14 October 2015

The indomitable Soul of iRONiNG BOARD SAM's Super Spirit!

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But first a commercial break ::

I have evidently lived a sheltered life. I've heard the name Ironing Board Sam here and there, but somehow I'd never actually heard him. Bruce Watson's Big Legal Mess Records is changing all that with a new release called Super Spirit, produced by Bruce Watson and the Rev. Sir Dr. Jimbo Mathus.

Do you remember how much you liked those old Fat Possum releases by Super Chikan, Asie Payton, Charles Caldwell, or that kind of weird for Fat Possum Solomon Burke album? Ironing Board Sam's Super Spirit is like those. It's just a treat to listen to.

There's so much going on in each song, from the proto-African underpinnings of Baby You Got It, to the pleading, slow-burn soul of I Still Love You (which reminds me of something off that Solomon Burke album,) the Velvets/Stones-as-soul-rock of I Can't Take It, the garage gospel raver I Want To Be There, or the slow Chicago blues heartache of I'm Looking For A Woman, it's really a classic album in the good ol' Fat Possum Records vein.

It's well-worn and silk shirted southern soul without a whiff of the stink of retro, it's super rock without losing its groove, it's funky and adventurous in silk socks and muddy alligator shoes. But best of all it's the blues, baby. Sweet Bobby Bland/ZZ Hill-grooved blues...of today!
All y'all need this. Get you some Super Spirit!

Here's a brand new track from an album on where else but Big Legal Mess ::

Here's a short documentary on the man, the myth, etc...

Ironing Board Sam's Return (short documentary) from Tom Ciaburri on Vimeo.

09 October 2015

The Southern Australian Hill Country Blues of THE NEW SAVAGES - In My Time Of Dying

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These fellows from Melbourne, Australia contacted me and wanted me to listen to their new ep. Why not? I'll try anything ... twice.

Then I look at the song list, and I think, WTF? Are these all covers? Why? Why would you do covers?

As it turns out, The New Savages don't actually play covers. They play a sort of original...cover...hybrid with fragments, elements, grooves, and textures of the original combined with ghosts of other songs that is then stretched a little, molded, and finessed into some rare memory, some blues song that your blood knows, and your body reacts to knowing.

The New Savages seem to like playing with your sense of the familiar. Musically, their songs are akin to the original but more suggestive of, than overtly so. For example, in the case of the song Smokestack Lightning, constructing a song that is at once cover, still seemingly (and yet) Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightning and at the same time an original work. The New Savages take the song and deconstruct it down to drones, spank it with drums and guitar, then sing whole and fragmented found lyrics through the middle including the Wolf's legendary... smokestack liiiiightning...ahhhooooow!!! as a partial medley of new original lyrics, but utilizing suggestions of other old blues standards ...maybe a line from Who Do You Love or some such, turning the song into something you could swear you've heard before ...somewhere ....a soundtrack, a late night drive, flippin' the dial 'til you find some far off blues station playing something that fades in and out a little, it's almost that one song...but... it's...different...it's droning, dream-like, yet solid punching dirty blues, or maybe dirty dreams of blues music. As the man said, "you can call it what you want to." It's their blues, their new savage blues.

Here's my track by track run-down :: 

In My Time Of Dying is a well-picked guitar string strung along a north Mississippi river bend, and thrummed into a rambling Australian drone death boogie.

I'm A Kingbee
could be a leftover Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or 20Miles track. But it's not. It's better.

Smokestack Lightning
suits singer/guitarist Milan Milutinovic's dispassionate ghost of Morrison vocal stylings, his guitar at once Junior Kimbrough-like by way of Kenny Brown via Andy King and onward ...slashing, driving, smoking on down the line. Drummer Nathan is a powerhouse and a hard-listening foil for the guitarist.

My Babe
 is a high-steppin', tambo-slappin' boogie down Main Street Melbourne.

For You I'm No Good
is a haunted, post-apocalyptic field holler, and

Crawling King Snake
is done in a trancey big city basement club heavy-weight Junior Kimbrough-style...it lurches, swaggers and staggers like a zombie of love, careening, careering, 'til exhausted it passes out under the Mississippi stars that hang over Australia.

It's a blues sound filtered down the muddy Mississippi, and across the radio waves to Melbourne, A.u. It sounds at times like it could be some lost sixties, seventies blues/hardrock mashup but thankfully lacking any sort of kitch blues wink, like a fringed leather vest, or platform shoes. Rather, it's just good old-fashioned, semi-raw, modern trance blues done with its own style and flavour.

