I can't get the idea out of my head that Grapevine is just the city with the big mall. That's a perception we all need to get over.
There are a lot of cool spots for live music there, and Tap-In Grill and Pub is one of those places. As the name suggests, it's a pub-style bar, with a decent menu and nice, warm vibe -- and excellent music. Just witness the performance of Guthrie Kennard on Saturday night.
The show started with singer/songwriter Stefan Prigmore on guitar and vocals; a barefoot, classically trained violinist named Marian Brackney; and the best blues harmonica player I've heard in years, Cheryl Arena (of the not-so-ironically named Cheryl Arena Band). They did a set of well-executed folk tunes. Believe it or not, a guy named Stefan can, in fact, pull off a song about doing time -- they did a cover of Ball and Chain by Social Distortion that I liked much more than the original.
Guthrie Kennard emerged for the second set, when he replaced Prigmore. (The rest of the lineup remained on stage.) Kennard tore into a new song he's writing, the chorus of which immediately stuck in my brain. There was a Dylan influence in there for sure, and Bo Diddley flavor, too. This isn't polished, over-rehearsed pop music, but blues, rock and roots.
Kennard is a unique fixture on the North Texas music scene. He has played with such legendary musicians as Buddy Miles, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rocky Hill, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Ealey and Smokin' Joe Kubek. His voice suggests a mix of Howlin' Wolf, Dr. John and Willie Nelson, and he has a soulfulness that can only come from decades of playing this kind of music.
"I'm almost 60 years old," Kennard told me. "I've been doing it for a long time. It's not where I'm going to go, it's where the songs are going to take me."
The rough, road-worn edge of Kennard's voice and percussive guitar playing was offset Saturday by the angelic playing of Brackney; you just don't hear anything in this tonal space in most blues acts. At one point, a bunch of obnoxious drunks were laughing and making a racket to the left of the stage. Brackney had only to play a few notes on her violin, and the disruption quieted. All eyes were immediately on her.
"When we played at the Granada [Theater, in Dallas]," Kennard said, "and she hit that opening thing, my gosh, it's better than any sex in the world."
As the group played, the crowd became more and more involved. Kris Walters, the pub's manager, even got up on stage and sang. Indeed, if you can listen to Kennard sing Catfish Fishing without wanting to get up on stage and sing along, you have no musical soul.
For the third set, Prigmore returned and traded off songs with Kennard while Brackney and Arena accompanied. Arena really shined in an extended blues harp solo. When the foursome tried to leave the stage, the crowd demanded they play a few more. Kennard finished up with a tribute to the veterans in the audience.
As for those who weren't lucky enough to be at the Tap-In on Saturday, Kennard also has a new CD out, Matchbox, produced by is his close friend Ray Wylie Hubbard.
"I just love him," Guthrie said of Hubbard. "He's like my older brother. He's my mentor in a lot of ways. Everybody says we look alike. It's just that we have the same taste in music as well as clothes. That really nice homeless look with good hair."
For information on Guthrie Kennard, check out www.guthriekennard.com.