In a city (Austin) known for live music and GREAT players, Redd Volkaert stands as one of the true giants. It’s always fun to discover a hidden gem in this wonderful nook-and-cranny-filled town of ours. So I invite you to enter The Continental Club (Austin legend in its own right) at about 3:30 on any given Saturday afternoon and prepare yourself. You’re about to meet a legend.
Playing professionally for more than 40 years, he started playing in bands long before he was old enough to drink with them. Names like Brad Paisley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Vince Gill, Johnny Paycheck, Kenny Rogers and Eric Johnson mark the long list of artists he has shared the stage with (the list is longer, a LOT longer), and he just keeps on going. “I’m always searching, never happy with my sound; I still listen for new licks. There’s always somebody better, and I can learn from them.”
That’s all well and good, but let’s get down to what makes Redd so great. Is it licks? Tone? Gear? Perhaps “yes” is the best answer – the mix of everything together that yields the wonderful stew that is the sound of Redd Volkaert.
Redd’s use of jazz chords bring in a special touch that’s singular in its experience. It’s really more about chords and rhythm (probably the best rhythm guitar I’ve ever heard, just a POUNDING rhythm guitar), where he will insert big, fat jazz chords right in the middle of a standard 1-4-5 country song. It’s so jarring to hear in a song you already know that it can stop you in your tracks. Yet, it’s seamless at the same time. Careful, don’t trip.
Redd plays The Continental Club every Saturday with his band and every Sunday with Heybale!. While Redd is great, he allows the song to be what it is and refuses to overplay it. Even more important (and impressive), he’s a generous soloist, always making sure that the other players get equal time.
Now, in all my reading about him, I don’t remember his voice ever being highlighted, but it’s outstanding. Equal parts Johnny Cash, Don Williams and Bill Anderson, it has great bass/baritone power with really nice whisper overtones.
He might be the best kept secret in Austin, and is definitely a treasure. There may be only five or six guitarists in the world who can do what he can do. He mixes jazz and country licks so seamlessly that you’re really only aware that something happened, but not necessarily what. Seasoned pros shake their heads in wonder at what he plays.
by Kyle Bailey