Look, these dudes aren't exactly inventing a new wheel here, but what they are doing is keeping this music alive by challenging it, by inverting the wheel, so to speak. By making these southern Australian juke grooves, these drone blues hybrid covers, they arent just pokin' the blues dog with a stick, they make that dog get up and run.

The two make a tough team, Milan Milutinovic - vocals guitar, and Nathan Power on the traps. It takes a special drummer to lock deep into that Junior Kimbrough-esque groove and to subtly work with the guitarist to enable him to do his thing, to decipher the tranced-out hill-country blues grooves that Junior left here for us to learn. They support each other well. You'll find an interview below, but right now lets' get taste of what they're about ::

I talked with Milan, the guitarist and singer, and Nathan, the drummer for Melbourne, Australia duo The New Savages::

RS:: So I gotta know...why covers? Not that there's anything wrong with covers, and you do a really cool almost reimagining of each original. Blues history is built on covers. Whats the story? 

Milan: Most of the music I write starts with a cover actually, that gets transformed into something else. I think blues is a really interesting genre because to me the concept of originals vs covers in blues is kind of a spectrum, rather than an either/or. What I really find fascinating about the blues is that it has this great sense of tradition because artists are constantly borrowing heavily from one another. On one hand I would like to take a great pride in calling myself a songwriter, but at the same time I wouldn’t call blues artists songwriters. A good blues to me almost has this unwritten quality about it, almost like its just the essence of a feeling rather than a structured idea/story. Junior Kimbrough is particularly good at that. 

Rs:: Milan, you aren't suggesting that there aren't any blues songwriters, because Willy Dixon and countless others might like to have a word. But rather perhaps that Blues as a culture and style has an incestuous relationship with itself, that it often feeds on itself for themes, lyrics, etc?

Milan:: Great question Rick, hope this answer sheds some light. You are right in me saying that there are no blues songwriters was a bit much - I definitely wouldn’t deny that Willie Dixon was a great songwriter, and there are many others. But I do think there is a strain of blues that I would say is almost not written, it just is. But I say this only in the highest praise - whenever I work on my own music I’m trying my best to be as unconscious of the creative process as possible.

RS:: Tell me about Nathan, your drummer. How'd you two get together? I'm betting it took no time to figure out you were a good match. Nathan has the kind of controlled looseness that you might find in a jazz outfit. Does he come from a jazz background? What is it about him and the way he plays that works for you?

Milan:: We actually met after I posted an ad online looking for a
drummer. The first few seconds of the first jam we had left a pretty profound effect on my memory - I told him to follow me and I started playing In My Time of Dyin’ and he just played it like we’d rehearsed it 20 times before, and he played it exactly as I’d been imagining it in my mind ever since I first did that number. I’d played with so many drummers before - some of whom were really good too but they never quite had the magic combination of the light touch and loose groove that Nathan has. 

He comes from a jazz background with a wealth of listening and playing experience that I don’t have, and really adds so much perspective to the way we think about our music. He is a proper learned musician whereas I can barely hear a chord change half the time. 

We also work really well together because we are both very like minded people. We are both very creatively focused people with a willingness to tackle the very much entrepreneurial challenges of playing in a successful independent band. Nathan is the kind of guy who will call up a booker 5 times in a week just to finally get him on the phone to have a chat about putting us on for a night - that’s the kind of asset you really do need to have to build a career for yourself in the 2015 music industry.

RS:: That's a fact. As with all things it's a matter of balance. One the mover, one the shaker.
How long have you been playing? What got you started? Did you like the blues right off, or did you have to search for That Sound that worked for you?

Milan:: I was a bit of a late starter actually, I think I was 17 or so, during the school holidays right before my final high school year I started playing. I remember a good friend of mine, playing guitar to me, he was playing Midnight Rambler by the Stones and I was just struck real hard - I thought wow that sounded great and I just thought wow I could do that. 

It was just one of those moments you have in life where everything seems to make sense, and I was just thrust by self belief for some reason into dedicating all my time and focus to music. I’m 23 now and looking back 6 years ago I honestly don’t know how I just decided to drop everything else - my parents went crazy.

The first kinds of blues I heard were british blues - like Cream and Led Zeppelin. It’s pretty funny, but I used to think blues was white people’s music until I heard about Howlin’ Wolf and then it started to click for me. The deeper I dug I found about hill country stuff like Jessie Mae Hemphill and it just blew me away. I think as an artist you are always searching for ‘That Sound’ and trying to bring something new to your friends and the community around you.

RS:: That's a trip to most people i'd imagine, to think of the blues as white people's music, but then country music was/can be blues, too.

