Rockfish Willie Sessions
Richmond, VA...Playing solo or with Rockfish Willie, his three-piece acoustic americana combo, singer/guitarist Kurt Stemhagen has been honing his skills and entertaining for over a decade with an earnest yet stylized folk/pop feel. When Rockfish Willie gets together, guitarist Knox Hubard adds a distinctive brand of country/rock twang with his guitar licks while Patrick Hanes (mandolin and harmonica) rounds out the sound with old-timey, bluesy and at times, jam-bandish accents. All three members sing and rich three-part harmonies have become a Rockfish Willie trademark. The band's performances mix unexpected covers and heartfelt originals. 'It's not that I don't like playing the usual stuff,' Stemhagen explains, 'It's just that...well, I tend to get more of a reaction when I do something interesting and different.' 'Interesting' and 'different' sum up Stemhagen's grab-bag performances as well as his musical roots. From getting his feet wet in the eighties in New Jersey garage bands to playing in a self-described college party band and fronting a mostly original rock n' roll outfit in the early nineties, it's clear that Stemhagen's background has influenced his musical and entertaining style. His years on the acoustic guitar have admittedly affected his songwriting. 'My originals have become rootsier, maybe even country-tinged. It's funny that my CD is coming out now, at a time when alt-country, bluegrass and old-timey music is so hip. When I started writing these songs I didn't know that there was anyone else out there that cared about the kind of stuff I was doing.' The CD Stemhagen speaks of was recently recorded and produced by John Morand (Cracker, Joan Osbourne, Hansen) at Richmond's celebrated Sound of Music Studios. Stemhagen, the rest of Rockfish Willie and others collaborated on Kurt's aptly named debut, the rockfish willie sessions. An edgy yet accessible and eminently listenable offering, Sessions is American music through and through. Well-crafted and catchy tunes capture the very real emotions of everyday characters. From uncertainty to hope, wistful contemplation to boozy bravado, Sessions has it all and throughout the disc a nagging sense of the tragic lurks just out of reach. One studio guest summed up this vibe by describing the music as, 'Southern gothic acoustic pop.' From the bottom-of-the-bottle brooding of Too Sad to Cry; to the traditional tale of lost love and the promise of redemption found in the open road of The Shape I'm In; to the campy and gritty account of life on the margins of Roadhouse, Sessions is a CD that will fit comfortably into the collections of alt-country, Americana, folk, bluegrass and rock fans alike. The final track offers a special treat. Best for Me is a stark homage to a.m. country's long history of lyin' and cheatin' honkytonk ballads and was recorded live around one microphone in the old-school bluegrass manner. A fitting finish to an earnest, rootsy album. Look for Stemhagen and Rockfish Willie to visit select East Coast cities in Winter 2003. For booking, general information or to purchase the rockfish willie sessions: 804.359.4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.