Leslie Barkman and Lou’s Blues – Profiles
Written by Amy Modesti on April 15, 2019
Meet Leslie Barkman, one of Capital Region’s blues musicians. Since her move to the City of Albany eleven years ago, Barkman has created a name for herself in the regional blues scene. One can hear Barkman sing and play at any of the many area blues jams. Currently, Barkman performs as both solo artist and band leader in her group, Lou’s Blues.
Originally from Greenville, NY, Barkman is passionate about music. Although she says she can’t remember, there are stories about her dancing and singing on the bar, at 3, in many of the local Greenville taverns. She gained her love of piano from her grandmother, who played at house parties.” I played in bands, sang in chorus, and starred in musicals in school,” recalled Barkman. She wanted to learn to play in order to sing.
At the age of 10, Barkman played clarinet in her school’s band. When her band played for basketball games, she could play at basketball games but was forced to sit on the bleachers during the after- game dance. The principal pulled her off the dance floor many times. Nothing has changed since her high school days. Every time I’m at a concert or at a music jam, Barkman is still dancing along to live music that is being played by many of our musician friends. She doesn’t sit down. She is always dancing and moving along to great music, no matter what genre it is.
Underprepared for classical training, Barkman declined acceptance to several schools of music. She looked for other outlets for her creativity. She focused on a career teaching English and put her music on hold. It wasn’t until Barkman moved to Albany in her 50’s, bought a piano, and started going to open mikes and blues jams. She met jam master Buck Malen at Pauly’s Hotel. Malen instructed Barkman to park her piano on the lower level of the stage floor and try to keep up. She says, “I was terrible, but he let me play.”
At another blues jam held at the Fuller Roadhouse Grille, she met another mentor, guitarist, Jeremy Walz who still hosts the Capital Region Blues Network’s Sunday night jams. His blues jam allowed Barkman to connect and interact with other blues musicians. Through Walz’s mentorship, Barkman became a stronger musician, pianist, and a band leader.
Barkman is very thankful and fortunate to have met Malen and Walz, as well as the many other musicians who have shared their knowledge. As a result, her creative juices began to flow, and Barkman began to write and record her own music.
Barkman has produced two solo albums, ‘Lou’ and ‘Blue Lou’, and one album with Lou’s Blues, ‘Romanticizing’. Her songs are based on lifetime experiences; falling in love, falling out of love, and being human. Barkman tells stories with her music, both originals and covers. She tells her story through the lyrics that she sings and plays with ease. ‘Romanticizing’, her current album, was released in 2018 which features her band mates, Joe Lowry (guitar/vocals), Al Kash (drums), and Christopher Peck (bass). Barkman performs her music for fun. Her musical goals include more backyard jams at her Albany home and musical collaborations with other musicians.
“I love to jam. Music is very physical. I dance while I play. I love to be on stage,” exclaimed Barkman inside her kitchen at her Albany home. Barkman never stays still for too long. She rose from her chair to make us a pot of tea while in conversation. After making our tea, she charged up the stairs to her practice room where she began to perform an instrumental version of ‘Light My Fire’. I followed her upstairs and we talked about the process of creating a setlist of songs for the next gig.
Spending time with my friend, Leslie Barkman, was great. Not only is Barkman my friend, she is my mentor. I admire Barkman’s control of her piano and the way how she flows through the piano keys with ease. I have learned through her backyard jams and our morning sessions, that it is important to always follow your dreams and have fun enjoying your true passion, whether it is art, travel, construction, or politics. I am thankful for my time that I’ve spent with Barkman.
Be sure to like Lou’s Blues and Leslie Barkman Music on Facebook to see when Barkman and her band will be performing at a venue in the Capital Region. https://www.reverbnation.com/lesliebarkman .