I'm hearing tones of The Gun Club in your stuff. Are they an
influence, too? Anybody else in modern day alt-blues or whatever, or any other brand of music that you are digging? Are you a reader? If so, what are you reading these days..and are there any books on the blues you recommend?

Milan:: Never heard of them actually. There’s a great guy over in America called Mississippi Gabe Carter who I dig and count as an influence on our style. He’s about as blues as they come but he’s definitely got his own style and is very modern. 

I do like to read a lot, mostly 20th century history. Dictators, communism and two world wars, what a century! Blows my mind sometimes that Alan Lomax naively wanted to move to the USSR around the same time of Stalin’s purges, to live in a socialist paradise. Good thing he stayed in America and discovered Muddy Waters instead.

There’s a great biography on Son House which I have a hard copy of called Preachin’ The Blues by Daniel Beaumont, which I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the blues, especially when it was just beginning to be recorded. The book gives a good insight on the recorded music industry just as it was in its infancy and the life of Son House, it also concentrates a lot on his good friend Charley Patton. 

The Part Of The Spiel In Which We Give The Drummer Some:: 

RS:: Talking with Nathan Power (drummer in The New Savages):: Tell me about playing with Milan. How'd you get together and what was your first jam like?

Nathan -NP:: - Haha. We actually met online! I answered an ad for a two piece blues band and met up with Milan for a sneaky beer. Went back to his for a jam and wasn't really sure what to expect, but when I heard his voice I was sold. 

I've tried playing a bunch of different things with him but he always tells me I gotta keep that shuffle beat for every song. 

Every time he rocks up with some new songs to rehearse I try and play something else, but he won't let me. Gotta keep that shuffle! 

Rs:: The tool! Doesn't he know the drummer is boss? I play drums in a country band, and more often than not I'm limited to shuffles. However, I love shuffles. The challenge of making something fresh and boogie out of something fairly constrained is a fun challenge. Were you a fan of blues music and Junior Kimbrough in particular before playing with Milan?

NP:: Haha it's true! To be completely honest, I wasn't into the kind of blues Milan was in to. I dig a lot of Rolling Stones/Clapton etc and their precursors, but Milan is into the oooooold stuff. Which is refreshing, cause every gig we go to, he's playing me some old shit that I've never heard before!

RS:: What kind of set do you usually play? It looks interesting. How's the suitcase-bass drum thing working out?

NP:: Haha. My main kit is an 80s Gretsch Broadkaster kit. Beautiful vintage tones. For smaller gigs I've got my suitcase kit. The whole thing fits inside the suitcase (which works as a bass drum), it means I can catch the tram to gigs or go busking pretty comfortably! And also drink beer. 

RS:: Getting back to Milan, how long have you been playing? What got you started? Did you like the blues right off, or did you have to search for That Sound that worked for you?

Milan:: I was a bit of a late starter actually, I think I was 17 or so, during the school holidays right before my final high school year I started playing. I remember a good friend of mine, playing guitar to me, he was playing Midnight Rambler by the Stones and I was just struck real hard - I thought wow that sounded great and I just thought wow I could do that. 

It was just one of those moments you have in life where everything seems to make sense, and I was just thrust by self-belief for some reason into dedicating all my time and focus to music. I’m 23 now and looking back 6 years ago I honestly don’t know how I just decided to drop everything else - my parents went crazy.

The first kinds of blues I heard were British blues - like Cream and Led Zeppelin. It’s pretty funny, but I used to think blues was white people’s music until I heard about Howlin’ Wolf and then it started to click for me. The deeper I dug I found about hill country stuff like Jessie Mae Hemphill and it just blew me away. I think as an artist you are always searching for ‘That Sound’ and trying to bring something new to your friends and the community around you.

RS:: Since I talked to Nathan about his drums and suitcase bass drum, tell me about your equipment.

Milan:: I have two guitars I play with on stage, a Gibson Les Paul 60’s studio classic and a John Lennon epiphone. The Gibson is tuned to open G and I knock off the lowest string, so it only has 5 strings. Keith Richards used to do the same thing I think from around Beggar’s Banquet or so. He banged on so hard about it in his book, and one day my low string broke and I never looked back. The epiphone is in D and has all 6 strings.

RS:: Australia has always had a cool roots music scene, and it seems like the place is rife with great alt-blues, alt-country, alt-whatever bands these days. Hows the scene? Who should we know about besides y'all?

Milan: Its really great, I’m a big fan of two local guys. Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk and Mick Dog’s Boneyard. Both of them are similar to us as a guitar/drums duo. I love being able to go down and have a beer and watch a show. It kind of feels like we’ve got a little mississippi blues of our own here sometimes.

RS:: Last couple questions for drummer Nathan Power- Milan says you're the guy that gets things done in the band. What's up for you guys in the coming year?

