Got the Cure
by Laura Dobbins
happens to most of us on Sunday nightsthat post-weekend,
pre-work week malaise starts creeping in. The feeling
is hard to fight, but on a recent balmy spring evening,
I was able to quell my impending despair. With all the
perversity of paradox, listening to the raucous, gritty
wailing and upbeat blues of Kerry Kearney and his Long
Island-based 4-member band at Chicago B.L.U.E.S. in New
York City was a perfect cure.
Its hard to go wrong at Chicago B.L.U.E.S., one
of the premier places to hear classic and up-and-coming
blues in Manhattan. Its got all the requisite blues-bar
fixtures: beer-washed floors, stale cigs, and a dark interior
with a back-lit bar. Not surprisingly, there were a fair
number of people there with me, trying to keep the weekend
going with some live music.
opened with "Girl from Memphis," the first track
from his new self-titled album. Its a shy swagger
of a song whose frequent refrain "I got a girl from
Memphis" makes you smile at this guys boyish
happinessand maybe wish you were from Memphis too.
He moved on to "Long Way from Home," a countryish
tune that inspires an internal "Yee-ha!" Luckily
Kearney let loose with one at the end, so we all got release
from the pent-up country yells that were barely restrained
during the bands energetic playing. Frank
Celenza executed a potent upright bass solo on his electric
bass, the likes of which Ive rarely heardAs
if Dylan were introducing electricity to the folk scene
for the first time, except in reverse.
Kearneys got a classic blues voice, graveled with
closed-off nasal passagesall the oomph comes from
his throat and sinus cavities, which thankfully must be
considerable. But Kearneys melodic singing takes
second stage to his extraordinary dexterity on the dobro
and guitar. How could those thick, almost pudgy, fingers
with the squared-off tips continuously find and execute
16th and even 32nd notes with ease and so on target? Somehow
they always did.
One of my beefs with blues musicians are the long, over-wrought,
ritualistic solos they insist each member take in every
songit becomes an embarrassing masturbatory exercise
that forgets that the music they are creating is a shared
experience with the audience. Kearneys band gave
us plenty of pleasurable, heart-felt solos, but I never
had to avert my eyes or think, "Will you get on with
it already?" They stayed true to the blues tradition,
but kept a pop sensibility.
Worth mentioning is Kearneys rendition of Chuck
Berrys "Roll Over Beethoven," which starts
with the opening bars of Ricki Lee Joness "Chuck
E.s in Love" and keeps that galloping sound
going beneath it. Add to that a growling harmonica, and
its a whole new way to look at this classic song.
Its as if he distills the blues out of the rock
n roll version so we can all see where rock came
The night continued with classic blues sounds perked up
with zydeco and country guitar licks. If it werent
Giuliani New York (i.e. antidance New York), people would
have been kicking up their heels, twirling their partners,
and letting loose. But maybe toe-tapping was enoughMonday
morning was, afterall, coming.