A blues harp, a resonator guitar and some drums.
These are all the instruments that Kurt Marschke needs in his incarnation as the one-man act Deadstring Brother (a solo version of his band Deadstring Brothers).
His music is best described as a gritty mix of blues, rock and country, as befits a musician born and raised in Detroit and now living in Nashville.
Marschke, 36, will make his Sacramento debut Saturday at the Sacramento Music Festival.
His appearance is a sign of the kind of variety the festival's management wants to bring to the event. Certainly, Deadstring Brother is the kind of act that excites festival booker Jerry Perry.
"Every now and again you stumble on something that is completely new to you," said Perry. "I listened to this guy for one minute and said to myself 'Oh my God, this guy is available? He's fantastic.' "
Marschke's songwriting has been described as part Rolling Stones à la "Exile on Main Street" and part hard-scrabble Willie Nelson.
Marschke spoke to The Bee about his musical evolution from the streets of east Detroit to his love for solo touring.
What was it like growing up in Detroit?
It was an interesting place. When you're there you don't think about it you're playing with whomever else is on the street and everyone gets along and does their thing. But as you get older you begin to understand the socioeconomic realities of the environment.
What did being in Detroit impart to you?
When I was a kid there was a blues scene in Detroit. I liked it and checked it out, but I don't think it influenced me.
Was there music in the home?
There was a piano in the house and my six older brothers and sisters would play Johnny Cash and the Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band. All that stuff was in the house, as was Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. That was the stuff that I gravitated to, as opposed to the pop stuff.
When did you encounter the guitar?
When I was around 5, one of my older sisters got this guitar, an acoustic. She started taking guitar lessons and would bang around the house with it. I started tinkering with it but didn't really start playing until I was 13.
What happened at 13?
I started hearing all these people in my neighborhood play the guitar, and it all sort of looked like magic to me. I wanted to learn that magic.
When did you join your first band?
At 15 I started playing around and got a thing together. We started playing in basements and in houses. Just jamming around.
What kind of music?
At that time it was anything that was sort of semi-popular. You had Nirvana and all that, but we were trying to dig deeper and go back from that into what we thought was cool like R.E.M., and Dylan.
When did you become a member of Sponge?
That was in 2000. I was in the band for two years. Vinnie Dombroski, the singer, and Joey Mazzola, the guitarist, they sort of mentored me. I started playing guitar seriously when Joey started mentoring me. He was always a blues guitar player and a great bottleneck player.
What was his influence?
He taught me the fundamentals and that everything in rock guitar and pop music was based off of blues. So, I started listening to a lot of Delta blues and getting into guys like Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt and Booker White.
How did Deadstring Brothers get started?
The band started in 2002 after I recorded a record in my room and was later putting it together in the studio at first it was an experiment on how to run a little studio.
And after you formed it you became well known outside the U.S but not within?
To some extent. This guy in Detroit was starting an American label it was 2006 and they heard some of our stuff. They didn't have any distribution in the U.S. but they did in England. So they sent the band over there. We toured in 2004 three times and three times in '05. We got radio play on BBC's Radio 2. At the time we had played only a few live shows in Detroit.
How did the solo idea come to the fore?
I was on the road quite a lot in 2010 and I had different lineups going and was trying to figure out a way where I could travel alone. So, last year I started doing this one-man music show where I took drums, and put the harmonica on the rack and played my guitar. I use a bass drum, snare drum and a hi-hat. I travel in a small van, with my one-man rig.
Were you inspired by Dylan's solo work?
I don't think he's had any influence on me as a solo performer. I always preferred Dylan as a member of a band. Obviously, growing up and knowing that Neil Young and Dylan performed solo made me think I could do it.
Is it difficult to play three instruments at the same time?
I play mostly all bottleneck guitar because it frees you up to play the drums and harp.
What should audience expect from your show?
The show is is sort of one-man bluesy gig. It's very song-oriented but it's a show with a lot of energy.
What's it like touring by yourself?
Peaceful and quiet. No one comes with me. You don't have to wait for anyone. It seems sort of Mark Twain-ish at least that's what I was thinking when I came up with the idea.
What: Sacramento Music Festival
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday (festival runs today through Monday)
Where:Courtyard D'Oro, 1107 Front St., Sacramento (Festival takes place at 20 venues in Old Sacramento and three downtown.)
Tickets: $45 Saturday pass; $110 all-event pass
Information: (916) 444-2004; www.sacmusicfest.com