By Charmaine Engelsman-Robins
Dana Lawrence and Kettle of Fish
Living in an area with lots of local talent readily available is a real blessing. Before long you have at least one favorite band or singer, and any time you want to go out and enjoy some music, you know they can always be counted on to deliver. The only problem with this usually is the predictability of it all: without a wide repertoire and a grasp on various styles, even the best band can become boring after a lot of listening.
Which is why having played many a date under the tiki on the deck of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB) since 2004 could be a Catch 22 for Dana Lawrence … but it isn’t. Lawrence has an eclectic edge that keeps him constantly on the hunt for songs that other bands don’t play; B-sides, obscure album cuts, rarities and tunes that were either underappreciated or not noticed. When performing some James Taylor, Allman Brothers, Jack Johnson, Hendrix, Jackson Browne, Little Feat, Cream or other covers, you’ll probably hear audience members comment “Huh! I never heard that one before.” Of those that are recognized, you’ll hear a different version, or even a combination of two different styles of existing covers, to avoid sounding the same.
Whether appearing solo or with some variation of his shape-shifting Kettle of Fish band (duo, trio, four-piece, or full five-piece + occasional-guests), their boast is that there is “never a set list and never a repeat.” Keeping that pledge is what keeps so many familiar faces coming out to hear them week after week. Fans consist of longtime locals, newbie touristas, and even some of Lawrence’s own idols … among the famous faces he’s looked out and seen in the crowd have been Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Jimmie Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (who has also sit in with him, as have most members of that group), and the late but still legendary music producer recently profiled in a documentary on PBS, Jerry Wexler.
Obviously the band members have to be pretty sharp, seasoned players to fit in and keep up, and his two regular co-players (guitarist Greg Poulos and drummer Rick Andre) are up to the challenge. Poulos is best known for having worked with the Venturas, the Freddie King Band, and Rock Bottom; Andre toured with the Platters, Ben E. King, and Chuck Berry over the years. These guys are among the best of the best, so Lawrence needn’t hold back on “eclectic-sizing“ tunes for fear of throwing them a curve; they’re well up to the challenge.
In addition to a heavy performing schedule there’s been a lot of time and talent invested in writing and recording original songs: a five-song EP (appropriately referred to as “The EP”) and a CD “Living on Someday” (both still available). There’s a new, live recording on the near horizon … maybe even beginning production this month. Asked about the title, Lawrence says it doesn’t have one yet.
O.K., well, what about the tracks?
Mostly originals, he says… but nothing further.
Hmmm, what’s going on here?
Pressed for more detail, Lawrence goes mysterious. “This is going to be sort of an experiment,” he offers cautiously. “A friend has a new idea for a way to do a live recording, and Kettle of Fish is kind of going to be the guinea pig…” and with that his voice trails off.
Ooooh, that sounds intriguing … but that’s all we could get out of him, so I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens. Meanwhile, you can check out Kettle of Fish on reverb nation* to get an idea of their sound, described as “… blues-based (but not “blues,” per se) mixed with rock, reggae, and New Orleans soul.” Of the 17 songs offered there, fan favorites include Anywhere With You, Kissing A Fool, and Merry Go Round. They’ll give you a taste of what one reviewer described as “originals that sound like classics.”
At SKOB you can hear Lawrence solo on Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m., or catch the band there on Wednesdays, 7 to 11 p.m.
For additional news and gig info go to the band’s Facebook page ** or their website***, where you can also use a form to contact them for your club or party.