Steady Rollin’ Man
The Hector Qirko Band has been rollin’ and tumblin’ for 20 years, yet it still finds new directions in which to go.
By Scott Robertson
It’s no news flash that most folks today aren’t aficionados of the blues. All you have to do is look at what’s popular right now to see that. Kanye West has yet to release a Lightnin’ Hopkins tribute album. James Blunt isn’t eager to get into the studio to cover “Little Red Rooster.” Ashlee Simpson isn’t buying up old Koko Taylor vinyl.
When the Hector Qirko Band is onstage, though, the blues is still, as Qirko calls it, a living thing.
The first friend I took was a 40-something lady who grew up listening to a steady diet of Eddie Van Halen and Pat Metheny. “Oh my,” she said during a break between songs, “that is a man who knows how to use his fingers. He’s a great guitar player. And you didn’t tell me he was hot.”
“He excels at both music and teaching,” says Dr. Michael Logan, a colleague of Qirko’s in the University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology. “He has very high expectations and demands quite a bit of work from his students, but for the most part they appreciate him and give him their best work. He is also very eclectic in the topics he addresses in his courses, from evolutionary theory to the culture of corporations.”
So while the band may cover a Muddy Waters tune, the odds are good it won’t sound too much like the original recording, or even like any other cover of the same song.
It’s the same with the band’s original material. “I will have a draft of a song that I’ve written,” says Qirko. “One of the others may do the same thing. That person brings in the draft and we let it go wherever it will. Sometimes we end up far away from what we started out with.”
The level of virtuosity in the band has something to do with that as well. Fellow guitarist Todd Steed once joked that Qirko had “more licks than a two-month-old puppy.”
And all four band members are talented and versatile enough to play in just about any genre. “Truth be told, a lot of the other forms are also relying on the same kinds of chord progression as the blues,” says Qirko. “I end up sort of playing in a bluesy way no matter what style I’m playing.”
But, says Brown, it always comes back to the blues. “In ‘The Blues is a living thing’ Hector says something to the effect of ‘you don’t have to have been born on a delta. If you’ve suffered, if you’ve loved somebody you shouldn’t, then you know the blues.”
“So we’ll go from a pretty straight version of a blues classic like Junior Wells “Messin’ with the kid” into something that sounds really Latin. But the blues sensibility, that sound and experience is always at the root of the band.”