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Live in the Clubs

Kribs follows advice he got in dream

Thursday, December 6, 2012
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Live in the Clubs


Singer/songwriter John Kribs will be at the Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady on Saturday. (Brian McElhiney/Gazette Reporter)
Singer/songwriter John Kribs will be at the Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady on Saturday. (Brian McElhiney/Gazette Reporter)

John Kribs has never been one for self-promotion.

And for the most part, he hasn’t needed to do much of it in his 47-year career. The 60-year-old singer-songwriter has been playing professionally since joining his first rock ’n’ roll band at age 13. He’s known in local folk circles for his solo work, his acoustic trio, the Racquette River Rounders, and his four-year stint with The McKrells in the late ’90s; rock crowds know him as the leader of the ’80s trio Johnny and the Triumphs.

Nowadays, he’s focused on two new solo albums — a live collection, “Blue Collar,” from 2011, and a studio set, “The Blue Wall,” released this year. Shortly after releasing “Blue Collar,” he had a change of heart about promoting himself more heavily — after being persuaded by the God of Rock ’N’ Roll.

John Kribs

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Moon & River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady

How Much: Free

More Info: 382-1938, www.moonandrivercafe.com

Dream command

“Maybe it sounds like I put a lot of faith in dreams — I don’t dream very often,” he said recently, a few hours before taking the stage at The Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs with his son, Orion, and fiddler Doug Moody.

“ ‘Blue Collar’ came out in 2011, and when that came out I had a dream. And in my dream, the God of Rock ’N’ Roll came to me, and the God of Rock ’N’ Roll said, ‘Promote thyself’ — like it was a commandment. Self-promotion is — I don’t really — I don’t like it; it’s very difficult for me to talk about me. I can talk about how great my friends are, as players or songwriters. But in the dream, it was a commandment.”

Kribs has been following that advice, sending “Blue Collar” and “The Blue Wall” — two albums that touch upon nearly all the various avenues he has explored in his long career, from rockabilly to country to reggae — out to various press and radio outlets. He’s even hoping to tour again in the future, something he hasn’t done for long stretches since he quit The McKrells in 2001.

And of course, he’s still playing anywhere and everywhere he can — he still averages more than 100 shows per year, hitting the Capital Region, the North Country and surrounding areas. His next show, also with Orion, who’s been playing with him for more than a decade, is Saturday night at the Moon & River Cafe.

“The Moon & River is so tiny . . . and it’s not very loud,” Kribs said. “It’ll just be a chance to have an intimate performance with a nice audience, a sit-down-shut-up audience.”

Coffeehouses like the Moon & River are a comfortable environment for Kribs, who spent his early years playing the coffeehouse and college circuit. But at this point, he has played in just about every venue imaginable, from bars and small clubs to larger theaters opening for acts such as Johnny Copeland and Chubby Checker, among others.

The smaller shows are just as enjoyable as the large ones for him. Recently he performed in the parade at the Victorian Street Walk in Saratoga Springs, and with his country band, The Bluebillies, on the Polar Express train out of Corinth.

“I’ve had really a lot of adventures, especially for a small-time player; I used to travel regularly,” he said. “Now the adventure is playing for kids on a Christmas train, or being in the parade and seeing people smile. I play the VFW in Glens Falls sometimes. I just feel great about all those gigs, where one time it would have been like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m a concert guy, I’m a big room guy.’ ”

Both “Blue Collar” and “The Blue Wall” are tied in to this mindset. “Blue Collar,” which features regular collaborators such as Orion, Moody and his Racquette River Rounders bandmate Danny Gotham, among others, was recorded at Caffe Lena, Sunnyside Gardens in Saratoga Springs, Roaring Brook Ranch in Lake George, and at a house show in Chapel Hill, N.C. Originally, Kribs planned to include one live track on “The Blue Wall” chosen from a number of live recordings taken in 2010, but liked the results so much he decided to do a full album instead.

Doing it live

“Most of my work is playing for people, and here are all these live recordings,” he said. “It kind of says, ‘This is who John Kribs is.’ And the stories of the songs are there for most of the songs. And it could be one of those, ‘An Evening With . . .’; it could be one of those things. But I like it; I’m proud of it. It’s not great audio, and some of the recordings, I wish — oh, I wish this little thing had been perfect, or you know, just better. But the live-ness of it is good and honest, and people seem to like it.”

The sessions for “The Blue Wall” were already under way when “Blue Collar” was being conceived and released. It’s Kribs’ first solo album since 1999’s “Vibratile,” and features 11 new originals, five of which were co-written with musician Dannielle Spindler-Swart.

For Kribs, both albums seem to be bringing everything full circle.

“A couple years ago, I decided that I wanted to see what it’s gonna be like to become an old musician, to take it to my grave, so to speak, and that’s the big adventure now,” he said. “I can still sing, and I feel so blessed to be able to sing. I can play pretty good; I know where I fit in to the realm of guitar players — I’m OK, I’m pretty good. I just love being able to do it. I feel totally blessed.”

 
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