CD Review: Sacramento based songwriter Ken Koenig’s first CD, Bring It Home, is a pleasant showcase for his eclectic songwriting. His songs range from soft acoustic ballads to hard rockers with a dose of folk. He’s joined by a fairly large cast of friends that includes his regular band mates, Jeff Tuttle on drums, Jerry Jennings on lead guitar, Paul Hawley on bass, and Steve Del Rio on congas and percussion. The real centerpiece of the CD is Koenig’s songwriting. Stay With Me starts the album off and is a mellow tune featuring Slim Bawb Pearce on dobro and banjo with Koenig’s guitar and harmonica. By the time he gets to Dirt From My Hands, he’s into a rocking groove. Gotta Love This Life is a shuffle that features Darren Consuelo on upright bass and Daryl Vandruff on drums with Steve Stizzo on accordion. Never Be The Same rocks out with Tony Pacheco on power driving lead guitar. Koenig’s versatile songwriting reflects his influences which range from swing through doo-wop and classic rock to Amy Winehouse. Bring It Home is an eclectic collection of songs that satisfies a variety of tastes.
Lincoln Messenger News
by Kathleen McCoy Grover
Ken Koenig Has Been Playing Music His Whole Life
Ken Koenig was born just after the Summer of Love in 1968’s Brooklyn, N.Y. His family lived in the Italian middle-class Wycoff District. They rented an apartment that belonged to “Why don’t you come up and see me some time?” Mae West.
Today, standing at 6 ‘7” Ken grew into his vaudevillian’s landlady’s maxim in more ways than one. His photographic memory can whisk him back to age two and the beat of his cymbal-playing toy monkey but the echo of street corner doo- wop bands left a far greater impression on him.
Flanked by two of his own Earth Angels, his older teenage sisters left him no escape from the sounds of Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and the Beatles spinning throughout their apartment.
Ken’s musical roots were nurtured in the deep vocal group-based rhythm and blues music he heard as a child.
“When I was four years old, my sisters and I were given a box full of records,” Ken said. “It had Franki Valli and The Four Seasons, Elvis, The Supremes, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and all the greats. I would put the 45’s into my Close ‘n Play record player and listen for hours.”
His family moved to West Sacramento in the summer of 1973.
“I was 5-years-old and my uncle used to sing in bars,” Ken said. “He did a really good Elvis. It was back when you could still get away with bringing your kid into a bar. I was infatuated with the whole band set up on stage and the electrifying of all the instruments. I knew then I wanted to sing and play music.”
When no one was home, Ken would listen to the Beatles in his bedroom. He would play his plastic guitar, look in the mirror and make believe the music was coming from him. When other kids were outside playing, Ken was inside pretending to be John Lennon or Paul McCartney.
Ken’s other musical influences came from his older brothers who listened to low rider R & B such as “Angel Baby” and “I’m Your Puppet.” His brother, Bobby, taught him to play his first chords and scales.
“My mom bought me my first guitar when I was 13,” Ken said. “It was a Les Paul copy. The Stray Cats had just released their song, ‘The Stray Cat Strut.’ “Their music finally made it socially acceptable for me to love music other than Van Halen.”
Ken eagerly delivered newspapers for The Press Tribune and spent his earnings on music-theory books. “I locked myself in my room and learned to play chords and rhythms.”
He left home at the age of 14 “to escape a wild family life.” He took refuge in a broken-down school in West Sacramento, taking comfort in his sleeping bag, transistor radio, a few clothes and a guitar. The Mecca Club hired him as a janitor. As a supplement, Ken said, he chauffeured inebriated patrons home for tips.
He never returned home or gave up his dream of playing music.
Ken was just16 when he moved to Manhattan, N.Y. He took a job at Ottominelli’s Steak House as a bus boy. In his off time, with bow tie still in place, he played songs on the busy curbs of Times Square or Central Park, making upwards of $80 an hour. After a year in his own New York studio apartment, a case of the California blues sent him back to Sacramento.
By 17, he landed his first steady gig playing acoustic guitar in the Fireside Lanes bar with his friend, Ron Friel, who was an “early Elvis” impersonator. When they played at the Hilton Hotel bar on Arden, they were given a free room for a month.
“Two 17 year olds with a hotel room for a month was pretty wild!” Ken said.
In 1995, Ken put together the duo, Daze of Green, which focused more on his originals. Together until 2005, Daze of Green released two CDs. Ken continued to play with other musicians during those years, expanding his songwriting.
The Ken Koenig Band, featuring Steve Stizzo (keyboards/accordion), Paul Hawley (bass), Jeff Tuttle (drums) and Steve Del Rio (percussion) was created in 2006 to showcase his music.
“My mom’s side of the family was really into country and western music. The tunes of Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, George Jones and The Everly Brothers were inescapable,” Ken said. “Years later, their influence leaked out of me on my ‘Bring It Home’ CD, in a song called ‘Down the Road.’ I wrote it to capture the sounds and memories of my childhood.”
