Written by A. Scott Galloway
Duffy Kane is an American country blues-rock boogie rebel who plays a mean guitar, howls up a sandstorm and writes a helluva insightful lyric. He’s a thinkin’ man’s ax slinger with a lot of fret board facility and even more on his mind. After transferring years of classical violin studies into self taught guitar wizardry, the Weirton, West Virginia-native came up aping hard rockin’ yahoos like Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath. He swiftly graduated to the truly challenging fretwork of country and jazz players such as Jerry Reed, Brent Mason, Jimmy Bryant, Pat Martino, Mike Stern and all-in-one master Stevie Ray Vaughan. This rocketed his nimble pickin’ and chordal harmony chops to Mars. Today, Duffy Kane is a hard working perfectionist who spends a third of his day sheddin’ on guitar, a third devouring mind-expanding politico reading (“Atlas Shrugged,” for example) and the final third terrorizing audiences at night with his songs that are both instrumentally and lyrically stimulating. Thus the title of his sixth and latest independent CD, Dead Man Walking: songs of life challenges and conscience for an America under siege from the inside as well as diabolical outside forces.
Dead Man Walking is a mind-blowing 11-song collection that finds Duffy crunchin’ through an eclectic program from burning instrumentals such as the evening blues wail “Danny Buchanan” and the slick quick-picked “Duffy’s Breakdown” to third eye open thought-provokers like “Son of the Republic,” the lowdown “Why My Road” and a transcendent, heartfelt reading of “America the Beautiful.” Beyond his encyclopedic capacities as a player, Duffy makes his own guitars by hand from scratch (he calls `em “Telebastards”) and is heavily involved with the engineering and production of both his guitar sound and albums overall. This all-hands-on-deck approach makes his music surge forth from your speakers like a cheetah finding the cage door ajar.
Duffy Kane came by his musical excellence natural via a father who was a concert pianist and a mother who at one time was a promising folk guitarist (she studied under Park Hill and Joe Negri). “I can’t say Mom was directly inspiring to me but she was exceptionally good,” Duffy confesses. “My father was an excellent pianist so I had classical music of the highest order drilled into my head from a man who sat in the basement playing it from the day I was born.” Duffy was first seduced by the guitar at age 4 while watching “The Beverly Hillbillies.” “There was a scene where Mr. Drysdale was pulling up to the bank in his blue convertible Lincoln Continental. The underscore was jazz guitar (played by Hollywood studio legend Perry Botkin, Sr.). The second that cool guitar floated out of the TV speakers, it spun my lil’ head around sittin’ on the floor playing with my matchbox cars.”
Out of high school, Duffy pursued sex, kegs, reefer and rock but focused just enough to earn a college degree in Economics, putting himself through the second half of his schooling playing in Baltimore Top 40 groups. When he finally turned his attention to leading his own band, that focus also shifted to country and blues. “Country guitarists are, without a doubt, some of the most unmercifully gifted players on the planet,” Duffy schools. “Some of them are even whippin’ the Jazz players’ asses! Plus, 9 times out of 10 when you’re talkin’ Rock `n Roll lyrics, you’re talkin’ degeneracy and bullshit. So I came back to Country and Blues: way cool, quintessentially American music.”
In 1996, Duffy cut his first blues trio CD, Let Your Insides Do The Talking (PMC Records), in Nashville at 16th Avenue Sound, produced by Grammy-nominee Brian Hardin (Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Daniels). Keeping a grueling 250 nights-a-year touring schedule, Duffy played festivals and on stages with blues greats such as Johnny Winter, Big Jack Johnson, Tino Gonzales, Debbie Davies, and The Nighthawks – all while cranking out a succession of independent releases: Live (1994), Promised Land (2009), Holy Ghost (2010) and Citizen Kane (2012).
Dead Man Walking is the sharpest cross-pollination of Duffy Kane to date. His sense of humor shines through on larks like the closer “Truck Driving Man” and the opener “Roadhouse Boogie Woogie.” “I made up the words to that about a 24-year old girl hittin’ on my 64-year-old bass player Ted,” he chuckles! “The music is a cross between Delbert McClinton and Bill Haley & The Comets from `57 with some Stevie Ray punch.” But the raw essence of Duffy is bottled in the sobering “Eyes of the World.” “That’s about how we’ve all got to wake up and realize that the bull being hurled at us through the media is just agitating dissension, keeping people separate across political, racial and sexual orientations…even husbands against wives. As long as they can keep us all going at each other, they can keep running their number behind our backs. Then you listen to what passes for music on the radio - what ideas are being pumped out there? Not much... That ain’t the America I grew up in, brother, so my music has to say something about that. I pull out my hollow body Telecaster with twin reverb, pop two center mike SM-57s on my `66 Bassman amp, and let my mouth and my guitar do the talkin’.”
“I don’t consider myself an artist,” Duffy concludes. “I’m a craftsman. I want people to see me as a man who’s spent a lot of time looking into matters of the world and speaks the truth about what he sees.”