Eddie Kirkland & His Energy Band
@ The Fine Line Music Cafe, April 6, 1996

The evening started out on a nice note with an opening set by The Dust Bowl Blues Band doing an hour of traditional acoustic blues done in a jazzy, swing style. The band consists of drums, stand up bass (although the bass player was sitting down) and two fine acoustic guitar players who traded vocals with one also playing harp. It was at this point that I spotted Eddie Kirkland out among the audience listening to and appreciating the opening band. I had a chance to talk to him briefly at this time and found out he almost didn't make it into town from Detroit. It turns out he just finished putting in a new transmission in his car. He did all the work himself. He commented that the blues doesn't always pay a lot of money but it really wasn't that important to him, it does pay his way and besides, he loves what he is doing -- playing the blues.

It's a real treat to be able to see and hear a great bluesman perform and Eddie Kirkland was no exception. After listening to his live CD "Some Like It Raw" (Deluge Records, 1993) I was looking forward to seeing him in person. I was also told he was a pretty flashy dresser so I was prepared for a great show. And he didn't disappoint me or the packed audience at the Fine Line. Eddie Kirkland, like so many other blues singers, puts on an outstanding performance.

His touring band opened the first set with three rockin' blues numbers before introducing Eddie Kirkland as the "gypsy of the blues", which was appropriate considering that Kirkland has spent his entire life traveling around the country. Born in Jamaica he moved to the southern U.S. as a child and ran away from home at the age of 12 to join a circus (actually it was the Sugar Girls Medicine Show). When he was discovered hiding in one of the tent trucks the performers wanted to know where he was from and what they were going to do with him. He said he wanted a job. When asked what he could do, he got up and began playing his harmonica and dancing. He got the job, and has spent the many years since then on the road living in Indiana, Ohio, New Orleans and Detroit among other places.

He opened his set with the Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman) classic "Every Day I Have The Blues" and then talked about his early days playing rhythm and blues with the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and John Lee Hooker. He then said he wanted everyone in the audience to have a good time and "let's party tonight". And that's what we all did for the next two and a half hours. The first set lasted over 70 minutes with 12 high energy songs featuring Eddie singing and trading off guitar licks with his lead guitar player. The Energy Band consists of Mike on guitar, Andy on drums and John Sefner on bass. The band's name, The Energy Band, was very appropriate. In fact, they could have been called "The Turbo Charged Energy Band" because they were on high octane and in overdrive the entire night. It wasn't until about 45 minutes into the first set before we heard a moderately paced song. A highlight during this first set was some fine twin guitar playing done by Eddie and Mike (reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Band).

Just when we thought we knew what to expect, the second set surprised us by opening with a guest spot on the first two numbers by a friend playing trombone. When Eddie came on he opened with a wonderful harmonica number and continued on harp for the next 7 songs before he even picked up his guitar. The audience was just blown away! But he just didn't play lead guitar at this point, he proceeded to pull out his slide and did a very long rendition of "Rock Me Baby". He continued on slide guitar until the last 2 songs of the night finishing out with a blazing guitar solo that was a special treat for the ample audience that stayed 'till the end of the show at ten after one. Eddie and his band were then off to their next show in Winnipeg but we were left with some very fine memories and hopes of having him return to the Twin Cities soon.

Seeing Eddie Kirkland perform was a real treat, and being able to show our support and appreciation to the fine local blues talent and the national blues performers that come to the Twin Cities is one of life's musical pleasures.

Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved. All reviews are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.