There is hardly a less appropriate place to listen to that quintessential country music sound known as bluegrass than the Barbican. But once the centre had embarked upon the ambitious "Inventing America" project that will take up much of this year there was no leaving it out - for nothing quite conjures up visions of the backwoods like duelling banjos, guitars, fiddles and mandolins. What jazz does for New Orleans and blues for Mississippi and Chicago, bluegrass does for the often impoverished hill country of such states as North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Though it is well over half a century since Bill Monroe put some form on the Appalachian hill country music with which he and many other instrumentalists had grown up, the "high lonesome sound" is not confined to the archives. Elvis, of course, recorded Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky", while two of Monroe's former sidemen, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, made names for themselves supplying music for the TV series "The Beverley Hillbillies" and the film "Bonnie and Clyde". More recently, sweet- voiced fiddler Alison Krauss has become just the latest in a string of bluegrass artists to cross over to mainstream success. And the style just keeps on evolving.
Tonight though, is largely about tradition. Banjo player J.D. Crowe, who carries on the torch lit by the likes of Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, performs in London for the first time, heading the bill with his band The New South. Joining them will be Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen, another outfit that in the 1950s helped develop the style pioneered by Monroe, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band - a combination of veterans and empathetic newcomers that this Easter weekend provides a reminder of bluegrass's gospel connections. Roger Trapp
The first five London Eye readers to call the box-office today on 0171- 638 8891 will win a pair of tickets for tonight's concert at 7.30pm
Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2. FreeStage music, workshops, stalls and masterclasses from 1pm today. Concert 7.30pm tonight
Chapel of Karaoke
Join the congregation at the ICA tonight where Sonnie Mann (above), the man who claims to have received a message directly from God and dedicated his life to karaoke, promises to transform the ICA theatre into a visual and vocal crucible of "entertainment art". The Saturday Night Service seeks to release the karoake singer that apparently lives deep within all of us, transporting the audience to the "heavenly climes" of country and western, Las Vegas showtunes and the cheesiest disco releases.
Did I hear you say you were a bit of a Tom Jones on the quiet. Let's hear it for "Delilah"!
ICA, The Mall, London SW1 (0171-93-3647) 8pm
"Dummy" is not really the right word to describe ventriloquist David Strassman's offensive sidekick. Chuck Wood packs a considerable amount of fast-talking and wisecracking into his 2ft wooden frame, and is about as far removed from Roger De Courcy's Nookie Bear as you could possibly imagine. Oh, and he's funny.
From Monday, Strassman and Wood embark upon a national tour, which includes a week-long run at London's Bloomsbury Theatre (28 Apr to 2 May).
And the new show promises to be the best yet, thanks to Ritch Shydner, who has taken a break from writing for Seinfeld and Roseanne to put words into the mouth of Chuck Wood himself.
Croydon Fairfield Halls (0181-688 9291) Mon, then touring nationallyReuse content