A Weekend in the Country

by Josef Woodard

PICKINTIME: Call ’em Paisley Moments. No, it has nothing to do with the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but the artist presently known as Brad Paisley, an immensely likeable country star making his Santa Barbara debut at the Bowl on Friday. Beyond his singing and songwriting skills, he is one wicked, go-for-broke, modern-day Telecaster master. His fourth and latest album, Time Well Wasted, features several Paisley Moments — snippets of his knuckle-busting guitarist splendor — like those on “The World,” “I’ll Take You Back,” and the style-surfing instrumental “Time Warp.”

For anybody who misses fancy, take-no-prisoners-style guitar playing, Paisley is your man. Then again, now that guitar solos have been outlawed in rock music, country is a last bastion for pickers who don’t mind showing what they’re made of. But wait, there’s more: Paisley also pens and sings songs that are alternately unabashedly romantic, witty, and rootsy-rocking, such as “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” “We Danced,” “Little Moments,” “Celebrity,” and the new winking hit “Alcohol.”

We’re in a strange time in the country-western cosmos, when the scene seems tinged and tainted by elements of rock and pop (take, for instance, the remarkable singer LeAnn Rimes, whose too-poppy Chumash show was at its best when it walked the country mile). But the West Virginia-born and now Nashville-based Paisley can’t seem to help keeping it country. Dolly Parton duets with him on the sweet “When I Get Where I’m Going.” Elsewhere, he trades sweetness for blistering hot Tele licks. Somebody’s gotta do it, and only those with the gift can pull it off.

COUNTRY GRAVY TIME: As it happens, a rare country music convergence is hitting Santa Barbara this weekend, in various flavors. From the unplugged end of the spectrum, fiddle master Mark O’Connor brings his Appalachian Waltz Trio to Rockwood — a fabulous place to hear good acoustic music — on Sunday, May 21. This is part of UCSB’s Arts & Lectures Chamber Music in Historic Places concerts, which brought bass legend Edgar Meyer to architect Barton Myers’s Toro Canyon home a year ago. Meyer and O’Connor belong to a generation of ridiculously virtuosic Nashvillers, also steeped in classical tradition and, in O’Connor’s case, vintage swing jazz (which he showcased at the Lobero).

Like fiddler Darol Anger’s group, Republic of Strings, O’Connor’s clan works up heat and blissful diversity using bowed instruments — with cellist Natalie Haas and violist Carol Cook. As heard on Crossing Bridges, aside from Celtic to Appalachian flavors — plus waltzes — O’Connor’s often intricate scores freely slip in and out of other musical worlds, without betraying the essential musical spirit that always guides O’Connor’s adventures.

In other country news, off to the left end of the dial, we have tonight’s return to SOhO by the band called Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash (the band’s founder/main man Mark Stuart befriended Cash, who approved of the band name, and the music). Stuart cooks up his own brand of alt-country spiced with post-punk.

NEW MUSIC VISITATION: Locally based violinist and ensemble leader Robin Cox is turning into a new music promoter and bringing a series of music and dance events to the Center Stage Theater under the banner of his organization, Iridian Arts. This Sunday, May 21, the inventive and respected N.Y.C.-based bass clarinetist Michael Lowenstern demonstrates his creative flexibility, technical and improvisational chops, and humor, to boot.

TO-DOINGS: From another corner of the New York scene, “downtown” drummer of choice Bobby Previte is bringing Coalition of the Willing, the newest of his multiple projects, to SOhO on Tuesday, for the sake of art and the groove. Joined by notable guitarist Charlie Hunter and trumpeter Steve Bernstein (of Sex Mob), Previte’s new project has tentacles in the jamband world, but its mind on artistic willpower … On Saturday, UCSB’s MultiCultural Center will host the Bay Area-based Mexican band Los Cenzontles, whose style menu is traditional and otherwise. (Got e? Email

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