Houston Music

Guitar Virtuoso Kelly Doyle To Perform At Under The Volcano

Houston guitar wizard Kelly Doyle will perform with his trio at Under the Volcano on Wednesday, July 27.
Houston guitar wizard Kelly Doyle will perform with his trio at Under the Volcano on Wednesday, July 27. Photo by Daniel Jackson
Kelly Doyle is a guitar virtuoso who has spent over the last decade touring with Robert Ellis, Phosphorescent and Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. No matter who he is playing with, his style of playing always stands out while luring the listener into a trance.

Last month he released his second EP, Okay Okie and he will perform on Wednesday, July 27 with his trio at Under The Volcano where he will be joined by Jeremy Brook on drums and Will Story on bass.

“It’s just a good vibe,” he says of the small room which allows for audience members to listen comfortably from a pew or move around closer to the bar. Prior to COVID-19, Under The Volcano had impressive weekly performances and Doyle’s will be one of the few since they began hosting music again.

For a musician who is frequently performing with others, catching him here in Houston playing his own songs is a rare treat. He understands the limitations in big draws when he is performing his own instrumental music.

“It’s a lot easier if you're going to do instrumental stuff to be more of a niche kind of band,” he says using a Django Reinhardt cover band as an example of an instrumental band with a built in fan base.

“If I'm just doing my own thing and it’s grabbing from a few different areas of music it’s a little harder for people to latch onto, which I see as partly my own fault and my own doing. I’d rather be myself in front of ten people than play in a cover band for a few hundred.”

"I’d rather be myself in front of ten people than play in a cover band for a few hundred.”

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Doyle’s “own thing” is definitely worth experiencing. Okay Okie was recorded with Kevin Skrla at Wolf Island Recording Co. and mixed with Steve Christensen, both major players in creating Houston based music and both collaborators Doyle considers objective listeners with no limitations to genres.

“He’s got a really amazing space and gear that he has amassed. Not many studios have really cool gear anymore. Everyone is just at a laptop doing everything so it's cool to go over there and there's actually stuff,” says Doyle of Christensen’s set up which includes a fully analog capacity to record.

Okay Okie is a beautiful, instrumental collection of songs that at times transport the listener to a range of scenarios all based on spacey sounds all created by Doyle and his dreamy, relaxing and enchanting style of playing.

“There’s an attempt to make it cohesive and so there's a lot of that faux string arrangements and there's a lot of really small percussion and things that I try to use to tie it all together with,” describes Doyle who used the same Telecaster to record the entire collections creating what he describes as a “weird vibe for the guitar.”

On Okay Okie, Doyle combines his original songs with some nice covers including his take on Harry Nillson’s “He Needs Me” from the 1980 film "Popeye," where Doyle’s guitar almost does the singing parts of Shelley Duvall.

“There's a lot of space in it and I did a lot of un-arranging. I tend to over arrange songs and then I start muting things and deleting stuff which is a bit of a time consuming process. Maybe one day I'll learn how to leave space initially,” says Doyle of his writing process.

Doyle also does his take on a Roy Buchanan song “In The Beginning”, a fitting choice for Doyle as Buchanan is considered an important player in creating the Telecaster sound and also served as a side man for many while releasing solo projects.

“All the best band leaders have played for other people,” says Doyle. “The experience of going on the road and playing 28 days out of a month makes you better and makes you know what you like and what you excel at. It's always good for you to be out in situations that you wouldn't put yourself into normally that always makes you better.”

Though Doyle could easily sustain his career playing with others, he saw the lack of representation in his style of music as an opportunity to create something that reflects himself and his musical style.

“I spent pretty much half of every year of my 30s on the road playing for other people and I just wanted to do my own thing at this point. Getting older, I kind of don’t care if anybody listens to it or not, that's just kind of a bonus at this point but hopefully I'm just grabbing a little people at a time and it’ll build into something but we shall see.”

Okay Okie is available for streaming now and Kelly Doyle will perform on Wednesday, July 27 at Under The Volcano, 2349 Bissonnet, 8 p.m, $10.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes