Kent’s Kerry Kean finally settles into an Americana music mode

By John Benson

Over the past 40 years Kerry Kean’s musical journey had taken him from a folk-based Peter, Paul and Mary sound into classic rock, show bands and even jazz outfits.

Today, the Kent-based singer-guitarist has happily settled into the organic sounding Kerry Kean Trio, which naturally includes himself alongside Kathy Camille (guitar, guitolin and vocals) and Mike Pereira (upright bass, mandolin and vocals). Confirming the roots credibility of the act, the aforementioned guitolin is, you guessed it, an ingenious guitar-mandolin combination.

“I guess Americana is probably the best way to describe it because it’s all American music,” Kean said. “It’s bluegrass and blues to swing music and fiddle tunes and pretty much everything in between. If we like it, it goes into the mix.”

For Kean, that mix has evolved over many years and in different forms. While living in southern Ohio in the mid-’90s, he began performing as a solo act sharing the stage with John Fahey, John Hartford and Nanci Griffith. Eventually he took a break from music to finish a business degree and graduated summa cum laude in 2000 from Kent State University as class valedictorian. While at Kent, he also studied jazz and played in the school’s big band and several small combos. After graduation, he launched an exciting new career as a software engineer before souring on corporate life. He took a buyout and returned to music.

This eventually led to the formation of his trio, which relies heavily on three-part harmonies. The electric string act has booked its first Youngstown show Friday at the Lemon Grove. Currently the threesome doesn’t have any albums to its credit, but the plan is to release a debut within the next year.

As far as set material is concerned, Kean said the threesome plays some of his solo tunes, as well as older material. He’s not lying. The outfit has been known to kick out old blues tunes from the ’30s, a few old country tunes and even revamped versions of classics “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

“We all love the traditional country and swing sound,” Kean said. “Probably the most interesting thing we do is how we blend those things together because a lot of what we do, the swing tunes, tend to end up with a little bit of a county feel. And there’s definitely a swing to a lot of the country we do. It ends up sounding like us no matter what we’re doing.”

Therein lies Kean’s peace of mind that after decades has fully become realized. In his mind, Americana music has made him a rich man.

“At this point for me, it’s more about enjoying playing music,” Kean said. “If we can take it to the next level, great. But it’s not a burning thing that we have to get to Carnegie Hall. I don’t have grand ambitions for this band as far as making millions. For us, it’s a wonderful time every time we get together.”

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