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-illustration by Joe Mays
Steve Himes and friends go on the record with ensemble of stylish sounds
By Shannon Wells, STAFF WRITER (Reprinted from the Charleston Gazette, Charleston, WV, June 25, 1998)
Steve Himes has been composing songs and playing his eclectic guitar style with various ensembles in clubs for more than 30 years. But it took the chemistry he discovered with a rhythm section half his age to spark the 50-year-old Charleston resident to record an album.
The result is "interchange", a 12-song CD credited to The Steve Himes Connection, which is rounded out by Chris Allen, 22, on electric and acoustic bass, and Chris Hudson, 26, on percussion.
Why did he put off recording for so long? Himes' response is simple.
"I finally got the right people to do it with," he said. He was referring not only to Allen and Hudson, but to the talents of Paul Flaherty, who engineered and helped produce the album.
"You have to have the right people when you go into the studio," said Himes. "The timing just wasn't right (before)." Once Himes and company committed to the project, he took his time to get it right.
"We took two years, off and on," he said of the time spent in Poca's Owsley Recording Studios. "Some tunes date back 20 years or more, some are brand new."
Because the album was Himes' first chance to make a definitive musical document in a long career, he opted for an overview of the styles he plays and admires.
"I have a wide range of influences," Himes said. "(The album) is a compilation of vehicles to express those interests. Hopefully there's something there for everybody."
"Interchange" is indeed a cornucopia of funk-tinged, free-spirited, melodic jazz and R&B played by a group that is clearly more of a musical democracy than the group's name may indicate.
And that's just fine with Himes.
"I have a bit of a problem with the name," Himes admitted. "We're really three equal parts. We feed off each other."
As a performer, Himes projects a casual confidence that reflects his wealth of experience, but he says he's never been particularly interested in the traditional band leader or "front man" role.
"I feel comfortable in an ensemble," Himes said. "I've often said I'd rather play behind a good soloist than play a solo myself."
While his solos roam widely on "Interchange", Himes also has ample opportunity to do the former. In fact, the term "rhythm section" hardly seems appropriate when describing the virtuosic explorations of Allen and Hudson.
On many of the album's all-original tunes, the two musicians match Himes' licks and runs note for lyrical note, blurring the distinction between "lead" and "rhythm" roles.
This should come as no surprise to followers of the local music scene, as Allen and Hudson have worked with some of the area's finest musicians for years. Both have studied and played with guitarist and W. Va. State College music professor, Chuck Biel and nationally-renowned pianist Bob Thompson. Allen also plays with popular Charleston alternative-rock band Crazy Jane.
Himes began his love affair with the guitar more than 30 years ago in his native Dayton, Ohio, adding influences from jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix and beyond as he went along. "I've been influenced by everybody I've ever heard," he said.
Himes illustrates this philosophy as it applies to his infrequent-yet-clever lyric writing on two of "Interchange's" vocal tunes, the witty "Recyclable Man" and "Termite Blues".
"Usually somebody else will say something, and I'll steal it," he said. "They're pretty silly word-wise."
("Recyclable Man" sample lyric: "You can use me woman / just don't throw me out...Don't you know that's what bein' recyclable is all about.")
As for the age difference between Himes and his rhythm section, Himes pays it little mind.
"Music's ageless," Himes said. "Once you start to play (age) doesn't matter. Chris and Chris are very mature musicians."
Carpentry and residential remodeling have provided Himes with his primary income over the years, but Himes says he hopes "Interchange" will lead to more performing for more people.
"The idea is to get our music out there and to a larger audience," he said. "We're ready to go anywhere."
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