It can be difficult to reconcile, but the gentle acoustic music of Taj Mahal and the fire-breathing electric guitar work of Kenny Wayne Shepherd have equal claim to the title of the blues. More than a sound, or a pattern of chords, the blues is a feeling. It’s beyond cliche to pinpoint that feeling as “my baby ripped my heart out and tossed it in the Dumpster.” But whether it’s Taj singing the age-old murder ballad “Stagger Lee” or Shepherd stretching a string until it approximates a human cry, the blues is emotion in sound. Monday, March 28, brings a blues doubleheader: Taj Mahal’s trio at the Wheeler Opera House, followed by Shepherd’s band at the Belly Up.
With the formation of the Greyboy Allstars in San Diego in the early ’90s, saxophonist Karl Denson and his mates reminded listeners how much fun a marriage of jazz and funk could be. The Greyboys’ attempt at a comeback appears halted; their “official” website was most recently updated last summer and lists no new tour dates. But Denson is still blowing hard; where the Greyboys looked back for their groove, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe leans forward for its modern brand of funk on the albums “Dance Lesson #2” and “The Bridge.” Taking a break from the studio, the six-piece Tiny Universe shakes it at the Wheeler Opera House Saturday, April 2.
In his last Aspen appearance, a solo performance last winter at the Wheeler Opera House, Steve Earle was uncharacteristically tepid. Backstage accounts revealed that the alt-country singer-songwriter had a kidney stone, and those who witnessed his condition were impressed by his fortitude in taking the stage rather than disappointed by the flat performance. Subsequent events have proved that the fire still rages. His Grammy-winning 2004 CD “The Revolution Starts Now” is Earle at his most engaged, taking the American government to task, especially for its treatment of soldiers serving the country. In his return to Aspen, Thursday, March 31, at the Belly Up, Earle brings extra fire power in the form of his rock band, the Dukes. Alison Moorer opens the show.
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