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Call him contemporary folk, blues, roots rock, American Fingerstyle or Americana. Regardless of the genres crossed, Kraig Kenning manages to leave every audience feeling like they've just spent some quality time with an old friend. Few artists are as capable of connecting so directly with such diverse listeners while playing over 200 dates a year, receiving airplay on 40 stations nationwide, and selling 60,000+ recordings of six self-produced CDs. But Kenning has shaped himself into one of the most capable performers on the planet, touring non-stop for the past decade. "There is an exchange at a spiritual level in a great performance. My goal is to journey with all my listeners to this magical place." Together with his trademark dobro and passionate lyrics, Kraig reminds us just how personal--and potent--original music can be.
Kenning's driving perfectionism and attention to matters of the human spirit have inspired comparisons with Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Bob Dylan and Jackson Brown…to name a few. "His fingerstyle is up to par with Leo Kottke and Willy Porter, his vocals reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn, and his overall performance and presentation stand equal with any of today's top singer/ songwriters," states Dave Glynn of the Fox Valley Blues Society. It's hard to be humble when elevated to the ranks of guitar gods and modern poets, but Kraig is quick to point out the logic behind such flattering comparisons: "Those are the guys I listened to, whose music I locked myself in my room with growing up. If I sound like any of them, it's because they were my inspiration and they fueled my dreams."
As Kraig continues to make a point of raising his own bar, his dedication to both his craft and his listeners is apparent, nurturing a sentiment echoed by music reviewers and regular folks alike-a Kenning show is a guarantee. Chicago Tribune reviewer Dan Kening (no relation) agrees, noting "Kenning's deft finger picking and slide work on acoustic and steel resonator guitar is truly impressive, but so is his flair for crafting intelligent, heartfelt lyrics and memorable melodies. Call his style laid-back music played with a burning passion." From his own perspective, a Kenning show is more like "a gift"…one that is both given and received. "What happens with my audience is like a little miracle. I've worked hard to be able to give as much as I do, and it's awesome to know they appreciate it. It's amazing, like a circle of energy and I'm a messenger or supplier. I can feel the music move through me to my audience and then back again."
Kenning has participated in those little miracles for some time now, with no signs of slowing down. His electrifying stage presence has been honed over 20 years as a live performer throughout the U.S. At National Guitar's 1st Annual Slide Competition, Kraig took first place honors as Best Unsigned Artist. He has opened for Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, and slide guitar master Sonny Landreth; and he has shared lineups with club and folk series favorites such as John Gorka and Patti Larkin. His skills have also found a rewarding second home in the blues arena as part of an acoustic duo with noted bluesman Steve Arvey. It's a pairing that not only swept crowds off their feet at Chicago's renowned annual Blues Fest, but also resulted in critical praise and worldwide airplay for their collaborative "Pass the Hat" CD. According to Blues Review Magazine, "The vocals are sincere and pure while the strumming, slide and pickin' are top-shelf."
While there is a distinctly affecting quality to Kenning's sound, his warmth and wisdom have helped create a universal appeal. He transmits his own brand of special through one of the broadest range of venue bookings in the business. Kraig has played some of the nation's largest, most respected music festivals, as well as classic clubs like the Vic and Fitzgeralds in Chicago. At the same time, he has also taken traditionally smaller gigs to heart, and expanded his venue selection to include public library auditoriums, state parks and nature sanctuaries. "Those kinds of shows become a real 'mini-concert' and I would not sell them short. The atmosphere is intimate, and the environment is conducive to my music and my lifestyle." And Kraig's enthusiasm for the outdoor is common knowledge among fans. "The kinds of audiences who dig me know that I love being in those places with them. I camp there myself, and we create something special every time. Imagine being in the middle of nowhere, at a beautiful state park, enjoying live music by the light of a campfire and tiki torches. I hope I can continue to do even more of those kinds of shows on my journey."
And his journey, as Kenning fans realize, is a shared one--not only through song, and not just on the road, either. For instance, simply log onto www.kraigkenning.com to take a peek into the pages of Kraig's candid online journal, and the comments of fans and friends in his highly unedited guestbook. It's just one more place where music lovers and spirit seekers can, and do, share a common bond. Where you can stop by to order a few of Kenning's acclaimed CDs, or just keep in touch…with an old friend.