Courtesy the Hillbenders

The HillBenders
'Tommy: A Bluegrass Opera

The HillBenders’ bluegrass version of "Tommy" has no real precedent. Other acts have done new versions of classic albums; the Flaming Lips’ recording of "Dark Side of the Moon" springs to mind. But the Hillbenders, an acoustic five-piece from Springfield, Missouri, aren’t attempting to reinvent the Who’s classic album in the way the Lips did Pink Floyd’s classic.

Michael Wilson /

Singer-songwriter Jeff Black emerged from the same Kansas City open mic scene that produced Iris Dement in the 1990s. The subject of this week’s Local Listen continues to craft sturdy songs from his base in Nashville.

Members of the rock band Wilco accompanied Black on the title track of his 1998 debut album, "Birmingham Road," a gritty song that evokes the industrial thoroughfare in North Kansas City.

Jeff Black performs at Knuckleheads at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

Tech N9ne
“Special Effects” (Strange Music)

Cultural, racial and musical barriers crumbled when the Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne performed for tens of thousands of hard rock fans at Rockfest on May 30.

Danny Clinch Sacks And Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
Skeleton Crew (Glassnote)

The AM Trio / Facebook

The young pianist, songwriter and bandleader Alyssa Murray is another noteworthy alumnus of Bobby Watson’s Jazz Studies program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She and her band, The AM Trio, have a stated mission of "combining jazz with the narrative elements of contemporary folk."

This week’s edition of Local Listen features “In the Evening,” a track from The AM Trio’s new EP “As of Now.”

The AM Trio will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, July 3, at Take Five Coffee + Bar.  The Blue Room will host the ensemble at 7 p.m. Monday, July 6.

Courtesy Dominique Sanders

Dominique Sanders
"A True Story Based On..." (Innate Sounds, 2015)

The people who hear Dominique Sanders perform tasteful jazz at venues throughout Kansas City have little reason to suspect the bassist is an active participant in a sonic revolution. But Sanders’ audaciously ambitious new album, “A True Story Based On…” reveals that mainstream jazz is merely a portion of his musical interests. The sprawling project includes cosmic funk, freaky jazz fusion, sultry neo-soul, hip-hop beats and jarring bursts of ambient noise.

Local Listen: Sara Morgan

Jun 19, 2015

The June release of her six-song EP “Easy to Dream” is likely to make Sara Morgan one of Kansas City’s most popular singer-songwriters. This week’s edition of Local Listen features the country-tinged title track of “Easy to Dream.”

Sara Morgan opens the main stage of the Boulevardia festival in the West Bottoms at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 21.

Courtesy of KC Bass Workshop

That low, rhythmic pulse you’ll hear in the next few days? That's Kansas City enjoying its time as center of the bass-playing universe.

Music Review: Kasey Rausch's 'Guitar In Hand'

Jun 16, 2015
Paul Andrews Photography

Kasey Rausch
"Guitar in Hand" (MudStomp Records, 2014)

Foreshadowing the wild horse ride that closes the record, guitars and mandolin whicker and stir before engineer Rob Nold announces, “I’m rolling.”

That’s when Kasey Rausch’s newest album takes off. Upright bass pushes rock 'n' roll-flavored bluegrass on the opener. Fiddler Molly Healey yearns around the edges, but by the second song she’s engaged in a spirited breakdown.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The 2nd Annual American Jazz Walk of Fame honored six jazz musicians with medallions on the sidewalk in front of the Gem Theater off 18th and Vine in Kansas City Saturday.

Jazz figures like Coleman Hawkins, Myra Taylor and Lester Young were honored posthumously, but longtime Kansas City jazz-organist Everette DeVan was there in person to receive the honor.

Paul Andrews

Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys
"Long Shot of Hard Stuff" (Little Class Records, 2015)

Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys' first album in a decade, "Long Shot of Hard Stuff," is a serious and fun, and seriously funny, record from a band that started out presenting itself as something of a joke. Blatant partial stage names adopted for each band member signaled from the get-go that these retro honky-tonkers were playacting. The Misery Boys would kick things off at late 1990s club dates with their front man still offstage, the better to introduce him to musical fanfare: “Rex! Hobart!” It was a cute conceit: This guy we’d never heard of was a country and western legend; we were his groupies. But it didn’t really work. As performance art, the band didn’t possess the chops yet to pull it off. For anyone not in on the joke, it hardly registered at all.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A nice, shady front porch can be a great place to swap stories or share songs. And the community event called PorchFest continues this relationship — by pairing musicians with neighborhood porches.

The first PorchFest took place about 8 years ago in Ithaca, New York. It's spread to nearly 30 cities, including the West Plaza neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, where visitors are encouraged to park their cars and follow their ears.

