What to Do Tonight: WPA


History buffs and old-timers know that WPA stands for the Works Progress Administration, the landmark New Deal-era agency that guided public-works construction, social-relief programs and arts projects. It’s this last category that relates most to the band that shares its name. This all-star Americana ensemble began as a partnership between former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips, Nickel Creek guitarist Sean Watkins and session fiddler Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett, Jerry Douglas). But their lovely, self-titled debut also includes Elvis Costello’s rhythm team (bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Pete Thomas), Watkins’ sister and fellow Nickel Creek alum Sara Watkins, ace sideman Greg Leisz and Tom Petty’s keyboard wiz Benmont Tench. Marvelously blending Phillips’ folk-pop with Watkins’ progressive bluegrass, WPA’s music is tradition-bred without being old-timey; melodic without being glossy. The debut’s highlights range from spirited numbers (like “Good As Ever,” “A Wedding or a Wake”) to more introspective pieces (“End This Now,” “Not Sure”). While the touring unit lacks the record’s auxiliary members, the talented founding trio offers a wealth of virtuoso playing and down-home harmonizing as they amble through album tracks, old Toad and Nickel Creek material, and Bob Dylan and Weezer covers. Caravan of Thieves opens the show at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent, 330.677.5005, kentstage.org). Tickets: $18 advance, $20 day of show. — Berick

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