A song recorded in a hotel room at the Westin during this year’s Folk Alliance International Conference is now raising money for a cause, and the musicians who championed the project are back in Kansas City for a show this week.
Over three days at Folk Alliance in February, the members of Roosevelt Dime set up a mobile studio and invited their favorite musicians to record a cover of the Wailers' “Pass It On.” It's now available for download, with all proceeds going to the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit that provides legal representation to poor people.
To build out the hotel-room studio, Roosevelt Dime turned to an old friend, Kansas City percussionist and engineer Brandon Draper.
“We like to get together with other bands, artists, and songwriters, collaborate and bring down any sort of barriers that may be present in musicians of different styles and beliefs,” says the band’s bass player, Craig Akin, who lived in Kansas City for a decade, gigging six nights a week with what he describes as “nearly everyone at every venue and festival” – Rod Fleeman, Kerry Strayer, Todd Strait, Greg Meise and the Boulevard Big Band, to name a handful — until moving to New York in 2007.
Because the band was flying in from the East Coast, they couldn't bring a studio's worth of recording equipment. That's when Draper stepped in to help.
“I don't rent out my equipment that often,” Draper says. “It has to be for a good friend.” Fortunately Draper trusted Akin, because Draper wasn't able to attend any of the Folk Alliance conference: He was out of town rehearsing for his role as the title character in Jesus Christ Superstar at the annual Messiah Festival in Lindsborg, Kansas. “I missed the most important weekend in Kansas City,” Draper laments (he figures he can be forgiven, given his obligation to play Jesus).
Roosevelt Dime played four showcases at the conference. Between those and everyone else's showcases, the band's favorite singers and players stopped by the hotel room to record. “It was a little hectic, because everybody has so much going on during the conference,” Akin says, “so we tried to snag whoever we could for an hour.” Contributors include the Stray Birds (Pennsylvania), Ellis Paul (Maine) and Laura Cortese (Boston).
Akin played jazz in New York City before finding a niche as an upright and electric bass player for singer-songwriters, which led him to Roosevelt Dime a year ago. He still has family in Kansas City and gets back a couple of times a year.
“It’s incredible to have Folk Alliance based there now,” Akin says. “The town already had so much great stuff going on, and then this moved in and propelled it to a whole other level of greatness. Kansas City has been more historically known as a jazz and blues town — where jazz and blues comes together, it makes this Kansas City groove. With Folk Alliance being headquartered there, it can expand on the whole roots, Americana, songwriting world.”
Roosevelt Dime plays at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at the Tank Room, 1813 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, 64108, 816-352-5382.