nightclub, where he performed with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (who later became The Band). Soon after, he toured with Lewis.

In 1958, Russell moved to Los Angeles, where he learned to play guitar from Hall of Famer James Burton and became one of the most in-demand studio musicians. He played on nearly all of Spector's hit sessions, along with performing on a host of hits: The Byrds' “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Herb Alpert's “Taste of Honey,” and Gary Lewis and the Playboys' “This Diamond Ring.”

Russell organized the backing band for Joe Cocker's “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour,” played piano on Dylan's “Watching the River Flow” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” and performed in George Harrison's “Concert for Bangladesh” in 1971. He also toured with the Rolling Stones several times in the 1970s.

After that, Russell focused on his solo career. He released gold records in 1971 and 1972—“Leon Russell and the Shelter People” and “Carny,” respectively—and won a Grammy Award for his 1976 song “This Masquerade,” as performed by George Benson.

Russell, 72, never duplicated the commercial success he enjoyed in the late 1960s and '70s, but he has continued to write, produce and perform. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Dailey and Vincent at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, Stoughton Opera House, 381 E. Main St., Stoughton. Tickets: $35. Call 608-877-4400.

Few artists come with more impressive bluegrass credentials than Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent.

The duo played their first show together in December 2007 at the famous Ryman Auditorium, home of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Since then, they've established a full band and have emerged as one of the country's leading bluegrass bands. Their music is celebrated for its high energy and close-harmony singing.

In a telephone interview, Vincent said the band takes its music seriously but also knows how to have fun live.

“We never know what's going to happen onstage,” he said. “We just cut loose when the audience is into it.”

Vincent has been performing as long as he can remember. He was 2 years old the first time he was pulled onstage and asked to sing.

That was as a member of his family's country and bluegrass band, the Sally Mountain Show, which featured his parents, his older sister Rhonda—who for years has worn the “Queen of Bluegrass” crown—and his younger brother, Brian.

Vincent said as a member of Sally Mountain, he performed at the Grand Ole Opry countless times. He returned to that revered stage many times as an 11-year member of Ricky Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder.

Now, Dailey and Vincent are regulars at the Opry.

“We do 110 to 125 shows a year, including the Grand Ole Opry,” he said. “We play there probably 10 to 15 times a year, and it's just like coming home. I know everybody there, and it's like family to me.”

The band was named International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year three times. It also received a Grammy nomination for best country performance for a song from the “Dailey and Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers” album.

Celtic Woman at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, The Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets: $30-$99. Call 414-286-3663.

Global music phenomenon Celtic Woman brings to Milwaukee its “Emerald Tour,” a new stage production that celebrates Ireland and Celtic heritage through traditional Irish anthems, pop standards and original music by David Downes.

In 2004, Downes recruited five Irish female musicians who had not previously performed together—vocalists Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly and Méav Ní Mhaolchatha and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt—and shaped them into the first lineup of Celtic Woman. Their repertoire ranged from traditional Celtic tunes to modern songs.

The group's membership has changed over 10 years, but its ability to cross cultural lines and deliver rich Irish music is undiminished. Celtic Woman has been described as “Riverdance” for the voice—an apt observation, as Downes is a former musical director for the Irish stage show.

The group has released 11 albums since 2005.

Fitz and the Tantrums at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave., Madison. Tickets: $25-$28. Call 608-241-8633.

Fitz and the Tantrums are an American neo soul/indie pop band from Los Angeles. Formed in 2008, the band's debut studio album, “Pickin' Up the Pieces,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in 2010. They were heralded as a band to watch in an April 2011 profile in Rolling Stone magazine.

The band consists of Michael Fitzpatrick (lead vocals/keyboards), Noelle Scaggs (vocals/percussion), James King (saxophone, flute, keyboard, percussion and guitar), Joseph Karnes (bass guitar), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards) and John Wicks (drums/percussion).

The band performed its first show in December 2008 at Hollywood's Hotel Café, which Fitzpatrick booked one week after the first rehearsal. After getting established in 2009, the band's fame began to spread.

In March 2010, Fitz and the Tantrums played at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. In April, the band opened for ska legends The Specials on their North American reunion tour. The same month, the band signed a recording contract, and its first full-length album came out that August.

By October 2010, Daryl Hall had invited the band to perform on his popular web series, “Live From Daryl's House.”

In June 2011, Vogue Daily named Fitz and the Tantrums the “hardest-working band” of the summer festival circuit.

“Not only do L.A.–based six-piece Fitz and the Tantrums share James Brown's penchant for snazzy-dressed brass bands and feel-good retro ballads, they also have the late godfather of soul's tireless work ethic,” the magazine said.

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