EG Kight blends Blues and Country at Chenango Blues Fest
If there is any difference between blues and country, EG Kight (who plays the Chenango Blues Festival this Saturday) makes you forget that difference. This southern songbird has as much Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard in her as she does her blues mentor Koko Taylor, and that makes her songs about a life lived with bumps in the road a form of medicine that’s smooth and effective.
“When I first got into the blues and Koko and I became friends, she invited me to a birthday party,” recalls EG. “So, me and my mama and a couple of my friends who still help me today flew out to California to go to her birthday party. It was private. She had a lot of her family there, and her band members were there. So, I wrote this song especially for her, and her birthday, and I was all excited about singing with her band.
“Well, I got up there to sing, and she hollered out, ‘E! Can you sing me something from Patsy Cline?’ She said, ‘I just love country music.’ So, here I am standing in there with her blues band singing “Crazy.’”
EG opened for Jerry Lee Lewis at the Macon Coliseum when she was 19, and she has nightmares as the opening act for George “No Show” Jones until he made a late entry. “He was late for the show and I was panicking. He finally did at the last minute. I played over my set just trying to keep them occupied and entertained until he got there, but his wife was with him. Her name was Nancy, and she really looked after him. I think if it wasn’t for her, he never would have shown up anywhere.
“I worked twice with Merle Haggard after I got into the blues. I asked him, I said, ‘Mr. Merle, I’m gonna be opening for you, but I’m gonna be doing more blues songs. Would that be ok?’ He said, ‘I love the blues. I was playing blues way before I was playing country.’”
Yes, EG breaks all the rules on being a blues singer. She lives on bucolic land that’s been in her family for four generations and raises goats. Right now, she has five. She’s had as many as 14. Why do you have 14 goats, I asked her. Just because you love goats?
“Well, because they have babies, and I can’t get rid of them.” (chuckle) If I ever sell some, I keep up with them. Who they’re going to, what kind of person they are, if they have animals. Then, I keep up with ’em. I check on ’em.”
How often does she call them? “I send them a text or email or call ’em. Maybe once a month or every couple months. A lot of times they send me pictures or videos.”
Especially since she’s gotten older, EG feels that switching from country to blues gives her an edge. “I always felt like the blues people were more interested in the music than the sex appeal or youth whereas in country they wanted you to be under 20 years. At that point in time when I left country, they were getting to the point where they wanted you very young and not clothed very well, more Hollywood. They were more interested in that.”
Her latest album The Trio Session features the song “Evil.” “That was the first song I heard Koko sing. I didn’t know for quite a long time after that that it was first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf. I knew that Willie Dixon wrote it. It was just the first song I heard Koko Taylor sing. It was life-changing for me. I remember driving down I-16 in my hometown of Dublin, and I was going to perform in Macon which is about 55 miles from here, and I remember putting that cassette tape in and thinking who is this? Wow! And it just tickled me to death. That’s when I started singing those songs in my country act, and they became more popular than what I was doing.”
The trio features EG on lead vocals and guitar, Ken Wynn on lead guitar and dobro, and Gary Porter on drums, percussion, and harmonica. They’ve been playing together with her for 25 years and will be with her at the Chenango Blues Fest.