Years of playing solo gigs, from dark coffeehouses to bustling clubs to the busy subways of Boston, have given Kyle Shiver an edge. He’s a blues player, with a steely sense of finger–picking acoustic guitar attitude and guttural bottleneck slide, and he sings in a deep Southern voice that sounds as if he’s lived every moment of every one of his songs. Which may or may not be the case.
It was during his seven years in Beantown that a waitress starting calling the Albany native Georgia Kyle, and he figured it suited him, and so upon his 2002 arrival in Savannah (a city he had never even visited before) he became, officially, Georgia Kyle.
With his quartet, he’ll open the Savannah Jazz Festival’s Blues Night, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 at Forsyth Park. The Eric Culberson Blues Band follows, with blues veteran Joe Louis Walker set to close with a 9:30 set.
“My heart really does lie with the blues,” explains Shiver, who also plays a bit of rock ‘n’ roll, and a variation of bluegrass he likes to call marshgrass. “I’m into the fact that you can stomp your foot and clap your hands and sing. I’m into that kind of thing. I really like the Black Keys, and I like some of the White Stripes stuff – there’s bands around that listen to what I listen to, and they’re pretty easy to find. I like R.L. Burnside, and the Black Keys listen to R.L. Burnside. That’s not hard to detect.
“Growing up in Albany, I had Jimi Hendrix and I had Merle Haggard. And I didn’t really have this huge plethora of different types of music to listen to regularly until I was older.”
He says he discovered early on that blues is the thread between all different types of music. A longtime personal favorite is Georgia’s own Precious Bryant, a master of the “Piedmont Blues” style of guitar.
“I’m a John Coltrane freak,” Shiver explains. “I know Coltrane all upside down and every which way. And he plays the blues. When he starts bustin’ out, he’s playing the blues.”
He believes in directness. “It all comes down to simplicity,” he says.
That was the idea behind An Angel and a Devil, an 11–song collection of Shiver’s original blues and hardscrabble spirituals. It’s not a CD, but available as a download at georgiakyle.com.
He’s the only person on the recordings. An Angel and a Devil was cut live, with no overdubbing. That’s where his finely–honed edge came in handy.
“I literally went in there and sat down and messed around with the microphones for a few minutes, and just busted it out,” Shiver says. “I’m not playin’ to a click track. We don’t have a bunch of digital blah–blah. I’m sitting there playing. And I think I played every song but one, one time. That was it.”
He did put out a CD, Live at Cafe Loco, two years after he first landed in Savannah. “I put it on the Internet, but I also had physical copies of it. And this year I was thinking ‘Man, I can’t believe I haven’t put out another CD.’ People e–mail and ask me about it. They ask me at the shows.
“I would like to have another CD, but financially it hasn’t really worked out for me.”
Shiver’s fondness for “simplicity” gives his new recordings a fresh, immediate feel, as if he’s sitting right next to you, singing the blues.
At the Forsyth gig, he’ll be accompanied by Paul Cooper on drums and Brian Pruitt on bass, with the amazing Tony Richards on guitar. “Swampy, muddy and swirly” is what he calls the music they make.
“I’m very blessed,” Shiver adds, “to be able to play with a lot of different musicians, in a lot of different configurations.”
Savannah Jazz Festival
Where: Forsyth Park Bandshell, Drayton Street between Gaston and Park
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23