Singer/songwriter Russ Kelley has spent his life in music, first as a performer, then in arts funding and now as a performer again. His first group, Rings and Things, performed on the Montreal folk music scene in the late 60s – early 70s and toured university campuses throughout the US. Russ spent the next part of the70s playing in the Montreal as Russ and Sue with Sue Lothrop, and finally in a series of bands, playing regularly on Crescent street.
This was followed by another twelve years in Nova Scotia performing full time in venues throughout the Maritimes, mostly as a solo artist. That all ended when he suffered a botched surgery on vocal chord nodes. After producing an acclaimed recording for the Nova Scotian R&B gospel group, The Gospelaires, he found a new life in the world of arts funding and ultimately emerged as the Head of the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Near the end of his tenure at the Council, Kelley found his voice returning and rediscovered his love of songwriting and recorded his first solo album , Crazy Shades of Blue, released in 2013. This was followed by his second recording, In Plain Sight, which was released in May, 2015. Russ has been performing regularly for the past four years, appearing at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Mariposa Folk Festival, Ottawa Grassroots Festival, Grove Hall, the National Arts Center, and various gigs and many, many house concerts across Canada.
House concerts are one of Russ‘ favourite things to do, many of which he does through the Home Routes organization. He loves the intimacy of the smaller listening audience. His solo house concert show is a combination of original songs, the occasional song written by other artists, and storytelling. Russ enjoys telling stories about amazing artists he has met and shows that he has seen, particularly from the 60s and 70s.
Russ is also working with Chris Rawlings (and Michael Pinsonneau). Chris and Russ started singing together when they were both in their teens and ultimately formed their first professional group (Rings and Things) that toured extensively in the US, performing mostly on university campuses. This partnership ended in 1969 but Chris and Russ performed together again in 1980 in Halifax at the request of the CBC which gave them an hour of national air time live from the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. Russ and Chris each played some of their original material solo and then, with backup singers and musicians, recreated the sound of Rings and Things. In 2015, the two started to play shows together again culminating in a theatre show in the Eastern Townships of Quebec that was much like that 1980 show
“The other thing I want to say is that this (house concerts) is my absolute favourite music thing to do. I truly love performing at house concerts. It reminds me very much of the coffee houses of the 60s and 70s which provided an intimate experience with a listening audience and where I learned a lot about performing and songwriting.
“I write most of what I sing with just a couple of songs in my repertoire by other songwriters. My songs are about my experience with the world around me, told through folk/blues/popular music styles. I also like to tell stories of famous musicians that I have met and a couple of great shows that I have seen (mostly from the 60s and 70s) and I’ve been known to tell a couple of jokes along the way. There will be moments when you laugh, moments when you want to get up and dance, and maybe moments when you shed a tear.”
You can get a sneak preview of Kelley and his music here: www.reverbnation.com/russe
A recap: You pay $20 admission at a Home Routes concert and all of the money collected at the door goes to the musicians, who often have CDs for sale during the intermission. After one set, there is a break and you can enjoy refreshments (you are invited to bring something to share; this is just like a concert in someone’s home, even though it is taking place at Arbor Gallery). After a short intermission, musicians play one more set. Come enjoy live music and support independent musicians who are always up to something!