As I walk into Hinson Calabrese’s most recent dwelling, I take off my shoes and enter a dimly lit room filled with reel-to-reel and cassette tape recorders. A recently discovered pump organ is jammed into one corner, the other is occupied by Merlin Clarke’s kit. Buck and Kinch are jamming their brand of dirty white boy roots rock, Hinson’s guitar-driven bass amp seemingly at the same volume as every show I’ve witnessed. Merlin’s inspired drumming filling the places normally taken by multiple instruments. They stop when they see me.
Beer and cigarettes are passed around for a few minutes until Hinson asks if I’ve brought any instruments. Within twenty minutes we’ve recorded a few decent takes, the boys already familiar with a few of my songs that hitherto they’ve only heard live. Such is the way with Buck and Kinch. They know their friends’ songs. They plan on one day playing an entire set of local covers. Their appreciation of others’ music masks a modesty surrounding their own burly gut-punchers. There’s serious intellect, groove and melody providing substance to the rawness embodied by the combination of drums, electric guitar and Hinson’s unmistakable hollering bark vocal.
They’ve been playing with one another since their early teens in Glace Bay and Port Morien. They’ve both left the island to come back numerous times, Hinson playing a stint with The Tom Fun Orchestra before trading in the nine-piece band and upright bass for a drummer and a guitar. And it works. After playing shows around Sydney for the better part of a year, the boys recently played a few maritime dates opening for the likes of the Divorcees, Dog Day and the Grass. Merlin and Hinson then sailed to Newfoundland and Labrador for a number of gigs with local roots hero Steven Fifield.
So we have a few more beers and trade a few more songs. Between old records and morning, I learn that the boys have decided to be Cape Breton Lifers. So long as Buck and Kinch continue ripping truth and dirty rock, they very well could occupy the island’s cultural crow’s nest.