Bettye LaVette, Loudon Wainwright III, and Choir! Choir! Choir! are among the highlights.
The Stoughton Opera House’s upcoming fall-through-spring schedule will feature shows from R&B veteran Bettye LaVette (Oct. 19), jazz guitarist Julian Lage (Oct. 4), and a whole lot of repeat visitors.
The ornate yet compact 475-capacity venue, on the top floors of Stoughton’s City Hall building, has carved out a special place for itself in Madison’s live music offerings, especially over the past decade or so. While it’s not affiliated with any big concert promoters or large venues—the City of Stoughton and a local non-profit support it—the Opera House can pull in surprisingly big names. Robyn Hitchcock is slated to play his second show at the venue next April, for instance, and folk torchbearer Dom Flemons, performing there on Oct. 25, has previously played the Opera House with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The sometimes tender and often smart-assed Loudon Wainwright III (Nov. 1) came through a couple years back on a joint tour with Richard Thompson. The opera house also sells out a lot of shows, thanks to an enthusiastic audience that’s partially Stoughton residents and partially Madisonians who make the drive.
The venue has always placed a lot of emphasis on country and bluegrass and singer-songwriter fare, but tends to pull in at least a couple of surprises each year, and over time it’s built up a distinctive stable of usual suspects. The upcoming season will include perennial visitors like the great Duluth blues artist Charlie Parr (Oct. 27) and author Michael Perry, who plays with his band The Long Beds on December 8 and performs his monologue “Writing From The Middle Of Nowhere” on March 21. Other familiar but welcome Opera House acts returning include country artists Junior Brown (Sept. 8) and Marty Stuart (March 2, two shows). On the other hand, Toronto’s interactive and pop-focused Choir! Choir! Choir! (Oct. 11) isn’t a typical Opera House act but should work well in the resonant, intimate space.
Anyways, LaVette does seem to be the most exciting new face on the Opera House roster this year. The Detroit native has been through an astonishing series of ups and downs since getting her start with the 1962 hit “My Man, He’s A Loving Man.” The current, justly successful and celebrated phase of her career has been a string of albums that interpret songs from across the folk, country, and rock canon, with a voice that’s versatile, gritty, warm, and spacious. This year’s Things Have Changed focuses on Bob Dylan songs, and mostly lesser-known ones. She does tackle “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” but the greater rewards here are in the jilted humor of “Seeing The Real You At Last” and a heavy, husky performance on “Emotionally Yours.”
You can browse the full Stoughton Opera House season now. Every so often the Opera House will book some shows that aren’t included in the initial season announcement, and to keep up with those I recommend following the venue’s Facebook page.