Conversation with Kenny Hutson, guitarist for OtR (2)  

Posted by Denis Haack in , ,

On the day of the concert, Margie and I drove to the Hopkins Center for the Arts hoping to have dinner with Kenny at 5 pm after the band’s sound check was finished, two hours before the concert was slated to begin. As we drove through the final stretches of farm land the surrounding the southern edge of the Twin Cities Kenny texted us: sound check was running long, so it would be at least 5:30 before he could get free.

The day before our conversation had ranged freely across life. When Kenny plays he seems lifted away by the music, able to flow with it body and soul. His playing seems born of the moment, not calculated but known, as if his fingers are able to take what he knows and give it a heart-felt life of its own. Rather than the polished repeated-no-note-different-than-before style of the classical musician, Kenny plays with musicians who honor the age-old melodies with honesty but dance around it with melodies less composed than lived.

When Kenny talks there is a lovely merging of Southern cliché and story telling, with the care someone takes who loves truth and truthfulness as a matter of virtue. His sense of humor is mischievous, which is why his new eye, a grace of modern medicine is rather like the fabled stilettos of Southern gents hidden in their walking canes, always nearby to puncture the hubris of postmodern life. We talked of the ongoing global financial debacle, and how it was affecting the already changing music business and transforming the livelihoods of musicians like him and his wife, Katie Bowser. I was struck once again how the statistics, charts, graphs and averages used to summarize the financial news and shape political slogans can be so untrue even as they present carefully calculated facts. Unless we know real people we won’t know much even if we are deeply informed by the media.

Kenny told us, carefully and with great circumspection, of a disappointment he has recently faced in his musical career. We were safe people to be told of it because we are far from the music business. He spoke carefully, treating the people involved with respect even as they had disappointed him with a decision they felt they needed to make. He wanted to be forgiving and generous in return, accepting apologies when offered, refusing to hold grudges or to allow bitterness to take root in his heart. His attitude was one of reality—disappointments are real and have real ongoing consequences—and one of grace—the disappointment couldn’t be allowed to have the final word. Such authentic faith, shaped by a quiet determination to, by grace, be like Christ, is powerfully attractive.

I thought of that when the Old Testament reading in church yesterday morning was from Daniel 8. It was as if the ancient prophet was describing the callous businessmen who raked in fortunes on the backs of ordinary people who first lost homes, pensions, and jobs, and then had to stake the banks with billions of tax dollars.

He shall grow strong in power,
     shall cause fearful destruction,
     and shall succeed in what he does…
By his cunning
     he shall make deceit prosper under his hand,
     and in his own mind he shall be great.
Without warning he shall destroy many
               [Daniel 8:24-25]

I realize it seems likely that Daniel here is catching a vision of the career of Antiochus IV, who reigned for a tumultuous decade (175-164 BC), minting coins with his likeness on one side and the phrase, “god manifest” on the reverse. The deeper truth is that a taste for power, self-centered avarice, and an ability to rationalize evil soon cauterizes the conscience and smothers virtue. The need for regulation on Wall Street is self-evident (the free market, though undeniably preferable to a centrally planned one, is run by profoundly fallen people) but hardly sufficient. Virtue, keenly nourished over a lifetime in the decisions we make, both large and small, is also necessary.

Making virtuous decisions, wherever and whoever we are, allows us to be a presence of faithfulness in a broken world. This is what Kenny is demonstrating in the face of his disappointment, and it matters.

Those who respond that this is just one person and so is too little to matter are mistaken. They do not know the power of virtue, the interwoven reality of human community, and the explosive power of the gospel when it is brought into a human tower constructed of hubris and fortified by a profusion of idols. There actually is no real contest.

As I sipped my Bulleit bourbon and listened to the music, we were fortuitously seated on the side of the stage where the musician closest to us was Kenny. I watched as he wove harmonious flights with his guitar around the melodies of the songs, carving sonic sculptures in the air for us to rest in while the music lasted. His playing seemed to come out of his heart, not merely his head, and in that heart I knew was a deep yearning for virtue and goodness. He is a man I am proud to call my friend.

(to be continued)

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It seems like there are so many opportunities to hold grudges and let bitterness take root. The adversary loves to to encourage that, rather than us weeding it out with forgiveness. I faced that on a very small scale this week, and was amazed at how difficult it was to practice forgiveness; the "slight" kept popping up in the back of my mind.
A straightforward talk with the "offendee" helped to put a stake through its heart. I hope.

I am loving this Kenny Hutson series. Keep it up.

May 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM

I'm glad you are enjoying the series, as I am enjoying writing and posting it. So many of my posts receive no comment while this series has. Therefore I am determined from now on to mention bourbon in every post, regardless of the topic.

May 10, 2010 at 1:22 PM

If you could mention gin and tonics as well, I would appreciate it. :)
And correction to my last comment: I guess it should have been "offender", not "offendee", since I was the one who felt slighted.
Proof twice, click once.

May 12, 2010 at 11:33 AM

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