Christmas weekend finds a quieter local music scene than previous December weekends, with a Nashville singer-songwriter, a Texas bluegrass trio and a multi-performer night the highlights for country music fans.
The weekend offers local followers of Nashville country singer-songwriter Kristen Kelly another chance to see the Lorena native perform for the home folks.
Kelly, whose sister Kimberly also is a country singer-songwriter, will play a solo show at 8 p.m. Friday at Bull Hide Creek Sports Tavern, 7589 Golinda Drive in Golinda. In addition to the live music, the evening will feature a catered taco bar and full bar service.
“It’s my last hometown show of the year. It’s always fun to come back and play for the hometown,” she said in a phone interview earlier this week.
Kelly returns to Central Texas a month after her latest single release, “Smoke,” which had a double tribute to her parents: Its release date of Nov. 10 fell on her mother Cindy Laughlin’s birthday and the image of a cigarette-filled ashtray that accompanied “Smoke” was the ashtray of her father Danny Kelly, who died last January.
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“Both parents were super, super supportive, encouraging my sister and I both to keep writing and playing shows,” she said.
These days, Kelly finds herself drawing from her early days as a performer with local rock cover band Big Dave and the Freaks and, working with co-writer Bridgette Tatum (“She’s Country”), has been blending rootsy rock with country.
Kelly’s most recent release, her first project in six years, is a two-part EP, “Something Worth Saying,” whose second part arrived early last year. Kelly, tabbed as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, also has opened for such Nashville stars as Brad Paisley, Montgomery Gentry, Rascal Flatts and Gary Allan.
The year ahead will find Kelly releasing more new music, playing solo gigs and moving into podcasting with “Something Worth Saying,” adapted from the monthly songwriters’ round she’s hosted in Nashville. She’ll take that podcast on the road, in a “Nashville writers’ round-style show coming to a city near you,” she said.
Cold may send the music inside at the debut of the McGregor Country Christmas festival Thursday and Friday when bluegrass band the Purple Hulls is scheduled to play.
The Hulls, anchored by twins Katy Lou Clark and Penny Lea Clark Gimble, with bassist Sarah Birkeland rounding out the trio will perform at 6 p.m. Thursday and 7:15 p.m. Friday on the festival’s outdoor stage.
The Clarks grew up in a musical farming family near Kilgore — yes, their name comes from the purple hull peas the family grew — and took their talents to Nashville after graduating from South Plains College in Levelland, where they studied music and played basketball. For five years, they did studio recordings, worked for the Grand Ole Opry and wrote songs for the Sony/ATV music publishing company. They returned to their family farm in Texas about 12 years ago and continue to perform. Penny Lea Clark married McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble earlier this year.
It’s not a goodbye that Axtell country musician Michael Saldana will make with six friends at The Backyard on Friday, but more like a — well, the informal title says it best: “Slow Down Saldana.”
Saldana, a frequent performer at area bars, clubs and other live music venues, is cutting back on performing next year to try and heal his vocal nodes.
“Singing five nights a week, sometimes four hours a night — I pushed it too hard,” he admitted recently. Told by a doctor to slow down or risk permanent damage to his voice, he’s opting for the former after 16 years as a performer.
He’s got six musical friends lined up to perform at Friday’s “Slow Down” show. In light of the low temperatures forecast for Friday night, the event will be inside rather than on The Backyard’s outdoor stage. “I’m not going to torture my friends,” he laughed.
Planning to play are Chris Low, Larissa Boyd, Lauren January, J.C. Pringle, Towne Adams and Lucas Jones.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with the music starting at around 7 p.m. Each of those performing will have solo time onstage, but it’s more like an open jam, and other musicians are encouraged to show up with their guitars.
“It’s one big blowout with all my friends,” Saldana said. “We’re playing for fun.”