Comedienne in her element
Ellen DeGeneres stars in her fourth cable variety/comedy special on TBS, "Ellen's Somewhat Special Special," featuring music and magic as well as her own slyly gentle comic routines. Acts include: Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum; top Australian magician James Galea; The Catwalk Acrobats; and the Japanese group Kabuki Expert, appearing in the United States for the first time to perform the viral-video sensation Matrix Ping Pong. The show tapes live at a Chicago comedy festival June 16 and will air on TBS June 27 at 9 p.m.
Everyone in Nashville knows the go-to guy for impeccable harmony vocals and tasteful guitar stylings is Jim Lauderdale. The cosmopolitan country singer and songwriter is a linchpin for ballyhooed albums by Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, and countless others, but his own albums are where the real gold lies. "Patchwork River" (Thirty Tigers), a collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, features Lauderdale's strengths – soul-drenched vocals, steely guitar riffs, and even a detour into Memphis R&B.
Guitar lovers take note: Rock icon Eric Clapton returns with the third Crossroads Guitar Festival, a one-day blowout event June 26 being held this year in Chicago that will live on as a subsequent DVD. The legendary musician taps the top talent across all genres to join him onstage, from R&B to jazz rock and blues with such headliners as the Allman Brothers Band, B.B. King, and John Mayer. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster. All proceeds go to the Crossroads Center in Antigua, a facility for chemical-dependence treatment.
A lawyer's life
Civil rights lawyer William Kunstler may be one of the mid-20th century's most iconic legal names. He gained fame from his role in events that rocked the country, from the uprising at New York's Attica Prison to the Indian takeover at Wounded Knee, S.D. But he was also a father. His two daughters have made a film, "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe," an attempt to both frame a family story and capture a larger legacy. Tune in to the PBS "POV" film series on June 22 at 10 p.m.
Free books for the young and bookish
Barnes & Noble's summer reading program entices kids to read by offering a free book once they have finished eight on their own.
Otis Redding's legend is on full display on "Live on the Sunset Strip" (Concord/Stax), a special two-CD set documenting the singer's three live shows from 1966 at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. Only 24 years old, Redding is just coming into his own and he doesn't take his star power for granted. Covers of "Satisfaction" and "A Hard Day's Night" become exercises in ecstatic soul deliverance, and in these performances you can hear the blueprint of future showmen like Prince who owe a serious debt to nights like these.