He released his “Bring It Home” CD in 2008 to a warm commercial welcome. “Never Be the Same” stayed at No. 2 for two weeks on 100.5 FM The Zone’s Unsigned List and then was No. 3 for nine weeks. “Lonely Without You” also received airplay on the Nevada City community station KVMR 89.5.
Currently, Ken plays solo, with his 2 Days Away duo featuring Becca Danielsen, and with The Ken Koenig Band. His blend of folk, rock, blues, pop, bluegrass and country is heard throughout the Sacramento and Northern California area.
Locally Ken plays twice a month at both Old Town Pizza locations in Lincoln and Auburn, and at Dono dal Cielo Winery in Newcastle. He also plays at Beachhut Deli.
Ken has been married to his “girl next door” sweetheart, Cindy, for 16 years.
Charmed by our hometown community they plan to move from Citrus Heights to “come on up and see us” permanently, in Lincoln very soon!
All that and a bag of chips
Author: Mark V
This cd is a well complied album with sounds and music everyone can enjoy. I always respect artists like the Beatles who in every way shape or form go out of the way to produce a unique sound. This album is not a shy guy away from that at all. No matter what the mood your into this cd will capture that moment in at least one of the tracks. If at any time of day you feel funky “No Flies On Nigel” has what your looking for or a soothing sound just to relax to “Little Boats On the River” has just the taste you need. This album is a must have for all of the people who truly enjoy listening to good music.
Bring it Home
When I bought the album I wasn’t sure what type of music to expect, I was told it was a mix of everything. This is the greatest. Ken, great job. I have my favoites already and I have only had the album for a day. I love Down the road, Stay with me tonight, little boats on the River, Lonely without you..I guess if I keep going I will just list the complete list. Good Morning America should host you on their “Second Cup Cafe”
Bring It Home
I bought this CD at Dimple Records. I love it. What a refreshing change from some of the other music on the radio today. The arrangements, the song writing, the instrumentals, the vocals… fantastic. Kens versatility as a songwriter and artist are brought to the forefront on this CD. You can hear a hint of musical influence from the Beatles and Dylan and much like the Beatles and Dylan, Ken has his own unique style. Great music, looking forward to the next CD. An artist this good needs to be on the radio and shared with the rest of the world. There’s a lot of people who can use some GOOD music in their life right now. Music to help soothe the soul and ease the mind, music that will reflect on the better times. This CD is a must listen to.
Bring It Home
Author: Troy Mauvais
The album begins with a Dylan-esque folk song called “Stay With Me Tonight” complete with harmonica, banjo, congas and a slide guitar. The second track, “Little Boats On The River” is a real toe-tapper with a smooth bass line, pretty guitar work sprinkled in, and a tasteful chord progression as the song reaches its title line. With “Dirt From My Hands” Ken breaks out the electric guitar. From the swell of feedback at the intro to the unique order of the final chords, this song is a guitar player’s dream. Be sure to turn it up at the final section of the breakdown to hear an all-fret-encompassing fusion guitar solo from Jerry Jennings. Next Ken pulls off a sparse but effective cover an obscure Beach Boys tune with “I’d Just Love To See You”. The song “No Flies On Nigel” builds slowly through the whole first and second verse, then after a pair of partial triplets it kicks into high gear. Listen for another screaming guitar solo from Jerry and check out that final chord! By the half way point on the CD you are ready for some accordion on “Gotta Love This Life”. And watch out! This accordion kicks it out on the break. It’s fun to listen to. Gotta love it! Ken pulls out what may be the biggest rocker on the disc with “Never Be The Same”. The guitar is out front, but not offensive. Here we get a small taste of what Tony Pacheco is capable of on the guitar, and the bass pushes you right along. The accordion makes its return on “Lonely Without You” with an authentic European style sound. I would be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to Ken’s bass playing on this track. Nice! The second cover on the CD is called “Singing The Blues”. And Ken’s got some good company here as Paul McCartney has also been known to cover this one. The song “Say Goodbye” is the kind of song that makes you bob your head with the beat; slow, but somehow driving. Jerry adds some unique fills in the breakdown section. I love the transition as the song “Golden Girl” progresses into the bridge. The final track “Down The Road” just happened to be beggin’ for a fiddle break, so Ken found one that seems to fit just right. All in all Bring It Home is very well done. There is quite a mixture with a variety of instruments and a wide range of styles. This is the CD I put on the house stereo when I’m relaxing in the backyard or when I’ve got some Sunday morning cleaning to do. Overall, it’s an excellent listen all the way through.
Variety and then some!
