Conversation with Kenny Hutson, guitarist for OtR (1)  

Posted by Denis Haack in , ,

Over the Rhine was slated to play at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which meant I could find some time with my friend Kenny Hutson. Kenny is a consummate musician, on this tour backing Linford and Karin on electric guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, dobro, and occasional vocals. That’s not all he plays, and he plays them all well. I’ve seen OtR in concert before, so this time we planned to attend primarily to hear Kenny play.

The day before the concert, it’s the band’s day off, and Kenny says we can pick him up at Willies American Guitars on Cleveland Avenue in St Paul. Should have known that’s where he’d be on a day off. He is waiting for us on the sidewalk, waving his left eye over his head like Mad Eye Moody, who he doesn’t look like, but the image comes to mind anyway. I told him a patch would be cooler for a musician, but he thinks this has far more comic possibilities.

Kenny is one of those friends with whom I am immediately at ease, knowing that no one need try to impress the other and no agenda is needed for a pleasant conversation to unfold. We try to find someplace to eat, since Kenny is hungry and wouldn’t you know it, we get lost winding through the streets in downtown St Paul. How ridiculous is that, especially since we have GPS in our car. He carries fishing gear with him on tour so after eating we wander over to Lake Minnetonka so he can try the fabled waters of Minnesota. (Nothing was caught, but it was a beautiful afternoon to be outside. Red-winged blackbirds called, mallard pairs few by, and in the distance we could hear the rasping calls of Canadian geese.)

And so we talked. Of his wife, sadly not with him on this tour, Katie Bowser who continues to work on her wonderful project introducing jazz to children, Coal Train Railroad. Of the ups and downs in all our lives since we last were together at their home in Nashville. Of disappointments and hopes, plans and celebrations, doubts and faith. We talked of music. Kenny learned to play the old fashioned way, by hanging out with musicians as he grew up in the South. At first he sat at the outer edge of the circle as they jammed and played. Slowly as he improved he was invited into the circle, until finally the old blues pickers let him lead out on a song, and everyone knew he was now a musician to be reckoned with. That free style, life affirming yet deeply authentic music is rooted in his soul, so that it seems less that he knows songs than that he breathes them. His solos during the concert confirmed that, providing searing riffs, quiet harmonies, and lovely expressive asides when each was needed to bring the song alive.

We talked of touring, comparing his experience as a musician to mine as I travel to speak at conferences (a little similar, mostly different). We talked of blogging, and living faithfully before God when neither of us work for some corporation that guarantees us an income down the road. The first time we visited their home and saw his studio, the clutter was everything we expected to see on the desk of a serious musician.

And true to his Southern roots, we talked of bourbon, this time Kenny describing the mellow goodness of Bulleit. The next night, as we sat in the audience waiting for the concert to begin, Kenny suddenly appeared from behind the curtain, slipped over to my seat and handed me a paper cup with a bit of ice and two fingers of one of Kentucky’s finest. A moment later we exchanged texts:

Me: “Just one taste and you KNOW there is a God.”
Kenny: “Amen.”

(to be continued)

This entry was posted at Monday, May 03, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


That was a good night with music and friends. But I was only allowed to taste the final drops cuz I'm not a connoisseur.

May 3, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Ditto on the Bulleit. I bought a bottle back in December on the recommendation of a friend from Mississippi. Enjoyed it with several friends. I am going to see those guys in June. Need to get another bottle. Didn't know Kenny played with OTR. I keep hoping to catch them in Kansas City. I think Donna would like them.

May 3, 2010 at 9:27 PM

Amen indeed!

May 3, 2010 at 9:49 PM

Amen indeed!

May 3, 2010 at 9:50 PM

Kenny said there is a store in Nashville that seems to keep it at a perpetually good price, and happily we'll be there in July. Wish you and Donna could have joined us.

May 4, 2010 at 3:51 AM

David & Kelly:
I guess I need to write about bourbon more often--I can't remember when a blog post stimulated this much conversation!

May 4, 2010 at 3:56 AM

Kenny rules (so does his wife). And now my husband wants to try Bulleit.

May 4, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Let me know what he thinks.

May 4, 2010 at 9:43 AM

My parents always told me rock concerts were the first step on the slippery slope to alcohol and sex. So I'm tempted to ask, "What happened next?"

May 5, 2010 at 7:31 AM

Stay tuned.
There will be another post...
Wish you could have joined us, my friend.

May 5, 2010 at 8:02 AM

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