Last Saturday, March 9, Athens regular Kelly Latimore put together a short set just for the youngsters at Front and Center, Trisha Lachman’s monthly showcase for young musicians. Latimore has been a prolific presence in the local scene for several years, performing frequently at smaller venues like Donkey Coffee and Espresso and putting together a steady stream of releases available in print and online. He now lives and works at the nearby Good Earth Farm, where his latest album Vinegar and Honey was recorded.
Latimore’s style is gentle and sparse, his songs typically comprised of just guitar and voice. Yet despite his campus appeal and minimalistic sonic palette, his delivery carries the disquieting air of experience. Musing over just a few chords, Kelly will make you lean and listen close while he utters things like “I want to be your friend” and “everything’s gonna be okay” with a yearning and conviction that adds startling color to those basic human sentiments. And he is not just a lover of words and melody, but of sound as well. In a song like “When the Lightning Strikes Twice,” Latimore juxtaposes different strumming and finger picking techniques, creating striking dynamic contrasts while honing in on that simple yet alluring resonance that one often overlooks among the shifting tones of a sounding instrument. In “The Keeper of the Bees,” on the other hand, he displays a sixth sense for creating texture, using these subtle stylistic variations in combination with a looping pedal to invoke a veritable wall of sound, a gradual swelling of energies that culminates in the buzzing of the bees themselves.
The insects did not make any kind of guest appearance at ARTS/West of course; Kelly, rather, brought them to life by way of the autoharp, an oft-neglected instrument that both provided a mesmerizing flavor to his piece and prompted his demonstration of the looping effects system. After explaining the tool’s function, he used it to improvise a piece based on crowd suggestions. This lead to the creation of the “Pine Tree and Sycamore Song,” for which he layered guitar, piano, voice, an egg shaker, and himself gurgling—among other things—to the audience’s delight.
For those who can afford one, a looping system is a valuable creative asset for musicians like Latimore who often find themselves playing solo. Providing solitary players with the means to construct an ensemble of sound, it can give both accompaniment to the lonesome and an edge to the experimental. In between pieces, Latimore also took the opportunity to discuss the inspiration for some of his songs. Describing the exhilarating mountain hike that drove him to write the aptly titled “Mt. Princeton,” the songwriter encouraged young musicians to see their own life episodes as potential songs.
Front and Center events like this one give budding musicians the chance to hear from local long-time players, to learn from their performance styles and techniques, and afterwards to display their own creativities in a low-pressure open mic setting. The event is hosted by Trisha Lachman and takes place 12-1 PM on the first Saturday of every month. Keep an eye on ARTS/West’s blogspot for more details.