Down the street from the corner of drunk and hammered was where I first met Kenny Uptain and Kelly Test. Keys Lounge was packed for Foxtrot Uniform and Quaker City Night Hawks, a blur of contagious rock. A pair of yin-yang raconteurs with whom I quickly fell in with leading to substantive musical conversations as well as finely hewn guff giving.
From such inebriated origins, our acquaintance grew as I caught them all over town. Love Shack, Woodshed, Lola’s, and Kenny swapping songs with other songwriters. There was no telling where I might catch the duo, but then time passed and the next time I saw them the two had become four. With nudging from their friends Oil Boom, the foursome without keys, debuted at Lola’s in a thunderous return from hibernation. Those damn caterpillars sprouted wings in a gnarly display of rock prowess. Adding another guitar and bass, the songs had teeth and the grooves of old had new profound depth. The transformation would not be complete until they added the delightful Katie Robertson on keys. A set at Magnolia Motor Lounge saw the roots elements coalesce with tangled-hearted Southern soul as smooth as old bourbon. Two weeks later, running errands, Edge of the World came on KXT and I realized Kenny was a really soul singer at heart.
On a sun-draped Sunday afternoon, I sat with the band atop the beautimous rooftop of The Live Oak. With smiling eyes behind his shades, Kenny lit a cigarette and told us about the gig from which he’d just come as he gazed into the bright blue sky. The rest of Foxtrot Uniform – Robbie Saunders, Katie Robertson, Zack Busbee – sat to my side.
We learn Kenny is disappointed to know Ray-Ban is owned by an Italian company before he explains FU’s evolution from two to five after autumn’s Huj! Huj! Hujrah!, a gritty groove-monster dressed for heavy rotation. Sipping a beer, he turns to Robbie, and asks, “how’d we meet you, idiot?” Despite Kelly’s cynicism, Robbie was discovered in Kenny’s efforts to troll social media for a bass player. He would slide over to guitar after they tracked down rugged bass player Zach Busbee.
Fiinally, Ms. Robertson was found at Basement Bar, as she recalls, “They asked me to go on tour with them that night.”
In the past month, they’ve been doing pre-production tracking in Cisco — grown up recording comes later. Kelly interjects during the discussion of recording timeline, “Y’all are just making up terms. We recorded some stuff. It has been a few months. Good to mess around and see where we take it from there.”
At this point, Uptain slips into a gruff-throated character, “And then I murdered a women who wouldn’t quit yelling in 1971. I spent 12 years in prison in Tennessee. And that’s where these songs came from, my bunkmate was a man named Blue. He passed away and I took his songs.” Returning to mock diva form, he mock instructs me, “Write all that down, Lyle.”