The homepage of his website makes it clear Beau Bledsoe has mastered many styles of music: fado, flamenco, chamber, Turkish, tango. This weekend, Bledsoe will add a few more styles to his diverse menu.
Friday night, Bledsoe will be one of four musicians to perform in a duet with songwriter and folk harpist Calvin Arsenia as part of Arsenia’s two-day Catastrophe Unplugged shows. Arsenia, Bledsoe said, is a unique songwriter and performer whose music poses just the kind of challenges he’s looking for.
“Describe his music? It’s his own thing,” he said. “He has such a unique voice I hesitate to say he sounds like anyone. He’s super-unique.”
Bledsoe and Arsenia met at an Artist Inc. function two years ago and then got better acquainted, musically and personally, during the Folk Alliance here in February.
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At 7 p.m. Friday, Bledsoe will perform the first of four sets at the Outburst Performance Gallery, 1715 Wyandotte. At 9 p.m., Arsenia will perform another set with Fritz Hutchinson. On Saturday at Outburst, Arsenia will perform sets at the same time with Mark Southerland and Seth M. Jones.
“Two years had passed and I still hadn’t shared the stage with this incredible man, friend, and musician,” Arsenia said of Bledsoe. “When I thought of who I wanted to flavor a version of (my) music, Beau was on the top of my list.”
Before their first rehearsal, Bledsoe said, “I really don’t know what to expect. I think it’s being kept fairly open.” Later that week, he posted on Facebook: “I had an amazing rehearsal with Calvin … What an unbelievably gifted artist.”
“There’s a certain expectation with solo musicians to show up with their instrument, ready and inspired to wow their audiences,” Arsenia said. “Sometimes it’s really difficult to present music in a way that is honest and compelling. I’ve found that I feel most alive when I share the stage with musicians and artists who are full of zest and zeal, and can confidently articulate their messages on stage.”
Bledsoe will accompany Arsenia on the Portugese guitar, the Flamenco guitar and the Turkish oud.
“(Arsenia) can improvise really well,” Bledsoe said. “He has the classical background and he really understands form. He’s an extremely strong artist. He has unbelievable vocal chops an virtuosity on his instrument. He’s just a fantastic performer.”
A few blocks away from Arsenia on Saturday night, Bledsoe will change guitars and styles during a performance at the MTH Theater at Crown Center as part of the Fool’s Gold Country Revue. The show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is sold out. Bledsoe said his interest in certain eras of country music was revived over the past few years.
“I’m middle-aged now, and I find myself liking the music my grandma liked and I grew up with that I used to absolutely hate,” he said. “Now I think it’s the coolest thing ever.”
The Folk Alliance International again played a role in stoking his interest.
“After each Folk Alliance, I come out the other end with a weird surprise,” he said. “After seeing Red Volkaert and Bill Kirchen, I went out and bought a Telecaster. I’ve been playing it for about a year. That’s kind of how the interest started. That and I hang out with Randy Wolf a lot. I go over there and drink and listen to old country records.”
The idea for the revue arose when Bledsoe was working on a project of his own, Ensemble Ibérica, with Betse Ellis and Clarke Wyatt, who are the old-time country duet Betse & Clarke.
“The theater model of Ensemble Ibérica was working really well and I wanted to try one that is sort of a revue of music that was Appalachian/Ozark up to about Bakersfield,” he said.
“The idea was to ask people to pay $25 to see a kind of pastiche variety show, kind of like the Grand Ole Opry, where there’s no real rhyme or reason to the programming and there’s a variety of sizes of groups and there’s some talking in between.”
The revue band will comprise 11 musicians: Bledsoe, Ellis, Wyatt, Marco Pascolini, Slim Hanson, Brett Hodges, Lauren Krum, T.J. Klein, Michael McClintock, John Currey and Alex Mallet.
“The most fun things have been working with the vintage gear, hanging out with Marco Pascolini a lot, messing around with old tube amps, changing out pickups,” Bledsoe said. “And I’ve really enjoyed singing, which is something I haven’t really done since I was a kid.”
For Bledsoe, the show provides an opportunity to explore music that is both new to him, as a performer, but deeply familiar, as well.
“My whole career I’ve always kind of looked on the other side of the fence, looking at music that is far, far away,” he said. “This is the first time since I was a child that I’m playing music that’s where I’m from — I’m from Arkansas — singing in my own language. I know what every song means, and I get all the metaphors.”
Beau Bledsoe will perform with Calvin Arsenia at 7 p.m. Friday at the Outburst Performance Gallery, 1715 Wyandotte. Arsenia will also perform with Fritz Hutchinson at 9 p.m. Friday at the gallery. Saturday night, Arsenia will perform at 7 p.m. with Mark Southerland and at 9 p.m. with Seth M. Jones. $15. theoutburstkc.com
Also Saturday, Bledsoe will perform at 7:30 p.m. with the Fool’s Gold Country Revue at the MTH Theater in Crown Center. The show is sold out. musicaltheaterheritage.com