Jeremy Short and his blues band will bring some Eastern Kentucky Space Funk to the Boone Saloon beginning at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4. Local favorites Sugar Foot will also be on the bill, featuring the guitar work of Bradley Turner and the earthy vocals of Ashley Lane.
While Eastern Kentucky may not seem like a hotbed for blues music, that overall Tri-state area, which also includes Huntington, WV, and southern Ohio, has experienced a diverse artistic resurgence in recent years and the music world has noticed.
Through the middle of that region runs Route 23, which is known around the globe as Eastern Kentucky’s Country Music Highway. On both sides of the famous four-lane road, artists such as Tom T. Hall, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, Larry Cordle, Patty Loveless, The Judds, Don Rigsby and Loretta Lynn all grew up there before finding their fame and fortune in the big city. Fiddle great Jason Carter, who just headlined a concert at the Appalachian Theatre last week, grew up along Rt 23 as well. Currently, the two biggest stars to come out of that area in recent times include Tyler Childers and Chris Stapleton.
Blues and funk music master Jeremy Short hails from nearby Morehead, KY, a small college town that sits on the mountain-flooded shores of Cave Run Lake on the western side of Route 23. While Short grew up appreciating many kinds of music, the sounds of blues, funk, and Appalachian soul are what inspired him the most when he was a young man wanting to be a guitarist.
“I am real partial to the semi-hollow guitars, and I like my ES-335-style guitar bodies,” said Short. “For those that know guitars a little bit, I love that whole Gibson ES-335 sound, that nasally, mid-range, punchy and growly tone. There is just something about those semi-hollow guitars that speak a little different and scream a little different, and they are well-suited to the type of music that I want to play and the music that I have in my head. I got into those guitars by listening to artists like B.B. King when I was younger.
“B.B. was the first person that I saw play a guitar like that, and then I went down the rabbit hole of finding everybody that has ever played one and all of the records that they have appeared on,” continues Short. “It’s just one of my favorite sounds. Different than the solid body guitars, a hollow body guitar is bigger and harder to control in a way, and you have to know how to finesse the volume and tone knobs to get what you want out of them. I like to fight my guitars just a little bit to get the sound that I’m looking for when I perform.”
Short has competed twice in the International Blues Challenge, which is hosted by The Blues Foundation in Memphis every winter. He has also traveled to places like New Mexico, Colorado City and elsewhere, looking for a scene to call home. Ultimately, Eastern Kentucky is where he has hung his hat. Along the way, Short has performed at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Floydfest, Healing Appalachia, the Master Musicians Festival and more.
It is a big thrill for Short to play in Boone, not only because of a shared appreciation of the mountains, but also because amongst the many guitarists that have influenced him over the years — like local music hero Doc Watson stands out as one of his biggest inspirations.
“I love Doc Watson,” said Short. “Doc was one of the best guitar players to have ever played in any style you may want to mention. I learned a lot of that style because I also love to play bluegrass music, although I play it in my unique way. It would be tough to remember when I first heard of Doc Watson, but when I was a teenager, I consumed guitar magazines and guitar literature as much as I could. I was born in 1987, so I was in one of the first generations to have the internet at my fingertips. So, between guitar magazines, going to the library, and then getting on the internet; Doc Watson was going to come up eventually. Then, somebody gave me Doc’s entire discography by way of a bit torrent and I sat around and listened to it forever and ever, slowly dissecting it and getting around to it. And, I love his albums with his son Merle as well, as it is just some of the best music ever and I keep going back to it.”
Short’s experience with the music of the late High Country guitarist is the perfect example of the music of Doc Watson becoming a template, not to be copied exactly, but meant to inspire and inform musicians of all ages and genres. Watson died in 2012 and he is remembered here in Boone by his statue, which sits on King Street.
“I’d love to eventually sit down with an acoustic flattop guitar and just learn a bunch of Doc Watson tunes because there is so much to discover in his music,” said Short. “As it is, I’ve learned a lot from just listening to Doc and will continue to do so. Not only his guitar playing, but the man was a great singer as well. He had a very soulful voice and I love the way he sang. He was the complete and total package of just knowing what to play, having the right repertoire and sticking to his guns. I don’t know how else to say it, except he was as pure a source of the music that has ever existed.”
When it comes to touring, Short loves to perform in big cities, and he enjoys playing in the mountain regions, too.
“It can be a little faster once you get into these bigger cities, which are faster paced, but people still want to hear good music no matter where you go,” said Short. “People appreciate the feeling that music brings to them no matter where you’re at. There are differences, however. It is a lot more personal when you perform in the mountains. But, I’ll take both scenarios and play wherever I can. In my 20s, I spent a lot of time in New Mexico playing in cover bands, cutting my teeth on the four-hours-a-night circuit and those types of places. There, it was Billy The Kid country and you can see all of the places where he hung out because all of that history is still there, waiting for you to see it. I love stuff like that.”
More information can be found at jeremyshortmusic.com.
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