Knuckle Dusters

January 31, 2001

Knuckle Dusters

By KEVIN CLAPP / Staff Writer

Scott Spearly has got the blues.

And the swing, rockabilly, folk, gospel, country and rock 'n' roll.


Playing most every musical style east of grunge, Spearly and his bandmates prefer Civil War-era sounds to the louder wails of heavy metal.

With Paul Mackrell and Tim Mitchell, he forms The Knuckle Dusters, an acoustic trio that since 1997 has crisscrossed the Tri-State area in an attempt to share their sound.

"We pretty much cover all the bases," Spearly, 30, said last week in advance of a charity show at the Martinsburg, W.Va., Veterans Administration Hospital today.


Upcoming shows for the band include Wednesday, Feb. 7, at The Market Cross Tavern in Carlisle, Pa., and Saturday, Feb. 24, at The Bentz Street Raw Bar in Frederick, Md. Other than that, Spearly is putting the finishing touches on a CD of original music.

The Mercersburg, Pa., resident is a teacher at James Buchanan Middle School by day. After that he's a music man, playing his harmonica, writing songs and preparing for gigs. Spearly said he, Mackrell and Mitchell get along so well in part because of their passion for the music and respect for what they each bring to the mix.

"We had a shared interest in swing music and blended together from there," Spearly said. "We flip-flop around. It keeps it interesting."

An avid fan of the blues, Spearly credits his partners for expanding his knowledge and appreciation of music, including his experience on guitar and banjo.

"I couldn't even measure how much they've taught me," he said. "When we work as a threesome, the music is very tight and very interesting.

"They're good guys, they're good friends, and we have a good time when we're out."

Unfortunately, they don't hit the road as often as they'd like. While they've played across Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in their time together, they average only about 20 dates a year.

Part of the problem, Spearly said, is there are not enough places for The Knuckle Dusters to settle down and cultivate an audience. Many places forgo live bands for DJs spinning records.

"The area's pretty weak on live music venues," he said. "Finding good venues is a chore, but they are around in nooks and crannies.

"It is a little frustrating, and you have to understand it from a bar owner or restaurant owner's point of view. They have to do what's economically feasible, but it is frustrating that a lot of places are opting for DJs instead of live music."

But when venues do book The Knuckle Dusters - a slang term for brass knuckles - Spearly said they will get an energetic performance.

"To me, a lot of the music that we do feels good when we're playing it. A lot of the time, the words and music mean something to us," he said. "It's reflective of what we feel inside. The three of us must share a lot inside and what we feel about music."

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