Author: Tony Pacheco
This album spans many genres… Jazz, Folk, Rock, Hillbilly, you name it, its there! Sorry kids, no death metal. This is a collection of compositions to be enjoyed by those with actual musical taste. I have all of Ken’s CDs and while he continues to out do himself with each subsequent release, I believe this is his best album to date. I can’t wait for the next one! Until then, I’ll continue to carry Bring it Home with me everywhere I go.
Author: Holly DeLaughter
Well, hello there Mr. Music Man! Thank you so much for my autographed copy of your latest CD, “Bring It Home”. I absolutely LOVE IT and have listened to it over and over and over again in just the few days I’ve had it… FULL BLAST on my Pioneer, moon roof back and all windows down… you know the scene! You and your band really nail it together and you’ve got a fan in me! “Bring It Home” is indeed a treasured diverse album with awesome instrumentals and a perfect lead 😉 Love the lyrics! There aren’t many albums I can name off the top of my head in which so many songs are a hit. I am going to have a lot of fun watching you storm the world with your passion and grace. You truly rock! With love and the utmost respect, (go get em Killer!) Holly
With all the local music out there. This is the most original and well produced cd I have heard in a long time. My favorite song is Golden Girl, because I am a Mom! Great job Ken Koenig! Look forward to more live gigs.
Sacramento should be so lucky to have this band. Not only are they radio worthy they should be signed already! Love the guitar,and his melodic voice. Very Beetles like but original too.
Author: Michael Gregory
I have been a professional musician for 30 years and have played on hundreds of recording sessions and toured with #1 artists in the US and abroad. That being said, I have known Ken Killian for many of those years and have had the distinct pleasure of watching and hearing him mature as an artist. While his style gives a proper tip of the hat to his influences, they are all distilled through his unique musical being to produce a one-of-a-kind original artist who has his own thumbprint. In this age of sound-alikes and “McMusic”, it is refreshing to hear the personality of a human being ooze out from my speakers instead of some focus-group-tested, A&R approved, slickly packaged and marketed commercial “product”. One of the best things to come from River City in a long time!
Lonely Without You
Author: Lori Wilson
I bought this Cd from Ken’s personal Myspace page! “Lonely Without You” is my favorite by far. The song takes me to a place where I can picture whats going on. My husband fought over in Iraq and looked forward to those letters that he sent. So this song is very touching to me. However, I really Love the whole Cd. Such a great change from what’s being played on the radio. Thank you Ken for touching my heart with your song and music. Hope one day I can meet you in person. Cheers, Lori
It has definitely been brought home! 😀
Great album, I think “Say Goodbye” is my favorite! The whole album is cool, especially the artwork 😉 Only a matter of time before the CD gets the recognition it deserves!
Little Boats on the River
This is a down to earth album.Not only does it have something for everyone, but it gives a true flavor of everyday life.My favorites are, Little Boats on the River, Dirt from my hands,and Down the road. You have to get this album.We need more bands like this. Great job guys. Hope to hear you on the radio soon.
Lonely Without You
Author: Christl McKenney
Just one of my favorites on this CD. It is a song about a soldier over-seas missing his loved one. With all the military away from their families right now this really pulls at the heart strings. I love the “oldish” sound it has and the accordion accompaniment adds to its flare. This is a must listen to CD!! Has a variety of music for all types of music lovers. Great Job! Hope to hear more in the future.
Author: Amanda C
I just bought the CD “Bring It Home” and I am so impressed. I can’t believe this is an unsigned performer! The music is fantastic and the songs are very well crafted. This guy is so talented. I wish him the best and can’t wait for his next album.
Bring It Home
Author: Misty C.
Love, love, LOVE this CD! Ken has such an amazing voice and my favorite song is definitely track 9 “singing the blues”. This CD is one of those you just can’t help but to bop your head along to every song. I’d recommend everyone buy this CD!!
Bring It Home
Author: Mike fields
I bought this cd the first week it came out. I tottaly dig the whole thing. This is Ken’s best work so far. The only problem I have is THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS TO HEAR THIS ALBUM!!! This is music in it’s purest form. Every song is great!! ” Lonely Without you” Is one of my favorits. I wish Ken the best of luck on this Cd, it’s absolutely Wonderful!
The CD is the best. I love “No Flies”, “Say Goodbye” and “Golden Girl” the most, but all the songs are great. This album has serious radio potential. The world is starving for a talented, singer-songwriter like Ken. He deserves to be heard everywhere!
Lonely Without You
This song just puts me in the best mood. Doesn’t matter what’s happening around me, I just put on track 8 and everythings good. Also really dig track 10 and 11. As a whole, the album really works for me. Great job – both songwriting and recording.
Bring It Home
Author: Jerry Jennings
This is an amazing album. Ken is a great story teller with a diverse range of infuences. There are several ‘hit’ quality songs on here that you will thoroughly enjoy. The styles range from hints of eclectic artists such as Steely Dan or the Doobies, to Dylanesque folk, to classic songwriters such as Carol King or Brian Wilson. My wife can’t quit listening to track eight.