Kerr hits the clubs

If you made it to the "D" section in Tuesday's Providence Journal, you saw a big, yellow-tinged photo of singer Sarah Lupo beneath the headline "Sassy, Bluesy Sarah." Inside, a piece that beautifully captured the mood of her recent show at The Met - a sort of reunion of Rhode Island's aging rockers.

[I]t was a good night. It was a very good night. It was a few hundred barroom nights distilled into one big wet one. It was a celebration of the way musical paths cross and re-cross in Rhode Island and how old friends show up to make new music.

You might recognize that cadence, that style. It is the voice of one of Rhode Island's great, old scribes - Bob Kerr, a long-time columnist who has launched a new feature: "Bob Kerr's music scene."

He won't be reviewing albums or shows. "I can't do that," he says, with typical modesty. But he will be doing what he does best: telling people's stories.  "I've always thought that there's a great local music scene, here, and we've never paid enough attention to it," he says.

Kerr, who will continue to write his column, is approaching the new project with typical humility. "My one big failing in all this," he says, "is I'm really old and I really don't get out too often." But Rich Lupo, owner of Lupo's and The Met and husband to Sarah, has given him some good leads, he says. And the first piece got his phone ringing, too.

The new venture, however exciting, comes with a touch of the melancholy.  "Bob Kerr's music scene" was born, in part, as a reaction to the departure of long-time music writer Rick Massimo, one of 11 ProJo staffers who took buyout offers in September. Since then, the struggling paper has announced plans to lay off 23 more staffers - including three talented photographers.

Kerr's beloved paper - he may grumble, but he loves the place - is in decline. And the writer, himself, suggests the music series could be something of a swan song. At 67, Kerr says, this might be his last year at the ProJo. (Of course, he adds, he probably said the same thing last year.)

His departure, whenever it comes, will be a major loss for a broadsheet that has lost some of its lyrical touch in recent years, that has said goodbye to too many of its lions.

Until then, though, readers will be treated with some fine writing from the belly of its sassy, bluesy music scene.


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