|Kelley Hunt torches up the Midwest Theater|
|June 14, 2012 Doug Harris|
The Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff hosted indie artist and musical powerhouse Kelley Hunt Friday night to the delight of a near sell-out crowd. Hunt played a few R&B standards and folk favorites but the evening was dominated by her interesting and distinctive original compositions. With a four piece band, including herself on a Yamaha digital keyboard, Hunt wowed the attendance with her energetic voice and style.
“I’ll be playing a few standards and songs from my earlier albums,” Hunt said, “but tonight we are going to play many of the new songs from my latest release. I hope you enjoy it.”
The band set the tone for the evening on the very first song, kicking into high gear immediately and not letting up. By the time Hunt finished her high-flying vocal and piano execution of the title track of her new album ‘Gravity Loves You’ the audience was enthusiastically letting her lead them into the diverse musical images of her unique sound.
A self described R&B /Americana/singer/songwriter/piano-player/guitarist, Hunt’s musical vision is hard to define. Her sound is a captivating blend of driving soul, honky-tonk, Motown pop, and Kansas City blues. At times bordering on bawdy and stomping, she also delved into darker corners with themes of loneliness and heartbreak.
Using her powerful expressive voice as a torch to guide her listeners along her winding path, Hunt confidently explored many musical landscapes. Often it felt as if she were taking the audience on a musical tour of America: sometimes starting the journey in the Mississippi Delta, venturing north to Memphis, speeding up with Cleveland rock and roll, then winding east for a taste of Harlem soul, before steadying the beat with a blast of Detroit “Black Bottom” juke-joint jazz – often all in the same song. Hunt’s passion and musical caprice was contagious. Some danced, many clapped along, and everyone cheered her from one song to the next.
Hunt showed a more sentimental side with her beckoning and mesmerizing ‘Long Way Home.’ She sang of the homesickness we can feel when visiting far away and beautiful places. She sang of her love of the Kansas prairie where she grew up and still calls home. “Take me back to my heartland,” she sang; her tough voice wavering a little over the plaintive music. It was stunning, and the emotional response was overwhelming. It felt as if she had looked into the heart, found its most loving and vulnerable part, revealed it, and offered it back shining bright as gold. There was a brief pause when she finished the song while the audience caught their breath. They then offered their loudest applause of the night.
Hunt played guitar on a moving version of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” but mostly spent the evening knocking out pure eclectic blues influenced R&B flavored heavily with her blistering piano playing. Hunt has been performing professionally for about 15 years and in addition to playing on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ she has played thousands of gigs across the USA, Canada and Europe.
Hunt has sold over 150,000 CDs on her own indie label 88 records. Compared to artists as diverse as Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, Toots Washington and Aretha Franklin she appears primed to deliver more of her border crossing music to her fans.
Proceeds from the concert will go to the Midwest Theater’s Digital Cinema Project. Midwest Theater general manger, Billy Estes said the Kelley Hunt show brought in over $1,500 to upgrade the theater’s digital system.
Read more by Doug Harris