Friday, October 15, 2010

Baltimore guitarist sharpening his riffs with Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Baltimore guitarist sharpening his riffs with Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers
November 15, 1990 | by Nestor Aparicio | Evening Sun Staff 

Blues guitar lovers might call it the best of Baltimore and the best of Philadelphia united in a blues-rock bar band second to none. Left to right: Billy Kemp, Rob Miller, Paul Slivka, Tommy Conwell and Jim Hannum.
Saturday night at Hammerjacks will be the first opportunity locally to see the new incarnation of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, featuring Baltimore's Billy Kemp on guitar. 

It all happened quickly and quietly during the summer. Conwell's former guitarist Chris Day left the band to pursue other interests right before the Rumblers' new album, "I'm Seventeen," was released. 

Kemp, who opened for the Rumblers with his Paradise Rockers during their last appearance at Hammerjacks in the spring, said he jumped at the opportunity to work with Conwell when his phone rang. "I knew it would be a great chance to work with an up-and-coming, nationally known band," Kemp said. "But, to be honest, I didn't even know Tommy." 

Since August, Kemp, who still lives in Catonsville, has been commuting to Philadelphia for rehearsals. The band has played a dozen shows there and in Atlantic City. "But this is the big tour, and I finally get to come home for a show," Kemp said. The tour began Tuesday in New Haven, Conn., and ends in three weeks from in Ohio. The album, which Kemp doesn't perform on, although he's in the video for "I'm Seventeen," hasn't been as well-received as Conwell's first CBS release, "Rumble." 

But, Kemp says, it's just a matter of promotion. "That's why we're going on the road; to let everyone know that Tommy has some good things happening," Kemp said. "The album has only been out for eight weeks so I think it's a little early to say it's dead." Meanwhile, Kemp continues to sharpen his riffs on Conwell's older songs and has even added a few twists. 

"It's been a lot of work learning everything," Kemp said. "But it's a very democratic situation within the band. Even though I'm the new guy, they all have listened to my input and taken my suggestions seriously. 

"At this point, that's about all I can ask for."

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