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Perfectly adapted

For Ron Kimble, there's no place like the bandstand

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Bandleader Ron Kimble refers to himself as an underachiever. It's a statement he makes with a humorous, self-deprecating tone, a response to those who would wonder why he's never really toured, never made a recording and why he and his band don't typically play original material.

In more candid moments, however, Kimble will tell you that he's doing exactly what he's always wanted to do, and exactly what he's best suited for.

"There's never been one minute in my life when I've wanted to do anything else," says Kimble, whose band plays Wednesday through Saturday nights at the Country Rock Bar & Grill in Lilburn. "I'm perfectly adapted for what I'm doing. To try to go further with it, I probably wouldn't be very well adapted. I don't like to travel and I don't like people telling me what to do, so that would rule out stardom."

Kimble, 48, began playing music at about age 12. He had a "couple of brushes with success" in the early '70s when he played in an acoustic act, he says, but found he wasn't happy with the idea of touring by bus and being told how to behave and what to wear, all for the purpose of financial gain.

Instead, vocalist/guitarist Kimble found a niche as a barroom bandleader. He played at Hemingway's on North Druid Hills Road for 14 years. He came to the Country Rock when it opened in 1993, and played there for a couple of years before moving to a gig in Roswell. He returned to the Lilburn venue in June 1997.

The term country rock creates certain expectations. It's worth noting that those expectations do not fully capture the musical range of Kimble and his band. After a lifetime of performing for wildly diverse club audiences, Kimble knows a lot of songs. He and his wife once tried to list them for a press kit, reached 700 songs with no end in sight, and gave up.

On any given night, Kimble might play songs by George Jones, the Allman Brothers, Cream and Simon and Garfunkel in the same set.

"This past weekend, we did a couple of songs off The Band's Big Pink album. We do two or three Neil Diamond songs that I can't get enough of. And I love Bob Dylan songs," he says.

Again, this is exactly how he wants it. "I can't imagine being in a place like this night after night and being pigeonholed into a particular type of music, such as Top 40 or Top 40 country. That would be boring beyond belief," Kimble says.

Onstage, Kimble sings in a big, smoky voice that might suggest Gregg Allman on a good day. It's a voice that -- his underachiever status notwithstanding -- would be worthy of recording. His band includes guitarists Jim Tanner and Tommy Knight, bassist Larry McDonald and drummer Bill Stuart. It's a capable crew: Stuart, for example, toured with Allman for a time (and has a gig bag full of Allman and Cher stories, as one might imagine).

Kimble performs seated in a chair in the center of the wide Country Rock stage, sometimes playing acoustic guitar, often not. He seems as much at home there as most of us might feel on the living room couch, sharing an evening with friends.

"This is all I've done since I was 19 years old," Kimble says. "As long as I can keep 'em fooled, I'm going to keep doing it. I wouldn't trade this [life] with anybody. I wouldn't swap places with Donald Trump. He can't sing."

The Ron Kimble Band performs Wed.-Sat. at the Country Rock Bar & Grill, 4200 Highway 78, Lilburn. Music begins at 9 p.m. No cover Wed.-Thurs.; $5 cover on weekends. For information, call 770-972-7545.

This column is a weekly feature covering music outside the Perimeter. E-mail or mail "outside" music news to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045.

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