A mixture of blues tunes and original songs performed by two of the area’s female musicians brought an end to the 2012 Melodies and Masterpieces concert and art series in the warm sunshine on Judd Plaza in downtown Ashland Friday during lunch.
The rising temperature made tuning tricky for the musicians, who seemed to appreciate the sunshine and light breeze blowing through the downtown arts district. The music kicked off with an original song performed by the trio of vocalist Alys Preston, bassist Jamey Farris and multi-instrumentalist Tim Preston, who played guitar, lap steel and harmonica as small crowds gathered along the plaza and on benches across the street at First Presbyterian Church.
The Prestons teamed up for stripped down renditions of songs including John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” and Mother Maybelle Carter’s “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies.”
Mrs. Preston then gave the sidewalk stage over to the guitarist and bassist Farris for an instrumental duet tentatively titled “Lap Steel Boogie.” Preston joked he only recently purchased the instrument, and asked the crowd’s forgiveness for any mistakes they may have noticed. Farris also provided the foundation for Preston’s harmonica during their set’s blues songs, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House,” and “Driftin’ Blues,” as made popular by Eric Clapton.
Equipped with only a 1976-model Gibson acoustic guitar and a big cup of Starbucks coffee, singer and songwriter Sasha Colette took the stage for an outstanding set which seemed to get the attention not only of people on the street, but also those in nearby offices and traveling along Winchester Avenue. Although performing as a solo artist for Melodies and Masterpieces, Colette made a point of mentioning her band The Magnolias, who she described as “guys who really know how to play some rock and roll,” before launching into the title track of the band’s most recent record, “Ridin’ Away.”
As Colette poured her vocal and guitar power into the song, sound engineer Shannon Spears of Make-Music-Not-War Sound could not restrain his admiration for the young artist. “She has no business coming up with lines like that,” said Spears after reciting an entire verse of the song she was playing. “She reminds me of what someone once said about John Prine back when he was her age — just 23 years old and writes like 43.”
Taking a break on a bench across the street, bassist Jamey Farris enjoyed the show with his girlfriend.
“Right here, it sounds killer man. It sounds like she’s playing a 15-foot guitar, it just sounds so big. It’s killer,” he said. “The acoustics on Judd Plaza are just awesome.”
As the bank sign registered the day’s 78-degree mark, Colette continued her one-woman show with original songs including “Hi-Ho Silver,” and “Stealin’ Horses,” which she explained was something she wrote after misinterpreting lyrics written by Tom Waits. The musician also unveiled a song from her forthcoming record titled “Hey Frankie,” which includes a line about a father reading a story in the newspaper. By request, Colette ended the set with a reprise of her song “Leroy,” which tells the story of “a ridge runner from Wayne County.”
Colette, a native of Olive Hill who now lives in West Virginia, said the open-air shows are enjoyable because the venue provides an opportunity to hear her music “in a more community-oriented setting.”
Melodies and Masterpieces is an annual four-week concert series by the Arts Council of Northeastern Kentucky aimed at bringing music and art to the public. Previous shows for 2012 included performances by Modock Rounders, Rebekah Jean, Ryan Sprinkle, Shelby Lore, Kentucky Memories and Gillgumesh.