The Rocks Off 200: Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? They say it's difficult to be a writer, artist, songwriter or any other creative type without practical experience, which is something Robert Kuhn shouldn't have to worry about at all. The Galveston-based musician plays harmonica in Houston treasure Little Joe Washington's band, but has also just completed and released his first solo album, Everybody Knows. His bio reads like something Ernest Hemingway could have written 80 years ago.
Photos courtesy of Robert Kuhn
Check this out: the Houston native left his hometown in 1997 for Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where he studied English lit and mathematics before eventually winding up in New York. Around 2001 Kuhn struck out for points south -- Buenos Aires to begin with, then other South American locales, then Central America, where his jobs included "writer, teacher, street performer, puppeteer, grape harvester, carpenter, shop keeper, drug runner and just about anything else there is to do" before spending six years as a fisherman and organic farmer in Nicaragua. He returned to Houston in 2010 and worked at a shirt factory before moving to Galveston and linking up with Little Joe some time after.
Everybody Knows certainly sounds like an accurate account of Kuhn's life thus far -- a considerable Wilco fan who spent extensive time in Latin America and the Caribbean before linking up with one of Houston's most beloved bluesmen. (Little Joe appears on three songs.) It's worth checking out -- and, no doubt, seeing live. Kuhn will have an album-release party February 11 at the first 2014 concert of KPFT's Troubador Tuesday series, which has relocated to the Cottonwood bar near I-10 and Shepherd. Folk Family Revival will be there too.
Home Base: Kuhn picks one of the area's most historic venues, one often overlooked by Houstonians: Galveston's Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, where he and his band play once or twice a month. "The place is loaded with talented songwriters and has great sound," he says. "Wrecks Bell, the owner, is a super-cool guy to hang with."
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "If you're gonna be in a city, Houston's about as good as they come," offers Kuhn. "It's packed with musicians of all genres, but there's still room because there's even more people. Its international and multicultural, and even though you've got to drive around, there are plenty of venues to play where you can get paid for doing what you love."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Cover bands and Red Dirt," he says. Simple enough.
Story continues on the next page.