She's gotta have it 

Country roots behind her, EG Kight is glad to sing the blues

Anyone who thinks of the blues as sad music has never spoken with EG Kight. Born in little Dublin, Ga. (pop. 15,857), where she still resides, this self-proclaimed Georgia songbird has also been one joyful bluebird since the mid-'90s, when she reinvented herself as a blues artist. But country was her first love.

"I was in country music for a number of years, opened a lot of shows, did TV, but I've been in blues since 1995," explains Kight, whose music career began in the late '70s. "It was like switching gears. I had to start over fresh and get a new sound going."

Kight's change of direction was prompted by the state of country music in the '90s, she says. "Country was going through a drastic change, and to me it was losing its heart and soul." Around that time, someone recommended she check out Chicago blues great Koko Taylor.

"When I heard her voice, and that music, it made me think differently," Kight recalls. "I said, 'Well, I've got to have me some of that!' It was such a feeling. The music really moved me."

In fact, music has moved Kight for as long as she can remember. At age 4, she sang a solo in church and bowed to the audience. Kight says her mother, who had turned down a career in gospel music in order to raise a family, knew right then that her daughter was headed for the entertainment field. "It's just all I ever wanted to do. It's like breathing to me."

By eighth grade, Kight was working paying gigs. Right out of high school, she began to record in Nashville, and opened shows for country artists. She even opened for Jerry Lee Lewis in front of an audience of 20,000. She went on to appear on television, on such programs as "Nashville Now," hosted by Ralph Emery. She also toured for a time, singing standards. "I worked 300 days a year for many years, and I had to learn all different types of music," Kight explains. "I was drawn to the old pop standards, which I still incorporate into my act now."

Indeed. Her self-produced recordings -- included her sparkling new Southern Comfort -- draw from all of her various influences, including pop, country and rootsy funk. "Sad Sad Sunday" is the sort of minor-keyed blues that would be right at home in the Koko Taylor repertoire. On the other hand, the piano-driven "No Time for the Blues," (with Chuck Leavell on piano) is honky-tonk jazz, and "Somebody's Gotta Give" blends stop-time blues with revival tent gospel. Her cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" would be right at home on CMT while "Blues and Greens" (with King Johnson saxman Marcus James and trombonist Adam Mewherter in support) is greasy, syncopated Crescent City funk.

Such diversity is no accident. "As a producer and performer, I strive to give the listener variety," Kight says. "People ask me what kind of music I play. I tell 'em, if they like country, gospel, blues, pop, they'll probably hear something that they might like. Each genre that I've sung has influenced what I'm doing now."

Still, it's the blues that sets the tone for Southern Comfort and for Kight's recent work in general. "The blues fans are the greatest, no matter where you're performing," she says. "They come to listen to the music, they give me so much energy and love. I wish I'd gotten into the blues many years ago.

"I enjoyed the country market, but when people would come in, it wasn't all just for the music," Kight recalls. "They were there to talk to somebody or pick up somebody. But playing blues, I've found like it's like putting on little concerts, even if you're playing a small tavern. These blues people have given me the warm 'n' fuzzies, I just can't get enough of it."

bryan.powell@creativeloafing.com

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