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"Keith Harden remains popular on local music scene"

by Don Gerard

It has been more than a year since guitarist and singer-songwriter Keith Harden relocated to Geneva, N.Y., yet he remains a beloved figure on the local music scene.

Over the past year Harden has made several visits to the area and returns once again for a whirlwind six-performance tour of the twin cities, highlighted by his annual "Keithmas" jam on Monday (which also happens to be his birthday) at the Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., downtown Urbana.

"All the gang will be there, and I'll be doing a set with each artist, with quite a few holiday songs mixed in" Harden says. Harden says the "gang" includes "Dawna Nelson, Bruiser (Bruce Rummenie of Bruiser and the Virtues, the Impalas), John Pennell (best known for his work with Alison Krauss and Union Station), Paul Sabuco, and my sister (Kathy Harden). The Beatles used to put out a Christmas single every year, so we'll be doing a lot of those songs, as well as some standards, along with a variety of blues, folk and pop."

Harden kicks off his local shows with a performance at 1:30 p.m. Friday on WEFT, 90.1 FM.

"As long as I don't get caught in a blizzard along the way," Harden jokes.

Then from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, he will play an acoustic set at the Iron Post that will focus heavily on his most recent album "Illinois Blues." The disc is a collection of traditional blues compositions, which Harden says he has "reinterpreted rather than tried to reproduce."

"I think it is the best one I've done so far," he adds of what will be the seventh full-length disc in his catalog. "It's my third attempt at doing a traditional blues album, and I think I'm getting better at it each time. It has more of a spin of a guy who has studied the blues, but knows the Beatles and the (Rolling) Stones, too, and those influences kind of leak out a bit."

Harden will still focus on the new album, but he will add a bit more variety when he plays at Pages For All Ages, 1201 Savoy Plaza Lane, Savoy, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The trend continues Saturday evening when he's slated to perform another acoustic set at Huber's, 1312 W. Church, C.

For his final gig, Harden gathers a band to perform electric blues, ala Stevie Ray Vaughan, at 9 p.m. Dec. 28 at the Iron Post.

While Harden may miss his old stomping grounds, he has been steadily settling into the scene in the Rochester, N.Y area. Initially he met with difficulties while breaking into the club scene. Harden arrived shortly before the events of 9/11 and faced the difficult task of securing gigs when many clubs were tightening their belts. He busied himself by recording his three-cut "Songs for September" EP and eventually landed a regular Tuesday-night gig at the Beale Street Cafe in Rochester.

"The Beale Street Cafe is a really great place, and I'm really digging it a lot. I picked up some local gigs and played a few festivals, too," Harden says. "I opened for Jorma Kaukonen and his Blue Country Tour at the Montage in Rochester, opened for Shamekia Copeland, did a festival in Ithaca and played a little bit in Syracuse.

"It was really a struggle at first," he adds, "but it is just getting better all of the time."

On the Web: www.bpcomp.com/keithharden/

This article was written by Don Gerard, and originally published in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, December 19, 2002. Thanks to Don for his permission to use the article.

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Last Updated 01/20/2003
© BP Computer, 2001