Investigations, too, of folk troubadour Woody Guthrie and country music founding father Hank Williams gave him further grounding in the fundamentals of great American acoustic music. By 1995, So had quit the cover band and was a regular on the open-mic folk scene in Boston. His strong musicianship and natural showmanship as a solo singer-songwriter in local clubs coupled with the promising music on his cassette, Kevin So, caught the attention of not only folk club patrons but also influential Boston Globe pop critic Steve Morse — who wrote that Kevin was "unusually talented." The next year, Kevin took to the interstates for his first road work. At the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, he turned his volunteer stage work into a feature appearance with Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame).
The Austin Chronicle's music writer took notice, writing that So was "the big discovery" of the 1996 festival. The release of Kevin's first full length CD, PENDULUM, in the same year signaled the arrival of a top-flight storyteller who kept his every blues, folk or pop stylistic flourish in the service of his melodically rich music. The release of So's INDIVIDUAL album, in 1997, was accompanied by a sold-out performance at Club Passim in Harvard Square, a high point in any singer-songwriter’s musical life given the basement club’s international reputation dating back to the late-'50s when it was known as Club 47. (Through the years, Passim has been a favorite stop for everyone from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Tom Rush and Bonnie Raitt). So emphasized the plaintive clarity and maturity of his tenor voice and the cool compassion of his guitar playing on BLACKOUT ROAD, a limited edition EP released earlier in '97 that saw him making a convincing turn toward electric folk blues. So moved to Chicago in late 1999.
As an established "independent artist," he booked his own gigs, promoted his shows with homemade posters and flyers, made radio appearances and, of course, performed shows in the Midwest and elsewhere. Busking on the street at SXSW time in Austin, Texas, with another native Bostonian of comparable talent, Mary Lou Lord, Kevin was "discovered" by Steve Martin of the big-league talent Agency Group. Subsequently, he opened for venerable pop-soul belter Joe Cocker, then toured as the opening act for visiting English agit-rocker Billy Bragg on his fall tour. About this time, in 2000, So released, on his WingBone label, the pop-oriented DIFFERENT EP and ALONG THE WAY album.
The CD track "Just Like You (I’m an American)" on the latter live recording took its place among other fresh and incisive originals as a favorite of audiences. On the down side in the new millennium, Kevin's ever-supportive father passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. In 2001, So moved back to Boston. More sadness came with the death of his best friend, Henry Ko. But Kevin was encouraged by the renewed affirmation of his standing as one of the most popular performers in southern New England with two SRO nights headlining his old haunt, Club Passim.
Musically, he was shifting from folk in a pop/r&b direction; his song, "Standing In the Shadow Of Ellis Paul," from his fine album, THAT ORIENTAL GUY, caused a stir in the folk community. The day after September 11, 2001, Kevin hooked up with popular bluesman Keb' Mo' in Los Angeles to collaborate with Mo' in writing the wonderful song, "Talk," which Keb' would eventually record. So continued touring all over in 2002, playing at more and more colleges and becoming a favorite performer/speaker at dozens of Asian American student organizations around the USA - one of his most memorable appearances was as key note speaker at MIT. Invitations from these groups continue to the present.
During 2002 too, he began mixing and piecing together his next recording. The double-disc LEAVING THE LIGHTS ON, stylistically based in contemporary r&b, appeared to an avalanche of praise in 2003, the word "masterpiece" bandied about by admiring fans and music journalists alike. Thirty-two equally stellar song performances showed a new depth and thoughtfulness in his singing and playing, whether in gentle or intense musical moods. In August, Kevin relocated to Brooklyn and got busy on the vibrant NYC music scene there. His next live CD, THE SO MUST GO ON, appeared in 2005.
Always making new friends, So continues to tour the country at a vigorous clip, headlining and opening shows for pop/r&b veteran Boz Scaggs and up-and-coming Philly-based singer Amos Lee. The release of So's new album, A BRIGHTER DAY, quite possibly his most compelling work to date, is supported by concert dates in early 2007. www.KEVINSO.com Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
show me more