Can't Kill Nothing (Even the Blues): Buzzard Luck's modern blues

An accountant, an antiques dealer and a carpenter walk into a bar…

“It’s a mixed bag for sure,” says Kelly McClain, drummer (and aforementioned antiques man) of York-based blues rock trio Buzzard Luck.

And yet, the broad backgrounds of McClain, bassist Keith Weiser and guitarist/vocalist Drew Kiniry amount to just the right amount of rhythm, sentiment and deftly constructed beats to bring the blues to a modern audience.

I caught up with Buzzard Luck in late August at their weekly jam session held at The Winner’s Circle Lounge in Hanover. In between sets at the downtown tavern, we discussed their upcoming album and the state of blues rock in today’s contemporary music scene.

The blues genre, laments Kiniry, has become something like “a five-letter word. Taboo, even.”

And it would seem mainstream music isn’t helping. In 2011, the Grammy Awards eliminated several Americana categories and clustered traditional and contemporary blues under the same umbrella.

“We’re keeping the blues alive,” says Kiniry (who is the carpenter).

It’s appropriate, then, that the band’s name is a nod to late blues hall-of-famer Son Seals. The southern guitarist and singer penned the song “Buzzard Luck,” based on the expression that the ominous bird “can’t kill nothin’ and won’t nothin’ die.”

The bustling Wednesday crowd at The Winner’s Circle indicates the blues is, in fact, still alive and kicking in Central Pennsylvania. Hanover’s local watering hole was buzzing by 10 p.m. with a crowd comprised of musicians, locals and out-of-towners who have become regular fixtures at the weekly event.

The members of Buzzard Luck started the jam back in February, with Kiniry, Weiser and McClain serving as the backing band and inviting anyone else to join them on stage to play and sing.

“It’s a great format for open jamming,” McClain says.

Buzzard Luck’s “Blues n’ Roll” playlist is inspired by guitar-driven greats like Rory Gallagher, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Peter Green.

Their songs like “All You Need,” “Plea for Pardon” and “Wood Slat Swing” echo the sentiments of hard luck, tough love and other Americana narratives.

And don’t be surprised to hear some rock riffs like “Sugar Mama” – inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Allman Brothers Band. There’s a hint of rockabilly in their sound, too. A slight southern drawl in Kiniry’s vocals is reminiscent of Georgia Satellites lead singer
Dan Baird.

While Buzzard Luck is still relatively new to the Central PA music scene, their seasoned instrumental training ranges from classical guitar lessons to jazz band.

“I kind of grew up around the bass,” says Weiser, whose father, Blaine, was a founding member of popular Harrisburg act Slaughterhouse Blues. “They were big like 10, 15 years ago. So it was really kind of growing up in his shadow for a long time.”

McClain and Weiser (who, aside from his official title as an accountant, also operates his own sound company for local bands and festivals) are longtime pals who go back nearly 20 years. Kiniry joined the crew after meeting McClain in 2013.

The trio has already made a name for themselves playing alongside York fixtures like Thick as Thieves and Indian Summer Jars.

“We are a huge fan of the local scene,” McClain says.

And stay tuned for a new album to be recorded in late fall. Buzzard Luck members say the record will feature a handful of originals, as well as classic covers of old blues tunes. The new songs are written by Kiniry, and some of them have been sitting in waiting to be recorded ever since the band formed.

“There aren’t any reoccurring themes – every song has its own influence,” says McClain.

In the meantime, you can catch – and even join – Buzzard Luck every Wednesday in Hanover at the increasingly popular blues jam.

“There have been some magical moments in there,” says McClain. “You never know what to expect.”

Buzzard Luck performs at The Winner’s Circle blues jam every Wednesday at 9 p.m. The band also performs at the River City Blues Club in Harrisburg on September 11, the third annual Live Arts Festival at Ruins Hall in Glen Rock on September 12 and Mexitaly in York on September 25.




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Kim O'Brien is a freelance writer for Fly Magazine. In past lives she was a sports reporter, camp director and restaurant equipment writer, all of which somehow led to her current gig as a marketing copywriter. Secret talents include classical piano and fashioning MacGyver-esque car repairs for her trusty ol' Jeep.

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