Northeast Washington is losing a local talent when he moves to Austin, Texas this summer.
All I will say is that they better appreciate Chet O'Keefe.
I first met O'Keefe when someone gave me a news tip about him and his musical talents. Admittedly, I had heard none of O'Keefe's music when I interviewed him for the first time, several years ago. It wasn't until I attended a house concert in Chewelah and listened to him perform songs from his 2010 album 'Game Bird' that my jaw dropped, my eardrums perked up, and I settled in for a good listen. His style of guitar playing was ear-catchingly rhythmic; his story-telling through his songs was humorous and poignant, thought-provoking and unpretentious, and wholly entertaining.
Needless to say, there were no bathroom breaks for me throughout his entire set.
O'Keefe will bring his trademark sound to the River Awakening Festival in Curlew Friday, Aug. 15. It will be the last local gigs he plays before moving to Austin, then traveling to Sweden to take his music on tour.
Originally from the Northeast, he spent nine years in Nashville, did a short stint in Dallas, and lived in Kettle Falls until making his way to Central Texas at singer/songwriter/activist Kinky Friedmanâ€™s invitation.
"I moved here (Kettle Falls) from Nashville because after nine years, I was tired of training to make things happen (with my music)," says O'Keefe. "I got into a place of acceptance of whatever comes next in terms of music, I will do."
With that come-what-may approach and continuing to work diligently on writing and recording songs, (he has another album, Four Wheel Low released in 1998, and is working on another), O'Keefe began booking shows in Northeast Washington, playing music festivals, and touring Sweden. In 2010, his song â€śRing the Bell,â€ť was recorded by popular bluegrass pickers The Gibson Brothers, went to No. 1 on the bluegrass chart, and stayed there for three months. It was also chosen as the International Bluegrass Music Association Song of the Year.
He is currently working on a collection of songs that reflect the changes of the Columbia River since Grand Coulee Dam was constructed, in the spirit of legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie.
"As a musician, I need and want to mirror what's happening in our culture and society," explains O'Keefe. "It's a sense of responsibility. I want to write songs that talk about what's happening now."
To listen to a sample of O'Keefe's music, go to http://chetokeefe.bandcamp.com. Even better, go see him live.