New ‘straight up country’ music duo forms in Centre County. Here’s where to see it

Kick the Footlights, a country duo with Larry Boggess and Steve Hinckley, will perform Friday at Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte.
Kick the Footlights, a country duo with Larry Boggess and Steve Hinckley, will perform Friday at Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte. Photo provided

This just in, folks. Country music is here to stay.

It’s not that it’s gone anywhere, or even appears to be going anywhere, it’s just that here in Centre County it’s not featured at many local venues unless it’s a big name act gigging at the Bryce Jordan Center. But that all changes on Friday when Kick the Footlights swings the classic country musical rope between its legs from 6 to 8 p.m. at Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte.

“Steve and I just started Kick the Footlights — from a Merle Haggard song — after playing together in the Keena Band, Keep the Change, and our other duo projects,” Kick the Footlights guitarist and singer Larry Boggess wrote in an email. “We both play guitars and sing, focusing on classic country songs from the mid-20th Century, connecting musical regions such as Nashville, Texas, Oklahoma, and Bakersfield, CA.”

Kick the Footlights is a self-described dyed in the wool country band that brings together two of Centre County’s most seasoned musicians: Boggess and singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Hinckley. They played in numerous musical ensembles together in groups like Larry and Keena as well as Highway 61, and they’ve ebbed and flowed in separate musical iterations.

“My lifelong passion for music really blossomed when I came to State College 12 years ago,” Hinckley wrote in an email. “I’ve been playing percussion and singing during most of that time with the great Tommy Wareham, country artist David Zentner, the Keena Band and Keep the Change, and played guitar with Tom Baker in our duo Spare Change.”

The pairing is a great idea. Along with bringing a much needed dose of straight up country to our area, it also is a rare instance of a local place booking a band that plays music firmly planted in a particular genre, something our area needs more of.

“We are building on this Jan 25th gig at Big Spring Spirits to gauge local interest in classic country music but can envision finding receptive audiences at venues in, and around, State College,” Boggess said.

Country music has been around since the early 20th century, and like most things there’s really no way to point to a single instance that was the drop dead beginning of the genre. What we now call country was regional music that simply caught on, and then of course companies like Sun Records built a brand around it with artists like Hank Williams and — due to their popularity — a genre was born.

Classic country is heartfelt music written and performed by real people about real life situations, devoid of the pop influences that currently dominate mainstream Nashville, and full of organic commercial appeal simply due to its authenticity.

“Lots of people dismiss country music for a variety of reasons,” Hinckley wrote, “but there is no denying that the best country songs touch something in hearts and souls and express emotions that so many of us share. This music is real, flesh and blood, and unafraid to tell stories listeners can relate to. We can’t wait to bring these songs to audiences in this area.”

As much as Boggess and Hinckley love country music, it’s clear they love performing together as well.

“Steve and I have always had a strong musical connection and a broad repertoire,” Boggess said. “Almost anything one of us plays, the other knows or can pick up quickly. And, it was funny — when we each picked 30 songs for this project, we had only two overlap. That’s some eclectic country jukebox going on there.”

Hinckley concurred.

“This is our shared homage to music that means so much to us and that we are sure will resonate with generations of music fans,” he said. “This musical endeavor is exciting because I’m getting out front, alongside Larry, to put our personal touches on this great music. We’ve kicked this concept around for a long time, and I’m thrilled that it is finally happening.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.