Local Tribute Band Honors Neil Young

May 6, 2010  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

By Stephanie Choate

Several times a month, father-son duo Ken and Jesse French pick up their acoustic guitars and break out the Neil Young tunes.

“The music fits us really well, and we definitely enjoy it a lot,” Jesse French said.

The two Charlotte musicians form a Neil Young tribute band called Ragged Glory. Ken French said Young’s prolific career gives them plenty of options.

“He’s all over the map,” he said. “He’s well known for acoustic ballads … and he’s also well known for screaming feedback guitar solos. As performers, it gives us a wide spectrum of sound to choose from, and we love the variety.”

The band now has about 65 songs in its repertoire.

Ken French said Young’s songs have “a very elegant simplicity. They’re easy to learn and it’s more like stripping away the layers of excess polish.”

“It’s letting the pure essence of the song come out, and that’s all that matters, so there is a joy to that simplicity,” Ken French said.

Jesse French, who goes to Champlain Valley Union High School, also sings with his school’s choir. He plays the cello, piano, banjo, saxophone and drums.

“The best part for me is working with Jesse,” Ken French said. “That’s been most the important part of this whole project.”

Jesse French said he especially enjoys singing with his father.

“There’s definitely a similarity in our voices that gives them the ability to blend very well,” he said.
“There’s a trust also that we can both express ourselves at the same time without competing, supporting each other musically that way,” his father said.

The CVU senior will head to college soon. The Frenches said they hope to keep playing together in some capacity, whether on school vacations or at gigs near the college.

“It’s really rewarding, and it’s a lot of fun in terms of the connection with the audience,” Jesse French said. “It’s really special to see somebody that really knows all of the songs, and knows what we’re doing. That’s the best part, seeing people really enjoying it.”

Ken French said performing can be both the best and worst part of being in the band.

“We have some gigs where people completely ignore us,” he said. “They’re just busy getting drunk or doing whatever they’re doing, and we feel like furniture.”

Ken French also plays in a ’60s cover band called Mellow Yellow, which he joined a little more than year ago.

“It’s a tribute to the psychedelic era,” he said. “It’s very detail oriented, in terms of recreating the music authentically, and the vibe of the ’60s with costumes, a light show and go-go dancers.”

Ken French said the band’s goal is to become the best ’60s tribute band in the country. The group hopes to do regional and national tours, which is “a very real possibility,” he said.

Ragged Glory started as a classic rock band with bass player Mick Petrie, called KJAM. The Frenches teamed with Petrie after he answered their ad in Seven Days four years ago.

“It was perfect because he’s a parent himself and he had the patience to work with an adolescent in the band,” Ken French said.

Petrie still sometimes plays with the duo.

Ken French said the group liked playing Neil Young songs, and eventually developed into a tribute band.
“I think we just got the idea and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t that be something,” Ken French said. “We just liked (the Young songs) and started doing more.”

“It just evolved into that naturally, we felt that we fit well to those songs,” his son said.

The Frenches usually play a couple times a month, everywhere from Nectar’s to Battery Park. This winter, they played at First Night in Burlington for approximately 400 people.

On May 5, Ragged Glory will play at the Bar Antidote in Vergennes. On June 5, the duo will play at Dan’s Place in Bristol.“That’s really going to be a really great room to play,” Ken French said.

 

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