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Kelly Werts – Bio

Kelly Werts is on a mission to remind us of the great music that has come from the past, and celebrate it in the present. Using two simple ingredients, voice and guitar, he takes classic songs from early folk, country and popular music and gives them new life. With his finger style guitar, he weaves new musical thoughts around and through the vocal melodies.

“I never get tired of exploring even the simplest song,” Kelly explains. “An old tune like “The Crawdad Song” offers limitless musical opportunities when you roam around inside it with a guitar.” The title track of his new CD, “Crawdad”, inspires his musical imagination, fueled by memories of a youth spent “messing around at the creek by the house, catching crawdads, and generally getting into mischief.”

Kelly has made much musical mischief since then, playing all styles through the years and appreciating each for what they had to offer. These days, he picks songs one by one, from different decades, that are suited to the guitar and speak in terms universal enough that listeners from any generation can appreciate. Playing an old song with a new approach brings a kind of balance for Werts between past, present and future.

Kelly has payed his dues in bars, clubs, schools and bigger concert venues. Wider recognition came to him after twice placing in the finals of the Walnut Valley International Finger Picking Championships, which is characterized by hot licks and finger-bending one-upmanship. Preferring a more restrained musical approach to his instrument, Kelly is often heard around Kansas City accompanying singer Connie Dover, whose lyrical style calls out for simplicity and taste in a guitarist. He has also been heard in other small groups throughout the Midwest, and is quickly recognized when he sings his theme song for “Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations”, a popular Kansas City PBS television series.

With his debut solo CD, “Crawdad”, Kelly embarks on a period of performing based on solo and group encounters with his favorite songs. Appearing on occasion with fiddle, accordion, cello, percussion and other instruments, Kelly is always looking for new combinations of sounds to wrap around the music.


Cover crawdad            Grinning Back photo

Crawdad – CD

Kansas City finger style guitarist Kelly Werts, a veteran of the regional acoustic music scene, has released a solo album that reaches back to his personal roots. The CD, entitled “Crawdad”, features Kelly singing the title song, a reminder of his childhood years spent playing at the edge of the neighborhood creek. Other classic songs, like “Ring of Fire” and “King of the Road” reflect Kelly’s earliest exposure to music on the radio, while “Rye Whiskey” and “The Darby Ram” are the products of his research into the popular songs of past centuries. Werts gives them equal footing, figuring that they all share the same lasting qualities. The treatments are mostly simple, ranging from Kelly’s unadorned singing and nimble-fingered guitar to the added sounds of fiddle, mountain dulcimer, cello, accordion, spoons, pump organ and harmony vocals from nine guest musicians. An occasional gnarly fiddle tune serves as a reminder that life can get complex, yet the danceability of those melodies entreats us to navigate it all with energy and joy.