A Real Garage Band

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur has a long-standing reputation for presenting high-quality musical events, and has hosted performances by some of the world’s most respected and influential performers, including Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.  People from all over the Bay Area regularly take a drive down Highway 1 to watch a concert under the redwoods.  On Sunday evening, however, you only have to go as far as downtown Monterey to hear great music, as the Library is presenting a benefit concert at Carleton Hall featuring Ellis Paul and Brian Kennedy, two excellent singer-songwriters.

Ellis Paul hails from Boston, and is widely cited as one of the artists responsible for the revival of interest in folk music during the 1990s.  His music bridges the gap between the modern, pop-influenced folk sound and the music of more traditional performers such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.   Paul grew up in northern Maine and, while he played trumpet in his school band, his first love was originally athletics.  He competed in track at a national level before a knee injury in 1989 ended his athletic career.  During several months of recuperation, he learned to play guitar and began writing songs.

Once he was on his feet again, Paul began to visit open-mic nights and, having gained a strong reputation for his songwriting, graduated to performing his own shows.  He released his first album, “Say Something,” in 1993 and since then has released nine more.  His songs have been featured in movies and TV shows including “Shallow Hal” and MTV’s “Real World.”

Brian Kennedy grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland and discovered his musical talent while still at school – he had perfect pitch and could accurately sing back notes from his teacher’s piano.  He became interested in pop music from listening to Top 40 songs on the radio and singing along, adding his own harmonies.

Kennedy has a long history as a performing singer.  He has appeared on albums by Van Morrison and was a featured performer in the New York production of “Riverdance.”  It was during his Monday evenings off from his Broadway work that he really began developing his solo show in a club called Arlene’s Grocery.  Such was the reputation that he gained that he was eventually invited by Bill Clinton to perform at a Democratic Party fundraiser.  His latest release, “Brian Kennedy Live in Belfast,” a CD/DVD pack, has been aired on PBS.  This is Brian Kennedy’s first visit to the Monterey area.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, July 30, 2004

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