Chah Lee and Revin

Chah Lee and Revin' Kevin and the Back Trak Band
An Interview

By John Weeks
May 2007

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A new blues duo is out to resurrect well-played blues throughout Worcester County. One man on harmonica; one man on guitar. Part comedy team; part philosophers.

All rock.

Revin' Kevin Keith and Chah Lee have combined their passion for blues, their years of musicianship and their studio production skills to bring big sound blues to clubs, bars and restaurants that lack the room, or the budget, to hire big bands.

“We met during Pete Henderson’s blues jams at Stone’s Public House in Ashland,” said Lee, who wields the guitar. “You show up and jam with the host band. Schmucks like us could get up and play. That was three years ago.”

Lee said the jams were fun, and the other musicians inspired him to hone his guitar skills, but he wanted to do more with his performing. Keith, who wails on the harmonica, felt the same way. The two men said they respected one another’s dedication and “got to talking” about a collaboration. However, neither man wanted to start a band.

“I can’t deal with that, with multi-personality bands,” Lee said.

“It’s so hard,” Keith agreed. “It’s like trying to date four or five women at the same time.”

The solution: The Bak Trak Band.

“With the advent of new technology I am able to create backing tracks,” Lee said. “We play the tracks through a sound system, play along with our instruments - and sing.”

Lee said he crafts the backing tracks at his home studio in Worcester. To create an authentic blues sound, he spends up to 60 hours on each song, complete with mixing and mastering.

“It’s pretty laborious,” he said. “I do it one note at a time. What I’m trying to do is make the computer sound human. To humanize it, I can take parts of it and move them around slightly. You know, when a person is playing live they may be in really good time but they have those parts they play a little bit off or a little bit louder. I try to get that essence of getting a really good groove going on.”<

“That way it doesn’t sound canned,” Keith said.

Lee said the Bak Trak Band sounds like real live blues masters throwing down the rock.

“I have made an investment in the best technology,” he said. “I have the pro quality gear. When the discriminating ear is listening to it, it can tell. If a song needs stand up acoustic bass, it will sound like stand up acoustic bass, not a fender pick bass.”

Lee said good drummers and bass players are hard to come by. The Bak Track Band’s drummer and bassist always play what they are supposed to, never show up late or drunk for a gig and don’t take a cut of the pay.

“Yeah, I mean, we don’t drink a lot,” Lee said. “With a big band, there’s always someone who is really stoned.”

Lee said the Bak Trak Band lets them rock out, and never attempts to steal the show by suddenly stepping in with unplanned drum rolls or bass lines.

“It gives us that simplicity and rhythm that provides space, musically, for the ego instruments,” Lee said. “It lets us play literally anything we want. We have no space limitations. We can play at a tiny little place. We can literally set up in the corner.”

Keith said the duo has been warmly welcomed by people who crave blues at smaller venues, and also at smaller volumes.

“Live music is really taking a beating,” Kevin said. “There are a lot less clubs to play at. They just can’t pay for a full band. And a lot of bands out there crank their volume up so loud.”

“The louder it gets, the busier it gets,” Lee said. “Big music does not have to be big volume. When we play somewhere, people are able to talk to each other without screaming at each other.”

While the two focus on blues, they are always willing to play crowd favorites from other music genres, and even slip a few of their own original songs into the set list.

Keith and Lee have performed all over Worcester County. Their highest profile shows have been at Chioda's Trattoria, 631 Franklin St., Worcester.

“They’ve got a four star rating,” Lee said. “It’s great food. It’s a nice atmosphere. It’s a perfect place for us. It’s so much fun to play at.”

The duo has also rocked the popular Galway Bay Irish Pub, 186 Stafford St., Worcester, and the Ship Room at Kelley Square in Worcester. Now they are setting their sights on the recently re-opened and much-hyped Gilreins, 802 Main St., Worcester, a landmark blues club which, to the dismay of many, has been closed for several years.

While Lee keeps the Bak Track Band in line, Keith focuses on booking the gigs.

“It’s a real partnership,” Lee said. “I put a lot of work into the backing tracks and Kevin handles all the booking so I don’t have to deal with that.”

Keith said the two even take turns singing.

“We switch it up,” he said. “We’ll do a real harmonic-centric song and Lee with sing. Then we’ll do a more guitar-centric song and I’ll sing.”

“We do ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ and Kevin is the star,” Lee laughed. “Sometimes I become part of the Bak Trak Band.”

Lee said the duo has also been having a lot of fun developing its showmanship and sometimes get a Martin and Lewis vibe going on.

“We touch on that classic comedy team,” he said. “Not too much. Just a little bit to keep it fun.”

“Once in a while I like to play a song and change the words,” Keith said. “You know, take ‘Black Magic Woman’ and change the lyrics so it’s humorous. I love parody.”

All joking aside, the men know their music.

Keith’s harmonica playing has been heavily influenced by Little Walter,

Big Walter Horton, George Harmonica Smith, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Kim Wilson, Rod Piazza, Mark Hummel, and Sugar Ray Norcia.

Lee set out to turn himself from a guitar player to a real guitarist by studying and emulating EC, SRV, T-Bone Walker, the Kings, Duke Robillard, Earl Hooker, Hollywood Fats, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Magic Sam, Lloyd “Tiny” Grimes, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Keith said the duo would probably pick up gigs in the Boston area in the future, but right now has its hands full in Worcester County.

“People who come and see us come back,” he said. “We’re developing a following.”

“It’s keeping me out of trouble,” Lee said. “It’s keeping me busy and that’s a good thing.”

www.revkevandchahlee.com

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