About Mark Crabtree
hope mills, NC
Kenny Huffman writes songs in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp telling stories about laid-off factory workers, cars, girls, and how things used to be.
The songs on Huffman’s just-released debut CD “All That They Say” range from the spritual (“With You Always”) to the sexual (opening track “Show Me Your Love”) to sepia-toned portraits of the past (“’47 Dodge”).
For Huffman, there’s always a story behind the story. “ ’47 Dodge”, for example, sprang from an old photograph of Huffman’s grandmother and another young woman. The friend is barefoot and perched on the hood of a 1947 Dodge.
The song, a mellow rocker, has the two women driving to Topsail Beach on a Friday night, stopping to pick up some shrimp and wine.
“I just made up a story about that photo,” Huffman said. “I figured they were hanging out and flirting with guys. Turns out that wasn’t the case, but it made for a good song.”
Huffman grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Fayetteville 9 years ago. He teaches history at Pine Forest High School. For seven years he sang with long-haired local rockers Rattler, branching out on his own when that group folded.
Today Huffman sings earnest folk-inspired rock and cuts his hair military short.
Growing up, Huffman listened to his rock heroes—Springsteen, Mellencamp, Van Halen and Bob Seger. But his grandparents exposed him to country music. “I had to switch the radio to country sometimes to soothe my grandma’s nerves,” he said.
His Own Direction
While Huffman’s brother became a musical prodigy (playing piano at age four, growing up to conduct the touring production of “Beauty and the Beast”), he didn’t begin playing and singing until high school.
After moving to North Carolina Huffman played bass in a country house band at a club in Angier. Then he hooked up with Rattler. They started out as a Southern and classic rock band and morphed into a alternative and metal group.
That band played consistently for over six years, but slowly came apart after bass player Dave “Thumbs” Johnson broke his wrists in a fall. Huffman took the opportunity to follow his muse.
“I branched out in my own direction,” he said. “It gave me the freedom to play and write some different stuff.”
The songs on “All that They Say” were written over the last year and a half and recorded in January at Daxwood Studio. The band includes Art Williams, Steve Holder, and Cliff Bender.
Huffman uses his father’s experience getting laid off from a coal mine, combined with the decline of the textile industry in Dunn and Erwin, to write “Factory Song”. The song’s chorus goes “People live simple/working in the factory/Ain’t no North and South/Just American you and me.”
“It’s a different industry and a different world down here, but a lot is the same,” Huffman said. “It seems like every day you pick up the paper and there’s another story about a factory closing or something else.”
As long as the stories keep coming, Huffman will have songs to sing.***Jim Washington Fayetteville Observer