Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RIP Chris Polk

Chris Polk appearing with Daryl Davis at the 2013 Tinner Hill Blues Festival
Every community has its local musical figures who are quite loved, but for a variety of reasons remain local musical figures. I am among many who were shocked by the sudden passing of blues singer and guitarist,  Chris Polk on Sunday evening, December 8. I remember seeing Chris perform on numerous occasions including a period of several years in the 1990s when he appeared monthly at the Vienna Tap Room in that Virginia community. He was someone who loved the music, playing for people and obviously touched a lot of people. One of the last times I saw him perform on is own was at a Virginia club where a number of persons who he had coached in Track at South Lakes High School had come out. He obviously touched many lives and his passing affects many.

Chris Polk at Nick's Corner Bar in May, 2010
Back in 2002 Chris finally had a recording out and I reviewed it at the time in the DC Blues Society's newsletter DC Blues Calendar (June 2002 issue), although I made a few clarifying changes. In part, as a memoriam to Chris, I reprint that review even though it is likely no longer available. It was a very entertaining and well-performed live recording.

One of the area's better singer-guitarists, Chris Polk, finally has a recording available, Live at Zigs, recorded at the Alexandria club and available from Polk at his performances. Polk has several urban blues influences with perhaps none so obvious as Buddy Guy. Guy's influence is, in part, suggested by Polk's use of a polka dot guitar.

Guy's influence is also evident in the songs included here which does not indicate the breadth of Polk's repertoire. However renditions of Got My Eyes On You, I Got a Problem, I Feel So Bad, Midnight Train, Nobody Understands Me But My Guitar and the cover of Stormy Monday suggest how much and influence Guy is. Listening to Polk's vocals on this disc, as well as guitar playing, I am struck by this influence more than I have been watching Chris live.

Chris' playing is characterized by serpentine playing that evokes Guy as does his expressive vocals. Polk does avoid some of the excesses that can mar some of Guy's performances. Polk sings and plays with a controlled intensity that serves the material well. The band includes some of his regular musical compatriots including  guitarist John Sterling, bassist Willie Hicks and drummer Morgan Norris with special guest, Steve Johnsen, contributing the keyboards.
Chris Polk at the 1997 DC B lies Festival. Photo © Ron Weinstock

2 comments:

John O said...

Hi Ron- you've done a fine job describing Chris as an artist. Chris was an exceptional person and a superior performer. I believe he should be honored in a more permanent fashion- perhaps with a scholarship fund. I'd love to hear your ideas about that. Also, as a correction Chris' first Blues CD was recorded with the Deacons in 1996. It was titled "1,2,3,4... Live at the Courtyard". Chris was a founding member of the Deacons, playing with us from 1995 to 1998. He sang 4 tracks, I sang 3, Charles Mitchell sang 2, and Geoff Holdridge sang 1. If you'd like a copy of it, let me know and I'll be happy to send you one. Also, we're looking for a photographer to shoot a CD cover. Are you available? Let me know,
Thanks,
John

John O said...

Hi Ron,
Once again, you've written an excellent commentary on a fine performer. Chris was a wonderful man, and while his music will be missed, he will be missed more. A few of us are thinking about a more permanent memorial- perhaps a scholarship fund. If you have ideas, please let us know. As a clarification, Chris' first Blues CD was "1,2,3,4...Live at the Courtyard", which we (the Deacons)recorded back in 1996. Chris was a founding member of the Deacons and played with the group from 1995 to 1998. If you'd like a copy of the CD, I still have a few left, and I know that no one would appreciate it more than you.

Best Regards,

John