Along with that, of course, is the question of the band's name. Turns out, the group's members aren't necessarily communists though folks might wonder. "Two guys in the band just happened to have red hair and are also left-handed," lead singer Dan Rempel says with a shrug. The band's sound isn't radical, either. But building on a rootsy, classic blues twang, Red Lefty nonetheless fills a niche in the area. "What started as a group of friends jamming at Americana [Music Academy in Lawrence] has snowballed into something more and more serious," Rempel says.
Influenced by the likes of Ray Sharp and Carlos Guitarlos, these Kansans shoot straight for the Chicago blues sound but then again, each set they play is so varied that categorization becomes a head-scratching conundrum. For starters, this six-man act combines big-band brass (trumpet, trombone) with the folksy wah-wah of the harmonica. Additionally, Lefty plays tunes by a range of musicians, including Big Walter, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Terry. "Really, only half our repertoire is blues," Millspaugh says. "We like variety more than anything."
Onstage, Red Lefty spices up its act with extended solos that flow smoothly into wicked chord changes and rhythmic variation. But make no mistake: This is not just another Lawrence jam band trying to avoid a generic label. Rather, its music depends, at least in part, on solid ragtime lyrics and a very unjam country-swing sound. With a lineup of traditional and newfangled songs that defy genre classification, Red Lefty deftly leaps from driving rock to slow, swaying blues. Most important, every show seems to pick up energy along the way rather than simply rattling on a surprising effect that's bolstered by Rempel's throaty, rich voice. To complete its rip-roaring musical mishmash, Red Lefty adds a dash of harmony and the rollicking drum cadences of former Majestics Rhythm Revue percussionist Tennyson LeMaster.
If that sounds good, you'll be glad to hear that Rempel just quit his day job, and the band plans to record soon. After all, Red Lefty only just went electric. "It's time to rock and make some noise," Millspaugh says.
Just look what it did for Dylan.