Corrections or additions?

This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the July 18,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Ron Kraemer: Acoustically Correct Blues

For blues man Ron Kraemer, respecting the tradition,

how you play the music, and the volume at which you play the music

all go hand-in-hand. The 40-year-old Hamilton Township-based

guitarist,

singer, and songwriter takes his musical cues from the jump blues

bands of musicians like guitarist T-Bone Walker, vocalist Roy Brown,

and the harmonica-based bands of Little Charlie and the Nightcats

and William Clarke. Kraemer’s self-produced debut CD, "Blues From

River City," is a well-recorded collection of standards, tunes

like "Back At The Chicken Shack," "My Babe,"

"Walkin’

To My Baby," and "I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water."

Even in acoustically challenged clubs, Kraemer’s Hurricanes —

who will play at Big Fish in MarketFair this Friday, July 20, and

at the Monroe Public Library Saturday, July 21 — always sound

in balance: they’re not playing at an excessive volume, there is an

ensemble spirit that permeates every tune they perform, and Kraemer’s

vocals can be heard as separate and distinct from the band. In other

words, the band plays with a sense of dynamics, something that’s

missing

from so many rock ‘n’ roll and blues bands currently on the Garden

State club circuit.

"I enjoy listening to the other guys play," says Kraemer at

an interview between sets on a recent Saturday at the Old Bay in New

Brunswick. "At some points, the sax player and I will drop out,

and we’ll just listen to the keyboards, bass, and drums play. Then

we’ll jump back in at some point later on."

Raised in Lawrence Township, Kraemer began playing

guitar as an eight-year-old in 1968.

"I liked it, but I didn’t have a passion for it until I discovered

the blues and put the two together," he explains. That came later

on in high school and in college at William and Mary in Virginia,

where he graduated with a major in biology in 1982.

"I used to take guitar lessons at Chopin Music, right in Trenton.

It was just really fundamental stuff I learned there, but later, I

learned lead guitar stuff just by spending a lot of time in the

woodshed

before I ever came out with a band," he says.

Ron Kraemer and an earlier incarnation of the Hurricanes performed

their first gig on August 11, 1995 — "my mother’s

birthday" — at the Heritage Pub in Bordentown. Initially,

Kevin McGowan, proprietor of Kevin’s Harps in Bordentown, joined him

on harmonica.

"I recall the first gig at the Heritage Pub vividly, and it’s

unfortunately now closed, but we packed the place with friends and

relatives and it was terrific. We got regular gigs there after that,

but that first one was magic."

The current version of the Hurricanes includes John

"Commodore"

Barry, a keyboard veteran whose credits go back to the 1970s; Ralph

Liberto on saxophone, who formed his first band with future

Springsteen

band member Danny Federici; Steve Brown, formerly of the Whirling

Dervishes and Everlounge, on drums; and Michael Massimino, a 13-year

veteran of the Philadelphia blues club circuit, formerly with the

Floyd Hunter Band, on upright bass.

"John’s never over-the-top in his keyboard playing, and as a

result,

I find I really enjoy playing rhythm guitar," says Kraemer.

"We’ll

do things back and forth that folks in the audience may not appreciate

because they’re listening to a sax solo at the time."

"A good description of my band is it’s tight and it swings

hard,"

he says, "it’s not in your face, but it swings. The good thing

is everybody in this band listens, and that’s important, because if

you’re not listening to what everyone else is doing, sometimes you’re

stepping on them."

Kraemer is justifiably proud of his band mates, and he refers to them

all as veterans of the local music scene. But this is also evidenced

by the individual biographies he includes for each of them on his

website, (www.ronkraemer.com). "At this point, I’m hoping nobody

finds a reason to leave the band," he adds.

By day, Kraemer works in information security for Educational Testing

Service, and many of his co-workers can be found checking out the

band at area gigs.

"I advertise all my gigs on the ETS Bulletin Board, and it’s great

when you have support from the people you work with. They also support

you when you need to take time off and when you come in in the morning

looking a little ragged," he says. "At ETS I keep the hackers

out. It’s a lot of fun and a nice complement to the music."

Asked about how he found the jump and swing blues niche

so appealing, Kraemer says he was initially a fan of more standard

fare from the likes of B.B. King as well as the blues-rock of Eric

Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Kraemer says his local influences would have to include Paul Plumeri

and Joe Zucharello, both longtime titans of the Trenton blues club

scene, "but also, I spent a lot of time just listening to T-Bone

Walker, and learning from his recordings."

"I ended up listening to a lot of Duke Robillard and later, the

whole William Clarke West Coast swing-blues sound," he says,

referring

to a California-based harmonica player who died in the late 1990s.

"I noticed all the great harmonica players from out there all

had great guitar players behind them."

"Your tastes change and you evolve, and you find out what really

turns you on," he says. For Kraemer, after seeing Duke Robillard

with Gordon "Sax" Beadle at Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia, he

found the sound he was searching for.

"There are a lot of different slices of the blues that you can

get into," he says, "I’ll do solo Muddy Waters stuff at home

with my dobro, but I really like the five-man band that I have

too."

Kraemer says he and the band are planning to record a second CD this

fall. Unlike their debut, which contains no originals, the band’s

next CD will showcase Kraemer’s original songs.

"Our summer schedule is really busy in July and August right

through

the beginning of September," he says, "so we expect to get

back into the studio by October."

— Richard J. Skelly

Ron Kraemer & the Hurricanes , Big Fish Seafood

Bistro,

MarketFair, 609-919-1179. Blues till 1 a.m. No cover. Friday, July

20, 9:30 p.m.

Ron Kraemer & the Hurricanes , Friends of Monroe

Township

Public Library, Public Library, 4 Municipal Plaza, 732-521-5000.

Benefit for the Friends of the Library. $5. Saturday, July 21,

2 p.m.


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