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Your weekend arts forecast: Isbell, Skaggs and Trucks

Bill DeYoung



Jason Isbell is one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriter/guitarists in the country today. Publicity photo.

The level of musicianship in our midst this weekend is staggering. There are top-drawer concerts in St. Pete and Tampa, spanning a variety of genres, be assured, but there’s just something extraordinary about the next couple of nights at Ruth Eckerd Hall, up in Clearwater.

Friday brings singer and guitarist extraordinaire Jason Isbell and his longtime band, the 400 Unit. A former key player with Drive-By Truckers, this Alabamian has evolved into one of the most literate and compelling songwriters in that wide world of contemporary music called, by those who need labels, Americana. Some call it southern rock. Or country rock. Or just rock ‘n’ roll.

Isbell, with the albums Southeastern, Something More Than Free and Reunions has brought something more than most to the table. “Jason has become one of the best writers in the country,” David Crosby said to the New York Times. “And my idea of really good writers is Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan. His singing is emotional. It’s honest. He’s really trying to tell you the story.” Tickets.

A titan of bluegrass, singer and mandolinist Ricky Skaggs, is at the Capitol Theatre (Ruth Eckerd’s sister venue, in downtown Clearwater) tonight (Thursday, Feb. 19) with his longtime band Kentucky Thunder. The International Bluegrass Association named Kentucky Thunder Instrumental Group of the Year eight nearly-consecutive years. Tickets.

On Saturday, Florida’s own Derek Trucks, the heir to the Duane Allman throne of stellar electric slide guitar playing, is at Ruth Eckerd as one-half of the centerpiece of the Jacksonville-based Tedeschi Trucks Band (the other is Trucks’ wife, the brilliant, bluesy singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi).

Tedeschi Trucks – which, for some reason, returns to Ruth Eckerd Jan. 25 for a second concert – is a blues/rock powerhouse with 10 brilliant-in-their-own-right players behind Derek and Susan. Tickets.


And still more

Tonight, folk legend Tom Chapin – Harry’s younger brother, and himself quite the formidable singer/songwriter – plays the Attic at Rock Brothers Brewing (Tampa). Tickets.

Philadelphia rock ‘n’ soul vocalist John Oates, of Daryl Hall and, is touring with Nashville session guitarist Guthrie Trapp, and there’s a stop tonight at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete. Tickets.

Venezuelan singer, songwriter and classical guitarist Jessy LeRos – aka LEROS – plays Saturday at 7 p.m. at freeFall Theatre. Tickets.

The Safety Harbor Art & Music Center has blues singer Bobby Rush (with Tampa guitarist Selwyn Birchwood) tonight; folk music legend Alice Howe plays the venue Friday, accompanied by legendary rock ‘n’ blues bassist Freebo. All tickets.

Justin Hayward, longtime lead singer for Britain’s Moody Blues, returns to the Capitol Theatre for his annual solo appearance Sunday. Tickets


The orchestra, too

Florida Orchestra violinist Nancy Chang. TFO photo.

No shortage of phenomenal players in The Florida Orchestra. Associate concertmaster Nancy Chang solos on Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, part of the program for this weekend’s concerts. Ankush Kumar Bahl conducts the Mozart, plus Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (aka Symphony No. 6) and Jessie Montgomery’s tone poem Records from a Vanishing City. Saturday 8 p.m., Mahaffey Theater; Sunday 2 p.m. Straz Center Ferguson Hall. All tickets are here.


Funny business

Standup comedian Kathleen Madigan (we spoke with her a year ago) returns to the Mahaffey Theater Friday. Tickets.

Comedians Caroline Rhea (we spoke with her last week), Eddie Brill and Nick Griffin – all stalwarts of the late-night shows – share Saturday’s bill at the Palladium Theater. Tickets.



That step dancing juggernaut Riverdance has been at Ruth Eckerd Hall since Tuesday, but tonight’s is the final performance. Tickets.

Well, there were plenty of chances to see the national tour of Hamilton at the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall. The show’s been playing for a month, and it continues, but Sunday’s 2 p.m. matinee is the end of the line. Tickets.

LAB Laughs. Photo provided.

LAB Laughs, a collection of six short comics plays at LAB Theater Project in Ybor City, is onstage tonight through Sunday. The cast: Ricardo Fernandez, Zack Finley, John Hooper, Taylor Hendershot, Rachel Stidham, Chloe Baker and Maurice Parker. Tickets.

ThinkTank, the Tampa based theater for young audiences, has been drawing raves for its current production, The Wolves (learn all about it here). The show ends with Sunday’s 3 p.m. matinee.

Gulfport’s Dottie Hershman wrote and stars in Roshin’s Wake, a one-woman play about a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, tonight through Saturday at thestudio@620. Here’s our story from earlier in the week.

There’s heady stuff on both sides of the bay, as American Stage (in St. Pete) continues with Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart (info here), and Jobsite Theatre (in Tampa) is well into its adaptation of Hamlet, by some guy named Shakespeare (info here).

Your weekend arts forecast appears every Thursday in the Catalyst

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