Biography: Rockfish Willie
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 fresh versions of crowd-pleasing standards, 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 root. 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 Virginia in the early nineties, it’s clear that Stemhagen’s background has influenced his musical and entertaining styles.
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 tragic lurks just out of reach.
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