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Musical misfit 

Kindle Williams Sr. funks up his blues

Listen to a typical blues musician discuss his or her influences and you're not likely to hear references to Prince or Morris Day's group, The Time. Nor are you likely, at a blues show, to hear the eclectic blend of soul, funk and blues that Kindle Williams Sr. offers.

"I think of myself as a musical misfit," says Williams, 34, a bandleader/guitarist/songwriter whose trio performs Friday at Fee-Lay Gumbo, a Creole restaurant in Kennesaw. "I'm too traditional for contemporary people and too contemporary for traditional people."

Instead of adhering to the work of such blues masters as Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf, Williams taps a more expansive range of influences, many reflecting a second- or third-generation spin on the blues.

Growing up in the '80s, Williams realized that many contemporary pop artists, such as Prince, drew inspiration from blues and blues-based rock performers. "The blues turned out to be the root of whatever I was into," Williams says. "Rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, R&B ... it always came back to the blues, the players I admired always came back to the blues."

As he got older, Williams discovered that blues also was an ideal emotional outlet. "It's a very expressive form of music," he says. "You can't play blues and separate it from your emotions. A lot of [what I write about] I didn't have in me until the last decade. It had to do with the ins and outs of life. So it was a great outlet."

Williams, an Atlanta native who attended Southwest DeKalb High School, began his musical quest as a drummer, playing in teen rock, dance and punk bands. He also was field director of his school's marching band. His mother's record collection provided additional fuel for Williams' diverse fire.

Meanwhile, Williams, who now lives in Kennesaw, was attracted to guitar. He bought one 10 years ago, took five years to get serious about it before forming his first band, Blue Soul, in 2000, working local gigs at Daddy D'z and elsewhere. He's self-produced four CDs, fusing dance beats and heavily distorted guitar with the framework of blues and R&B. Williams has enjoyed scattered national airplay and has sold CDs in England, Germany, Belgium and Japan. Still, he's committed to exploring the Atlanta market before looking elsewhere.

To date, his impressions are mixed. For one thing, it's challenging to convince club owners to look beyond head counts and sales figures in gauging a band's merit. Then there's the issue of venues that expect bands to play for little or nothing just for the opportunity to reach an audience.

"We've got to get a dollar sometimes," he says. "We like to take care our families, too. Your talent is in you, but it shouldn't be to your detriment to give it away and it shouldn't be an expectation for you to give it away."

Perhaps a greater obstacle for Williams is to perform his amalgam of musical styles without standing in judgment from peers or aficionados who scoff at all things untraditional.

"We have a tendency to be a little close-minded," Williams says, "to look at people who express themselves differently and say, 'That's not how to play the blues.' But what if somebody had said that to B.B. King or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown? There's a whole spectrum of blues -- country blues, jazz blues, soul blues -- but to have people who are looking down on any given form, you can't do that. If you don't like it, you don't like it, but to look down on it is another thing. We have to do better than that. The act of getting into it and expressing yourself is what makes great people great."

Kindle Williams Sr. performs Fri., May 10, at Fee-Lay Gumbo, 2606 Busbee Parkway, Kennesaw. 9 p.m. Call for cover. 770-424-4161.

This column covers music outside the Perimeter. E-mail or mail "outside" music news to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045.

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