Matching musicians with the right porch

The Arts & Culture team at KCUR is now reviewing records by musicians and bands in the region. We believe more critical conversations can broaden and deepen our community's understanding of our area's musicians and their work.

Kate Reeder

A song recorded in a hotel room at the Westin during this year’s Folk Alliance International Conference is now raising money for a cause, and the musicians who championed the project are back in Kansas City for a show this week.

Local Listen: Cadillac Flambé

May 21, 2015

  Cadillac Flambé is one of the acts slated to perform on one of six stages at the Westport Roots Festival this Saturday. The Kansas City ensemble is a battle-tested blues-rock band. This week’s edition of Local Listen features the seething title track of Cadillac Flambé’s 2014 album “Old American Law.”

The Westport Roots Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 23 - 24.   

As the second Folk Alliance International conference kicked off in Kansas City in February, Central Standard explored the question: “What is folk music today?” 

Local Listen: Behzod Abduraimov

May 13, 2015
Behzod Abdurainov

Although he’s lived in Kansas City for seven years, Behzod Abduraimov will make his Kansas City solo recital debut on Friday at the Folly Theater. The 24-year-old pianist is the artist-in-residence at Park University's International Center for Music.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features a portion of Abduraimov’s rendition of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6, a piece that will be included in his performance at the Folly Theater.

Local Listen: Julian Vaughn

May 6, 2015

Julian Vaughn is among the Kansas City-based jazz musicians better known internationally than in their hometown. A few of the bassist’s recordings are mainstays on contemporary jazz playlists.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features “Initiate,” a track from Vaughn’s new album “Limitless.”

To hear more, check out the Gem Theater this Friday, where Vaughn will celebrate the release of “Limitless.”

Mat Shoare  is a fixture on the area’s indie-rock scene. He recently released “Right as Rain,” a collection of melodic power-pop songs with gloomy undercurrents.  

  This week’s edition of Local Listen features the album’s opening track which plays as a sardonic fantasy about committing a heinous act.  Here is “Murder”.      To hear more, Mat Shoare will perform at the RecordBar on Friday, May 1. 

Local Listen: La Guerre

Apr 24, 2015
La Guerre / Facebook

More than 120 acts are performing Ink’s Middle of the Map Festival this week, and La Guerre is one of them. The solo project of Lawrence-based Katlyn Conroy, La Guerre specializes in intimate indie-rock.

This week’s edition of Local Listen features La Guerre’s muted “Lover’s Sway.” La Guerre will appear at the Record Bar at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, April 25.

Charvex / Wikimedia -- CC

Every Kansas Citian has a list of out-of-towner attractions — barbecue, the Nelson-Atkins, a stroll through the Plaza. But we have been wondering: what should Kansas Citians be putting on our own to-do list? What hidden gems are right next to us that we need to see (or do) at least once?

We asked you to give us your suggestions, and we got a ton of them!

Here we present the incomplete "Kansas Citian bucket list" — a list of things every person in Kansas City should do at least once. Feel free to add additional items in the comments.

  New York based drummer Matt Kane returned to Kansas City last year to record compositions by Ahmad Alaadeen, Pat Metheny and Bobby Watson. The resulting album, Acknowledgement, features the Kansas City Generations Sextet, an ensemble of local luminaries including local saxophonist Steve Lambert and trumpeter Hermon Mehari. This week’s Local Listen is a sensitive rendition of Metheny’s “Question and Answer”.

Matt Kane reunites with members of the band Friday and Saturday, April 24-25, at the Green Lady Lounge to celebrate the release of "Acknowledgement".

Jake Jacobson

Louis Meyers has heard a lot of music.

He's a banjo player. He’s also one of the co-founders of Austin’s South By Southwest music, film and tech festival, and he spent ten years as director of Folk Alliance International – he was the one responsible for moving the organization and its annual conference to Kansas City. But there’s one record he’s heard only in his imagination: a bluegrass version of The Who's classic rock opera "Tommy."

Danny Clinch / Sacks And Co.

One of the most intriguing musical acts in Kansas City these days is a duo whom most musicians and fans here had never heard of until about a year ago.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear — who is actually Madisen’s mom, Ruth Ward — started performing together off and on about six years ago in coffeehouses in Independence, Blue Springs and Overland Park. They played a lot of covers—Tracey Chapman, Adele, Fleetwood Mac — until Madisen started experimenting with songwriting and found he was getting a great reaction to his original songs.

Todd Zimmer


The bold rock and brash stage presence of Kangaroo Knife Fight is better suited to cavernous concert halls than the humble taverns where this Kansas City band most often performs.  This week’s edition of Local Listen features “It’s You,” an arena-ready burst of melodic rock.   

Catch them live at Danny's in Lenexa on Saturday, April 11.