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
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,"
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
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
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
"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
Barry, a keyboard veteran whose credits go back to the 1970s; Ralph
Liberto on saxophone, who formed his first band with future
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
I find I really enjoy playing rhythm guitar," says Kraemer.
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
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,
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
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
the beginning of September," he says, "so we expect to get
back into the studio by October."
— Richard J. Skelly
MarketFair, 609-919-1179. Blues till 1 a.m. No cover.
20, 9:30 p.m.
Public Library, Public Library, 4 Municipal Plaza, 732-521-5000.
Benefit for the Friends of the Library. $5.
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