Meet Gov. Tim Kaine, Recording Artist 

click to enlarge street35_kaine_100.jpg

And now, a CD?

Meet "Governor T.M. Kaine." That's him in the credits on Steve Bassett's new album, "Blowin' the Dust Off," released last week. Kaine's listed right there under fellow harmonica stylist Delbert McClinton, and instrumentalist James Pennebaker, who plays steel guitar with Big & Rich.

"He did great," Bassett says of Kaine's performance on "Election Day," a song Bassett wrote with Zeke Sanderson about the freedom to vote. "He played very tastefully, played just what the song required."

Bassett's a well-known Southern rock and soul musician who co-wrote "Sweet Virginia Breeze," the beach-music equivalent of a state song. He first played with Kaine while entertaining a group of travel planners visiting Richmond in February.

With Bassett on Hammond organ, Kaine helped open the finale, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" The song surged, the band joined in and the Greater Richmond Convention Center swelled with the sounds of 60 gospel singers.

How did he do? Bassett puts it this way: "I could see how much he enjoyed playing. And to me, that's the most important thing."

So Bassett invited Kaine to join him on a special project, an album featuring songs played on antique instruments from the Civil War era — fiddle, mandolin, field drum, bugle. Unfortunately, Bassett says the harmonophone in the collection, a harmonica with a bell attached to amplify the sound, was unplayable. Other instruments had bells facing backward, Bassett says, to project the music toward troops on the battlefield while the musicians marched in front. "If the guys that played them knew they were still in use," Bassett says, "they'd get a kick out of it."

Bassett recorded parts of "Election Day" all over, including Nashville and Galax. To finish, all he needed was Kaine's harmonica — or "French harp," as Republicans say.

On a Saturday morning in early summer, Bassett took his laptop computer and audio gear to the Executive Mansion. Bassett, Kaine and his son Woody found a quiet spot and laid down the boogie. "Three kids in the basement, just jammin' on some music," Bassett recalls.

So is Kaine now an official recording artist?

"Oh, quit it," Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall says. Then, on second thought, he adds, "We'll add that to the bio." S



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