When singer-songwriter Gregg Curry talks about his guitar, his Alabama accent grows a little softer. Sometimes his guitar has been his best friend, he said, but always it’s been his best muse. A singer since middle school, Curry learned to play guitar in his early 20s. That’s when the songs started coming, fast and furiously, and have yet to stop.
The prolific songwriter, together with his band Ragged Glory, teamed up with acclaimed island music engineer and producer Martin Feveyear to record a second album. “The Last Train” is set to be released at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Red Bike.
The new CD is a paean to Curry’s deep roots of American music from soul and blues to rock, country, bluegrass and the gospel of his Southern youth. With Rick Dahms on guitars and vocals, Michael David Marcus on bass and vocals, Emory Miedema-Boyajian on drums and Mike Nichols on harmonica, Curry and his band create a signature sound that he describes as “a sort of rock-and-roll tent revival/minstrel show mixing the sacred, the profane, and the in-between into a musical stew, new and familiar at once.” The 11-song album showcases Curry’s original tunes and the band as an energized, seamless ensemble with featured guest musicians Rebekah Kuzma, Dianne Krouse and Barry Cooper.
Curry moved to the Northwest from his native Alabama in 1990. Playing throughout Seattle first with his “heavy-hitting” rock band Ghost Dance and then with his American roots rock band Branch Rickey — the forerunner to Ragged Glory, Curry gave himself seven years to sign with a record company. When a serious inquiry from a Capitol Records subsidiary fell through, the musician switched gears and went to law school, which Curry said is hard now even for him to believe.
But the move proved fortunate. It took him back to Alabama for three years of schooling, during which his mother was diagnosed with and died from cancer. Being with his mother, he said, was the best part of law school.
He returned to Seattle in 2000 and soon relocated to Vashon with his partner, Kim Curry. Here, he put down his guitar and picked up a paintbrush. For 12 years, he painted impressionistic landscapes and people with oils on canvas.
“When I came (to the island), I was sort of a hermit,” he said. “I still wrote songs, but they were few and far between. If I got stuck when I was painting, I’d pick up my guitar and stare at the painting until I knew what to do. It’s only been in the last four to five years that I started playing again.”
It was his wife, Kim, who got him back in the musical saddle. She arranged a surprise party for him at the Grange and invited his old band from 13 years earlier.
“My guitar was on stage,” he recalled, “with a backdrop of the Grand Ole Opry and a banner that said, ‘The Grand Ole Gregory Show.’ When I asked my band if they were playing, they said, ‘No, we are playing.’ I was terrified.”
But it was the beginning. Several years later, he played a solo concert at his own art opening at Café Luna, where someone asked to record his songs.
“We recorded about 25 songs,” Curry said, “and I started writing a lot. A year later, I met Rick and my band, and a whole lot of songs came at once. I was writing not 10, but about 75 songs a year.”
Just a couple of months ago, Curry wrote a tune for his beloved guitar with the opening lyrics: “There’s a gospel song trembling beneath my fingers. There’s a love song that wants to be born again. Something’s trying to climb out of a hole that feels like rock ’n’ roll crossed with Jesus come to save my soul.”
“And the hook line of the song?” he asked with a rhetorical and somewhat philosophical bent. “It’s can the mystery of life really present itself from these six strings?”
Whether life’s mystery will be revealed at the CD release party or not, Curry is sure about a couple of things: The band will perform all 11 songs from “The Last Train.” Then they’ll take a break, push back the tables and “play the songs folks most want to dance to.”
Tickets, at the door, are $10 or $15 with the CD. All ages are welcome until 11 p.m., then ages 21 and older only.