Catfish Keith is no bottom-feeder


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Although Keith Kozacik — more commonly known as Catfish Keith — was born in Indiana and raised in Davenport,he has a talent for capturing the soulful sound of the Deep South.

Drawn to Keith’s fastidious finger-picking, longtime fan and friend John Hiett said he makes sure to see the country-blues musician perform at least a few times a year — even against all odds.

“I broke my leg on the way to the Mill to see him last winter and still stuck around for two sets,” Hiett said. 

Catfish Keith will return to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 8 p.m. Saturday. 

A dedicated musician since the age of 15, Keith has performed in every state in the America, toured overseas 42 times, and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008. He is under consideration for a Grammy Award nomination, with his latest album,  Honey Hole , getting No. 1 airplay on independent radio. 

“When you use fingerpicking and play slide guitar, you get a full, orchestra sound all on one guitar by playing the bass parts with your thumb and the melody, harmony, and counterpart with your fingers,” Keith said. “Add singing and foot-stomping, and it makes the entire musical universe."

While fingerpicking has been trademark of Keith’s music, he said it took a lot of practice to master the skill.

“When I first heard fingerpicking on records, it was a magical thing,” he said. “I thought it was two or three guitarists playing at the same time. So when I got to where I could do this myself, I felt like I could do anything.” 

Keith said the Mill was one of his very first venues when he came to Iowa City in 1980, and he considers it his “home joint.” Mill talent buyer Andre Perry has similar enthusiasm about Keith, saying people always look forward to seeing him perform.

“We support his music and the work he has done to advance blues from one generation to the next,” he said. “He is extremely talented and puts a lot of energy into his performances.” 

Despite having begun his musical career some decades ago, Keith sees no end in sight, hoping to achieve more and more with each passing year.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of albums I want to make, I want to continue to tour and perform …” he said. “I was always ‘the kid’ on the scene following around my musical heroes; now I’m approaching ‘grizzled veteran’ status, and I am so glad to be here.”

As a well-versed figure in blues music, Keith said one of his ultimate goals is to continue getting young people involved. He advises striving artists to study and practice rigorously. 

“The treasure trove of great American music is unending. So never stop learning songs and repertoire of the great masters, and continue to work on your own craft,” he said. “It’s 99 percent craft and work. The gift to do it helps, but it won’t matter without the work. Even after being in it for more than 35 years, I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface.”

Catfish Keith
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mill, 120 E. Burlington 
Admission: $12 in advance, $15 day of show

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