The folk trio with two names — Kinagree Smith — played two sets last night at Flying Fish in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. The venue is the second floor of Roller’s restaurant on Germantown Avenue. (The official name is Flying Fish at Roller’s, which can make for some awkward prose. The link to my preview article is at left.) Personnel were Jack Kinagree and Lexi Smith on guitar and vocals, and my old friend Ira Segall, whom I’ve known since I delivered the Philadelphia Bulletin to his parents’ home, on Third World finger percussion.
Ira’s a latecomer to the band, and, as Jack explains in the article, the reason the name hasn’t been expanded to Kinagree Smith and Segall is that it sounds too much like a law firm.
I don’t follow the world-folk scene, but a band this good could convince me to start. The love lyrics could be banal — of the you-complete-my-soul-and-your-kisses-give-me-life variety — but the two, four-song “suites” from the band’s forthcoming CD were genuinely touching. And boy, can Jack and Lexi sing.
My favorite number, as I think everybody knows at this point, was Jack’s “My Folk Music (Wants to Kick Your Ass),” Jack’s anti-ode to the clichéd notion that folk music is warm, fuzzy, politically committed, environmentally aware, spiritually comforting, and so … Joni. He turned it into a sing-along, which was perhaps unfortunate, because I didn’t know the lyrics well enough to join in, and the song works well enough on its own. But that’s a niggling complaint. It’s a great song.
Ira was the Harpo of the group: he didn’t join in the vocals (a good thing too, buddy), and he seemed rather aloof, sitting off to the side and keeping his body still, moving nothing but his fingers as he played. The exotic instruments — mostly chimes, Arab and Nigerian drums, Tibetan singing bowls, and those little Indian cymbals — provided an unobtrusive underpinning of thumps, clicks and pings. In the small space, they didn’t overwhelm the guitars or the vocalists, as a standard set of jazz drums would have. Lexi referred to the effect as “texturing.”
At the start of the second set, Ira also performed a short percussion solo, expanding his arsenal to include gongs, drums and a Pakistani frame drum known as the tar, which resembles an embroidery loop 30 inches in diameter. For a little while, I was back in my comfort zone — the familiar sound world of Crumb and Cage — which suited me just fine.
Attendance was small, unfortunately. Lexi says live turnout is always a problem when your fans have come to know you primarily through the Internet and they’re scattered all over the world. Then again, the little dining room wouldn’t have held too many more people.