Written by James Killen

What a great way to end a long work week, traipsing over to the Americana for a little Kerrville-class folk music on a Friday. Houston guitar player (and singer songwriter), Brian Kalinec and his annual music partner from Pennsylvania, KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner, were joined by Dallas area Kerrville winner, Helene Cronin on Mark Zeus’ cozy stage.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for Helene’s first Houston performances since the HMR crew caught her on the main stage at SWRFA 2018. Helene has raised her family and is now looking to pursue that dream that’s been on hold for a while in the world of music. This talented singer-songwriter has been traveling to Nashville monthly writing and recording for a new full length CD to add to her collection of two EP’s, “Belong to the River” and “Restless Heart”.

Helene started the evening off with “Dangerous” about growing up before we were overcome with fear as a society. Many of her songs were written in collaboration with others. Most of them have themes that are family or relationship oriented. She did sing an ode to the cross country bus riders and modern day hobos, “Riding the Gray Line”.

Brian Kalinec joined Helene for the second half of her first set and added a ripping lead to “Gunsmoke”, a song that included the memorable phrase, “…like me to bring a heart to a gun fight”. She also performed her early success, “Lucky You”, about appreciation for the sacrifices that our veterans have made. This song has landed Ms. Cronin on Mike Huckabee’s TV show and as a guest performer for a number of veterans’ events.

Brian and KJ were up next in a very cooperative song swap format where each contributed to the other’s songs. KJ’s style is a traditional folk which blended well with Kalinec’s South Texas style. The audience was treated to a number of Brian’s best known numbers like, “Next Door Stranger” and “Uncle Joe”, alternating with KJ’s numbers like, “New Lover’s Waltz” and “What’s a Farm to Do”. They teamed up on a very fine cover of Alison Krauss’ hit, “When You Say Nothing at All”. Of course, through the whole set there was Brian Kalinec’s persuasive and pervasive guitar work.

The evening continued with each performer doing another set running on to midnight. The entertainment never stopped.

I want to thank Mark Zeus for providing, in The Americana, a venue and bringing in the artists for Houstonians to enjoy while they shake off the work week. Bringing in talented folks like Helene Cronin and Brian Kalinec and KJ, is a seldom appreciated quest and it deserves some recognition. See you in front of the stage soon.