Catch Phoebe Hunt in Paducah on July 13.


A friend once told me there are only two kinds of music — good and bad. It's an arbitrary statement requiring each individual consumer to make the ultimate conclusion for thumbs up or down.

No one knowingly spends hard-earned money to see a bad concert, but they must establish a personal value system to determine how much they are willing to pay for the good stuff, or concerts by their favorite performers.

The late Gary Jones of Carterville, who spent more than two decades as the top vocalist in Southern Illinois, said he didn't care how much tickets were for the Eagles 1994 reunion tour, he was going. He forked out $250 for each seat at a St. Louis show and scratched an item off his bucket list.

Premium prices have not changed much. Upcoming St. Louis shows by Florida Georgia Line, Ed Sheeran and Jimmy Buffet had top Stubhub prices of $159, $209 and $190, respectively.

Sometimes, a consumer of live music gets lucky and finds a true bargain.

Scanning a roster of new country artists to watch out for in 2017 compiled by Rolling Stone magazine in May, the name Phoebe Hunt topped the list.

Hunt and her band The Gatherers will be performing at 7 p.m. on July 13 at the Paducah Riverfront Concert series. Savage Radley opens at 6 p.m.

Admission is free.

The series kicked off June 8 with Chris Cavanaugh and continues at 6 p.m. tonight with opening act Marvin and Gentry and headliner The Crane Wives.

An accomplished instrumentalist, Hunt's early work leaned closer to folk, stretched into jazz and swing as she matured artistically, and has morphed into a hybrid mix of Americana bluegrass, in the vein of The Punch Brothers and clawhammer banjo picker Abigail Washburn.

A native of Austin, the live music capital of the world, Hunt released new Popped Corn Records album “Shanti's Shadow” on June 2. It includes recent singles “Pink And Black,” a tune she wrote about a journey through India, and the gender empowering “Lint Haired Gal.” The project tells stories about her life experiences over the past five years.

“That is what American music truly is. It's a melting pot of all these different cultures, inspired by all the places I've been and all the different types of music I've studied,” Hunt says. “It's what America is based upon; the willingness to have an open heart, an open mind and a willingness to learn from everyone. That's the idea of America that we were sold in school, at least, and it's the idea we're clinging to.”

Hunt started taking violin lessons when she was 6 years old. Her musical path started to take shape as a teenager with a four-year stint in the Austin folk trio The Hudsons. She participated in the Mark O'Conner Fiddle Camp in San Diego during her junior year at the University of Texas.

“That dramatically changed the way I perceived music, the way the violin can be incorporated into music,” she said. The camp also taught her about the use of fiddle in bluegrass and Irish music.

After college, she was recruited for The Belleville Outfit, until the New Orleans-based band broke up in 2011. She fled Texas to find more fiddle-friendly music, which led to the bluegrass nirvana of Merlefest, then landed in Nashville.

After releasing a self-titled EP in 2012, she followed up with “Live At The Cactus Cafe” the following year.

Digging through countless YouTube videos, its easy to become infatuated with Hunt's soaring vocals, which are reminiscent of Norah Jones, especially on “One Trick Pony,” performed at a 2015 house concert. It's hard to believe she didn't start singing until she was 20.

While her music has never been labeled country, Hunt can be country to the core. In a 2013 video, she plays a blazing Johnny Gimble-styled fiddle as she covered “Shotgun Willie” at legendary Guene Hall, one of the most famous dance halls in Texas.

In Austin, she grew up in the shadow of Willie Nelson. She can quote text from the Zen master's book “The Tao Of Willie: A Guide To The Happiness In Your Heart.” Her calm demeanor can be attributed to her parents, who spent seven years as disciples of yoga guru Satchidananda Saraswati, the opening speaker of Woodstock in 1969.

A supporter of the protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Hunt is musical director for a series of “Songs For Standing Rock” albums, which include contributions from various guest artists with all funds going toward the establishment of permanent geodesic domes at the Standing Rock Native American Reservation in North Dakota.

Hunt travels with her band The Gatherers, a collection of virtuosos that includes: her husband Dominick Leslie, mandolin; Roy Williams, guitar; Sam Reider, piano/accordian; Nick Falk drums and Jared Engel or Dave Speranza, upright bass.

VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or


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