Robert Kidney has always learned by doing. When, as a boy, he first heard his friend play acoustic guitar, he told himself he was going to learn, too. And so he did. Though he was a bit far from the Greenwich music crowd, the young man steeped himself in the music of Bob Dylan, the Kingston Trio and their ilk, and when the folkies came through town, he was right there with them, talking himself into opening slots for Janis Ian and Linda Ronstadt. Then, while stationed in Chicago in the Navy, he fell in with a new, electric sound, and found himself entranced by the music of bluesmen like Lightning Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf. So he learned that too. Soon he found himself in a band out of Kent, Ohio, and before he knew it he was pioneering the Akron Sound as the frontman for the blues and experimental rock group, the Numbers Band, which put out their first album in 1974 and has been recording ever since.
In 2012, Kidney won the Cleveland Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement In Music, and in a video recorded at the time of the award, Kidney confessed, “I’m what they call a jackleg, and it means begin able to take random things and put them together in a practical way.” From there, Kidney laid the foundation for his next chapter; the legend will return to his folk roots for the release of his first ever solo album, Jackleg, on April 22nd.
Today, Elmore is premiering the video for “Rosalee,” a track from the album that was a longtime staple of Numbers Band, and was also covered by Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders on their 2008 album, Break Up The Concrete.
The video begins in silence and darkness, and takes viewers on a dreamlike journey between present and past, a tender treatise on a powerful, unshakable love. Like the surreal vignettes of Rosalee and her lover dancing as they swirl with shots of a dapper Kidney playing his acoustic guitar, the song straddles the line between sweet and sad, with hints of redemption, but the creeping, bittersweet sense that she may be lost to him. Though Kidney interprets “Rosalee” a folk song, the aches and moans of his captivating voice recall the blues tradition he’s steeped in. “When you smile at me, all the lights come on,” he intones at the start. But then she’s lost: “Your love it calls to me like that far, distant light.”
Watch the video for “Rosalee” below, and preorder Jackleg here.