If there were a single motto to encompass the Fringe, it would be to expect the unexpected. Always. "Festival Folk @ The Oak" brilliantly illustrates this rule. I had no expectations, but as the basement bar filled to the brim so did my anticipation. The evening's act was Kray Van Kirk, whose 12-string guitar and soaring vocals were spellbinding; the Alaskan singer-songwriter, in his Edinburgh debut, was not the reason I arrived early, but was certainly why I stayed late. The intimacy of the room and intensity of the music cannot be matched.
Daily Fringe Review, Edinburgh, Scotland
A welcome change from the usual-run-of-the-mill singer-songwriters who have lately been frequenting the stages of local folk venues. It is what all other singer-songwriters should aspire to.
Borderline Folk Club, New York
His shows are amazing, and are truly a memorable experience. He's really a very funny guy! Listen in the quiet of your living room, and hear the smart messages in his songs. You will be forever changed.
Bridger Folk Music Society, Logan UT
This man is the real deal and has it all: sweet tenor voice, virtuoso guitarist on both, 12 string & 6 string, rousing melodies, clever well constructed lyrics, and a fantastic stage presence. One of the best concerts ever performed in South Florida.
Boca Folk and Bluegrass, Boca Raton, FL
Radio Show - River City Folk, with Tom May
The room was almost empty after Van Kirk's show at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. A man with shirt-sleeves rolled up in the August heat walked over to him and stood hesitantly for a moment before thrusting out his hand. "I use to sing for my wife in the evenings, but she has dementia now and doesn't remember me. That song about the lost lovers and the dance hall..." he stopped for a moment before his Scottish reserve reasserted itself. "That's it exactly."
A fine finger-style guitarist with a precise baritone reminiscent at times of Gordon Lightfoot, Van Kirk has a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska. After five years of living in his van and playing music across the US and Canada, he thought that a career in the sciences might be a bit more secure than playing music for a living, especially as a single parent. Eventually, however, he realized that he liked writing songs more than statistical models, and he put aside his computer (and salary), picked up his guitar, and set out again.
He’s not your average crying-in-your-coffee singer songwriter. "We are driven by myth and our emotional responses to it” he says. “Science and facts come later in the pursuit of a given ethical goal. We need new heroes and new myths, building on our rich traditions, to meet the moral challenges of a very complex 21st century.”
Thus his songs: Thunderbird resurrects the Phoenix in an empty desert diner somewhere in the American Southwest (yes, the Phoenix drives a Thunderbird), The Queen of Elfland plucks Thomas the Rhymer from the English-Scottish border in 1250 and drops him, along with the Queen, into a subway car, and The Midnight Commander has an insane, Quixotic old man leading the city of New York to take up arms (and underwear) against hatred.
Of this charming and decidedly eclectic performer, the Borderline Folk Club in New York wrote “it is what every singer-songwriter should aspire to.”