Sean Kay, Tim Prindle and Jim Breece — commonly known as the “Rivermen” — will play at the Oak & Brazen Wine Co. From 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 18.
Residents of Delaware are probably familiar with the trio, which has been playing shows, particularly at The Backstretch in downtown Delaware, for almost 20 years now.
However, when the band takes the stage on May 18, the trio will feature a middle set that is near and dear to Kay’s heart. His grandmother, Anne Grimes, dedicated her life to music — folk music in particular. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in art and music, she went on to study music history at The Ohio State University, before moving on to be a music and dance critic for the Citizen Journal.
Grimes set out in the 1950s to gather and preserve folk songs all around Ohio, and she would go on to be respected as a leading expert on the dulcimer, a stringed instrument commonly associated with folk music. She released an album in 1957 titled, “Ohio State Ballads: History Through Folk Songs: Anne Grimes, with Dulcimer,” that was later re-released by the Smithsonian Institution in 1991. Her extensive dulcimer collection is now owned by the museum.
Thursday, May 17, would have been her 106th birthday — she passed away in 2004 — and Kay and the Rivermen will honor his grandmother during the May 18 concert with a set list dedicated to her music.
Asked of his earliest memories of his grandmother’s musical talents, Kay immediately harkened back to his childhood, laughingly recalling, “She was always singing. We’d often have to tell her to keep it quiet.”
Kay characterizes the band’s music as “rockin’ roots acoustic,” but says the set honoring his grandma’s music will be more than simply bringing out the dulcimers. “We’re going to ‘Seeger session’ my grandma’s (music),” Kay said, referencing Bruce Springsteen’s album featuring his takes on well-known folk artist Pete Seeger’s songs. “We’ll be having a good time with it.”
Along with Grimes’ songs, the band will play two sets from their traditional pull, which includes anything from Van Morrison to Talking Heads.
In addition to being able to dive into his grandmother’s music, Kay is also excited to be able to do so during the Delaware Arts Festival and OWU alumni weekend.
Kay, a professor at OWU, said his grandmother was very proud of her alma mater, something that seems to run in the family.
“It’s a neat connection because my grandmother went to school at Ohio Wesleyan, and so did her mother. And my daughter is a freshman here,” he said. “Delaware is home … it’s great to see the Oak & Brazen doing this, adding music, because the more venues there are for music in town, the more opportunity people have to enjoy themselves.”
On what those who come out to see the band on May 18 can expect, Kay said, “We’re very loose, very informal. If people say there is something they’d like to hear us play, we’ll do our best. One thing is for sure, if there’s anything we took from a group like the Grateful Dead, it’s that no two performances are the same. We have, like, 500 songs we draw from, so we mix it up, and it’s always something a little different. And that keeps it fun for us, too.”