Mountain Melodies: No Boundaries

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Curtis Strange’s soulful sound and extensive portfolio encompass a range of genres.

story by RANDY GRIDER | photos by STEVEN STIEFEL and RANDY GRIDER

Curtis Strange is an everyman’s musician. With a seemingly infinite playlist of songs from almost any genre, he is a virtual Pandora of musical entertainment. In fact, I’ve tested him on many occasions and am always impressed at his range. James Taylor, Dire Straits, Bob Seger, Kris Kristofferson, Green Day, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Allman Brothers, Buddy Holly, The Band…

How can a soon-to-be-21-year-old have such a vast repertoire always on the ready? Well, it helps if you have a father who teaches you to play music at a young age and you’re motivated.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]“I started playing when I was 11,” Strange says. “My dad [Troy Strange] played guitar, and we had all the guitars laying around. I was playing in a band named Maiden China by the time I was 13. I built up a huge playlist over the years. I know so many songs that I don’t even know how many I know. It’s easily in the hundreds.”

In a way, Strange, who also plays harmonica and bass, channels the persona of any artist whose music he plays. This isn’t cheap mimicking – he studies the mannerisms and other nuances that add depth and authenticity to his cover performances.

“I spent the most time learning James Taylor’s technique,” Strange says.” I even got fake fingernails put on so I can play like him. That’s what he does, gets fake fingernails put on. James Taylor, John Prine, Bob Dylan, The Band – I’ve studied all of them. I take away what I learn and use it. If I like the way a song sounds, I want to emulate that technique.”

Strange is often described as soulful – and sometimes as an old soul. His favorite song, the haunting “Whiter Shade of Pale,” lends credence to those arguments. Strange’s philosophy concerning music is simple. “There’s good music in every genre,” he says. “It’s a universally loved source of creativity and expression.”

Born in Bloomington, Ind., and raised in Fort Payne, Ala., Strange’s love of music has no boundaries – R&B, country, rock, Christian contemporary, jazz – and he can be found playing several times a week, whether it’s with friend and fellow musician Dr. Rob Bouchard, at the Fort Payne First United Methodist Church or as part of the band Permagroove.

“I have a lot of love for Permagroove,” Strange says. “We started as another band about two and a half years ago. [Today it’s comprised of Strange, Jason Guinn, Jay Chadwick and Chase Armstrong.] We do some original stuff and a lot genres, but around the same kind of theme. The majority of it is ’60s and ’70s – funk, reggae, jam band.”

Permagroove plays throughout the region with shows in cities including Atlanta and Huntsville, Birmingham and Gadsden in Alabama.

Strange, who has Tourette’s syndrome (limited to subtle body ticks and often unnoticed by the casual observer), seems comfortable in front of an audience, even though that was not always the case. He credits his Fort Payne High School drama teacher, Paul Crawford, and football coach, Paul Ellis, with boosting his confidence in a way that has aided his stage presence.ama and doing plays helped me with interaction,” he says. “And football helped me. Coach Ellis used to say, ‘You can be nervous, but never scared.’ I remember that and tell other people that when they are nervous.”

Music is both a passion and artistic release that Strange would like to take to the next level. “I love music, and it’s helping pay for my college right now – and if anyone wants to donate…” Strange trails off playfully. “I would love for it to take me somewhere. I would love not only to be able to sustain myself,
but to really live playing music.”

But above all, Strange adds, “I want to do something great in this world. I want to help people who otherwise would not have a shot. I’ve had people to help me, and I want to give back.”

To learn about Curtis Strange’s upcoming performances, visit permagroovemusic.com or his Facebook page by typing his name and Fort Payne in the search field. 

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