City Folk brings together old friends for timeless tunes
The first time that Kimball Hurd met Roger Feuer, he was offered a scotch, the two got out their instruments, and they proceeded to play for a few hours—all before having a full conversation.
Twenty years later, Hurd, Feuer and longtime friend Keith Greeninger, make up City Folk, a Bay Area folk band most often compared to Crosby, Stills and Nash. On Saturday, Oct. 9 at Kuumbwa Jazz, the band intends to prove that it still puts music before all else.
In the same way that Woody Guthrie used folk music to shed light on the unjust conditions faced by working class people, the members of City Folk seek to inspire by supporting global solidarity and environmentalism.
“No other music speaks to, of, and from the people, like folk music,” Hurd says. “It really champions the causes of the day and facilitates change.”
The trio may not be marching on the picket line, but they aim to promote the betterment of society the best way they know how: through song. While folk music tends to employ just four chords, City Folk’s intense three-part harmonies and positive undercurrent of hopefulness in lyrical content have created a large following for the band.
“Our music is our way of contributing to humanity,” Hurd says. “People come back and tell us ‘I lost my son last year’ or ‘I just got divorced and found solace in your music.’”
While the band broke up in 1995 after spending a year touring the country in close quarters, it was during that year that City Folk made a name for itself in the national circuit. Hurd and Greeninger returned home to Santa Cruz and Feuer headed back to Berkeley. Each attempted to play shows on their own, but fans were insistent on a reunion.
Within the last year, the three chose to put aside their differences for the sake of their music and are currently working on their fifth album.
“The thing about longtime friends is that you’re like family and then some, sometimes even finishing each other’s sentences,” says Hurd of his bandmates. “Even if you don’t see them for years, when you do, it’s like no time has passed.”
Musically, City Folk is even more in sync. With the dexterity to switch off between guitar, mandola, banjo, mandolin and dobro, it’s no wonder that the three friends connected on stage.
A child prodigy on guitar at age three, Feuer took lessons with traditional folk singer Dave Van Ronk and has a classical music degree from New York University. Kimball, on the other hand, views his role in the group as finding what is missing from each musical piece and adding color and texture with various instruments. Finally, Greeninger shines as a songwriter, guitarist and vocalist.
“Each of us is individually different—Roger has a low voice, Keith is mid-range and I have a high tenor—but when we come together we all naturally fall into place according to our strengths,” says Hurd. “I’ve never been in a group like this where people aren’t in each other’s turf and overlapping.”
Though the guys will occasionally perform covers of their favorite artists like Bruce Cockburn and Jackson Browne, the majority of the band’s music is original and often dreamed up while driving down the highway or listening to the news. The latest recording is no exception.
Partially made up of new material performed live during their 2009 appearance at Berkeley’s famed Freight & Salvage, the new album promises to reflect the band’s transformation over the years while keeping its signature sound.
“Our music means so much to so many people and we don’t always see that as artists,” says Hurd. “We hope that through our music we can move this world a fraction of an inch closer to a better place.”
City Folk performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $22 in advance, $26 at the door. For more info, call 427-2227 or 479-9421, or go to Snazzyproductions.com.