by: Thomas D. Mooney
If you don’t like Drew Kennedy–as a person or as a songwriter–well, you’re probably the asshole.
Last Tuesday, Kennedy and Dave Martinez played a few hours of songs at The Blue Light for small, captivated crowd. Kennedy is the type of artist whose crowd consists of those coming for his songs and stories, and not necessarily the bar specials. They come, sit down, and listen–for the most part.
I know, it can be difficult to stay out late on a weekday night when the next morning’s alarm clock ringing is looming. But, it’s worth it when a songwriter like Kennedy is playing, regardless of when that wake-up time is.
The tall, bearded, and spectacled songwriter took the stage with a handful of tables scattered around the left side of The Blue Light. His wide-brimmed cowboy hat sometimes casts a short shadow on his eyes as he turns and strums. He’s wearing a long sleeve button up with someone else’s name patched on the front–probably to look cool or something.
At times, his storytelling has the few dozen listening roaring with laughter and on the verge of tears. At others, his songs do all the work for watering of eyes and wipeaways.
It’s probably because it’s a Tuesday and not overly crowded that Kennedy goes off with some stories between songs that are probably a little more revealing and rambling than their typical fashion. Or the dry land and air are giving his guitar tuning fits.
He talks about plane rides and crosswords to Jackson, Miss., Italy postcards and wedding stories, old college girlfriends and fake IDs, and missed song opportunities with Blake Shelton and new Corvettes. If summed up, they’d look like bits for a comedy album.
He goes into the story about “Rose of Jericho.” It just so happens to be three years ago that day the Kennedy bought the dried up resurrection fern from a man in Marfa for a five dollar bill. He expands and goes down a tangent about seeing a Facebook post with the final line in the song, with a few words changed by accident. He goes into the sweet and lyrically rich ballad. He ends it with the altered Facebook line with a laugh.
He takes a few requests from folks in the crowd. One yells “War with Myself.” Another–Charlie Stout–requests he sing the Fresh Water in the Salton Sea‘s closer “The Life and Times of a Sad Song.” He does it.
“Play that one about the two wristwatches” comes from the front table. It’s not been recorded, but Kennedy knows it what he’s talking about. He saves it for the end. I never asked Kennedy what the proper title of the song is post-show, but it could be the best song he’s ever written.
It reminds you of your grandparents in ways so specific, you swear it was your own grandfather he saw at that coffee shop down in central Texas that day.
Last time Kennedy played, people walked out with stacks of CDs–not one or two, but a copy of everything he had kind of deals. It’s similar this time around, though the Kennedy discography owners now have Kennedy t-shirts. Beau Bofling, guitarist for Dalton Domino walks out with another copy of Kennedy’s novel Fresh Water in the Salton Sea. He tells me it’s just to give to other people to read.
Kennedy goes to the bar. He sits down and starts watching highlights of the night’s baseball games on Sportscenter. Tomorrow, he’ll do it all over again in some northeastern New Mexico town.
Check out photographs of the night below.