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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Kinsey brothers carry on dad's work

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Blues is in the blood of the Kinsey Report.

Brothers Kenneth, Ralph, and Donald Kinsey are carrying on the legacy of their father, the late Lester "Big Daddy" Kinsey, a Mississippi Delta legend who died in 2001.

"That was the whole dream, that we would carry on the music and pass it down to new generations," said Kenneth Kinsey, whose band, the Kinsey Report, will be in concert Saturday at Griffin's Hines Farm Blues Club in Swanton.

"Big Daddy" Kinsey was a renowned blues guitarist, harmonica player, and singer from Pleasant Grove, Miss., who moved to Gary, Ind., in 1944, where he worked in the steel mills and raised a family.

The patriarch performed for many years accompanied by his sons, calling the band Big Daddy Kinsey and the Kinsey Report. Kenneth plays bass, Ralph plays drums, and Donald plays lead guitar.

After Big Daddy's death, the brothers knew they would continue touring and recording their raw, energetic mix of traditional and electrified blues. But it wasn't an easy transition.

"He was such a figurehead and leader of the family, when he passed there were a lot of things we had to deal with," Kenneth said. "But we realized we can't just let it go, we need to keep it going."

The three brothers took their show on the road as the Kinsey Report, but by 2004 were feeling the need to take a sabbatical.

"We pretty much took off all of 2004," Kenneth said. "It was just 20 years of doing this - just grinding it, grinding it. We was just doing the same stuff over and over and we reached the burnout stage. We needed time to take a break."

During their time off, the Kinsey brothers assessed their career and decided to raise the bar, so to speak, for their concert tours.

"We decided to focus on just playing festivals and higher-profile clubs for the most part and not just tour the country every weekend, year in and year out, just playing bars that won't really do nothing for you," said Kenneth, who turns 43 on Jan. 21.

"I guess you could say we're just trying to be a little more choosey about the gigs we do," he said.

The break also gave the brothers time to rest and reflect, which is helping the Kinsey Report play with a new sense of creativity and energy, he said.

The band, which records for the Chicago-based Alligator Records label, is touring with Nick Byrd on rhythm guitar and, for the first time, is traveling with a keyboard player, T.J. Jenkins.

"We always had a keyboard player on records but never on the road," Kenneth said. "That brings a new energy to us, everybody doesn't have to work as hard and it's not just guitars all the time. Plus, it sounds more like the records."

Kenneth said the group's strength is that it is equally comfortable playing traditional Delta blues, like the music their father was known for, as well as an urban, funky form of blues.

"Whether you are a traditionalist or like contemporary blues, you got the whole thing in one package," he said.

The Kinsey Report will be in concert Saturday night at Griffin's Hines Farm Blues Club, 3950 South Berkey Southern Rd., Swanton, with the Blues Messengers opening. Doors open at 5 p.m., music starts at 6:30. Admission is $12.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.


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