by Josef Woodard

PICKIN’ TIME: 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

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
. 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
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
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
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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