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Monday, April 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Folk psychologist


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Lucy Kaplansky
Saturday Oct. 21, High Noon Saloon, 7 p.m.

If you, like me, are tired of the same old, same old with your singer-songwriter-clinical psychologist-theoretical-mathematician-scions, have I got a show for you.

I'm speaking of Lucy Kaplansky. Never heard of her? You've heard her. Her intoxicatingly rich suede harmonies (with obligatory twang) have improved many a Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, John Gorka or Nanci Griffith song.

Her solo work is less known outside of hardcore country-folk circles. But why? What makes some musicians successful, inspiring millions, while other talented types are relatively ignored? I don't know, but I'm sure a good psychologist like, say, Lucy Kaplansky could answer the question.

Thirty years ago, as she, Colvin, Vega and others in the Greenwich Village folk scene were attracting national attention, Kaplansky left to pursue her Ph.D. in psychology. Then, 15 years later, she gave that up to go back to music.

In the decade or so since, she's produced a hauntingly moving body of work, the best of which (2001's Every Single Day is splendid) outnumber any that succumb to the genre-typical threat of boringness.

Speaking of numbers, her father is Irving Kaplansky, whom all you fans of Ring Theory (the study of how an abalian group and binary operation form a multiplicative identity) know to be an esteemed scholar. But he's also a composer whose math-driven tonal pieces certainly influence Lucy's clever songs. She sometimes performs his 'Song About Pi,' in which pi's decimal places are assigned various notes with delightful (trust me) results.

So come for the pretty music. But stay for the nerdy math and the faint possibility that this could all be a psychological experiment that will leave you drooling like Pavlov's dog.

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
Tuesday Oct. 24, Annex, 8 p.m.

Hey, look! Paul Simon let Edie Brickell out of the Phantom Zone to do some touring. Together with at least a few of the old New Bohemians she released the surprisingly good Stranger Things album this summer ' though not good enough to wipe out that 'what I am is what I am are you what you are or what' song, the very mention of which will lodge it in your brain for the rest of the day.

Still, Stranger Things has enough jammily fun songs (the titular cut really stands out) without cheap catchy hooks to be worth a listen. But is it worth a ticket? If you're still reading: Sure.

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