Upon first meeting Eric Erkkinen, one might be led to believe that he’s actually a music historian rather than a musician first and foremost.
Toward the end of an interview outside the Muddy Cup Cafe in Albany, Erkkinen pulled out his resonator guitar and proceeded to speak quite easily about the instrument’s history. According to Erkkinen, the resonator guitar was invented by John Dopyera, who also invented the dobro after leaving the National Guitar Co., and was patented in 1930. The guitar is designed with a number of metal cones, or resonators, within the body to increase the instrument’s volume.
“I like to give a bit of history, even if they [the audience] don’t ask for it,” Erkkinen said. “I like to make my shows somewhat informative. If the playing’s not good, at least the information will be.”
Love for the guitar
Erkkinen, who lives in East Greenbush and will be relocating to Pittsfield, Mass., in a few months, grew up on a horse farm in North Chatham. He received his first guitar as a Christmas present when he was 11 years old.
“I had always wanted to play; there was a friend of mine who played who lived up the street, and I was in awe,” Erkkinen said.
He cut his musical teeth on Grateful Dead songs, and even went through a heavy metal phase before settling on acoustic music, in particular roots and blues.
“I got a really expensive acoustic guitar when my mom passed away, and I didn’t want to play an electric guitar again,” Erkkinen said. “Roots music is where it all began. I found by playing roots music that it is much more difficult to play than the newer stuff, there’s subtle nuances of playing.”
Erkkinen’s set lists tend to feature a combination of traditional songs and originals based in Celtic, blues and folk traditions. “I just think that vintage music is something that should be kept alive as much as possible,” he said.
Quieter approach now
Dermont, 51, who will share the bill with Erkkinen, also performs roots music, but with a slightly different approach. He tends to focus solely on finding finger style guitar music from other artists to perform, and shies away from composing his own songs.
“I like to research and seek out some of the more obscure roots-type music,” he said during an interview at Moon & River. “It’s hard for me to live with my creations; I’m very self-conscious. . . . I hear someone else play, and that [learning the song] becomes my mission.”
For someone who plays finger style, a generally subdued, quiet approach to the guitar, Dermont’s first forays with the instrument were surprisingly violent.
“My father used to get me plastic guitars with red strings, and what I liked to do most was smash them,” Dermont said. “Eventually, I got a wooden Roy Rodgers guitar that I wasn’t able to break— so I played it instead. Eventually, I did manage to break that one, too.”
Dermont, an insurance adjuster as well as musician, only started performing as a solo act about three years ago after enrolling at Schenectady County Community College as a music performance major. Before that, he toured as a sideman with Americana musician Hayseed, and still plays with local Southern rock band E.B. Jeb.
Call him Uncle Bootsy
Juk, 36, is the relative newcomer on the bill and is “getting back into playing out” after a long hiatus. However, he has been playing guitar since he was 19. His stage name, Uncle Bootsy, has been around for a while, too.
“When my sister had her first kid, I didn’t want to be Uncle Matt,” said Juk. “I had to bribe my sister to teach her kids to call me Uncle Bootsy. Now, I answer to it just as much as Matt.”
Juk’s influences lean more toward popular music than Erkkinen’s or Dermont’s, with Ray Charles, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan rounding out the list. But like Dermont, Juk tends to seek out songs to perform.
“I like to seek out really good songs,” Juk said. “If it’s worth learning, it’s a good song.”
John Dermont, Eric Erkkinen and Uncle Bootsy
when: 8 p.m. Saturday
where: Moon & River Cafe, 115 S. Ferry St., Schenectady
how much: Free
MORE INFO: 382-1938