NP:: We just released the video! (Which is gorgeous, btw. -RS)
You can see it HERE.
And we're doing an Australian Tour over November/December, it's around 12 dates mostly up the East Coast of Australia. We'd love to get out to the US at some point, probably not till 2017 though as we gotta save up some cash!

Drummer gets the last word. What's it like playing the music you guys play? It sounds like you're having a ball.

Nathan:: This music is great fun for a drummer! All about laying down swinging grooves for Milan to play over! Gotta keep it simple but there's a lot of scope to play loud if the venue suits it.

RS:: How's the Melbourne scene?

There's a great live music scene in Melbourne,  particularly around the music we play. A bunch of dudes in a similar vein are TK Reeve,  Tom Dockray and Mick Dog's Boneyard.

Rick Saunders:: Thanks, guys! Good luck!

28 September 2015

Come On In :: An Interview With Husky Burnette

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Husky Burnette's Tales From East End Blvd has been rereleased with four new songs- two covers and two originals, each played with Husky's signature grinding stomp and holler. I asked Husky for a run down of the tracks::

Best I Can is a fictional tune about the age old subject in Blues about having big women, ugly women, etc. 

Butter My Cornbread is straight up about getting it on. Nothing more, nothing else. Just sweating it out! 

Skinny Woman is an RL Burnside tune I've been playing since I started this solo thing. 

So Doggone Lonesome is a Johnny Cash cover. We worked it up as one of our 3 songs to play at a Johnny Cash Birthday Bash one year and we dug it so much that we wanted it recorded. 

Below is my spiel on and interview with Husky Burnette from 12/04/2013::
Husky holds the blues tight in his calloused fists, his fingers and heart hold the strings of his guitar where they are strangled, stroked, loved, and bent into his blues. Tough and tortured at times, thoughtful and barefooted at others, Husky Burnette's roots run deep through his music, and plays what he means. No posturing. No fedora, no ponytail. Just flat out rough, rollin' and tumblin' blues.

Now, full disclosure, I had the honor of being his drummer for two nights and it was a total thrill and challenge. We didn't rehearse, we just sat down and rocked out some blues, and had a ball. The next day at my house, we jammed out on a fast rockabilly drum beat, and that beat became a song on this album (with the great Dave Dowda on the skins,) called Rick's Late For Work. Because I was.

If you get the chance to see Husky Burnette live, you should go out of your way to do so. He usually works as a two-piece. I've seen him with a great drummer, a lacking drummer, and i've seen him solo. Regardless of the situation Burnett always rises above to reveal a terrific (in the true sense of the word) performer, a prodigiously skilled guitarist, and a powerful showman. 

This interview took place over part of a morning in November via fB chat ::

Rick Saunders::

It seems like you've been busier than ever this year. Touring pretty much constantly, working the new album. Looks like the tough years of slugging it out are paying off.

Husky Burnette::
They seem to be I suppose. It's been a damn good year that's for sure. I try not to treat it like that, though. As long as I slug it out, day after day, maybe the good stuff will keep happening!

Speaking of touring, a friend of mine used to roadie for the Melvins and once commented that it's twenty-two hours of bullshit for two hours of bliss. How do you keep the road grinding drudgery from killing you?

(HB) :: 
Your roadie friend is right! That's a good question, and I really don't know how to answer that one. I think the best way to describe it is I go on knowing I have a job to do. And if I don't do it then its all shot to hell. So I have to do it, whether its killing me or my band or not. If I don't do the tours then nobody knows right? So when you do start getting brought down a bit you just shut your eyes, shut your mouth and keep going no matter what cause it's all for the cause.


It's nation-wide heavy lifting, man. I respect any touring band, but don't envy them. How'd you hook up with the guys from your new label Rusty Knuckles?

(HB) :: 
We made contact through mutual friends and Ralph, owner of Rusty Knuckles, made a point to watch my set at Muddy Roots 2012. From then until the end of the year we stayed in contact, talking about what I wanted and needed as an artist and what he wanted and needed as a label. All was well and right on both ends so I signed the contract at the end of February 2013 and here we are. Its been a busy year and it's been more than worth it. The label as a whole is more than family. I'm very content where I'm at right now. It's been a huge learning process too.

Judging from their roster it looks like a good fit for you. In fact, I gotta ask, when are you and label mate Kara Clark gonna start doin' a bunch of George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway-like duets? I'd buy an album of that. 

(HB) :: 
We've actually talked about doing something. We've played a few shows together now, and when I slow down in December I can start thinking on cool ideas like this one.

I'm curious about the process of recording this album, and who you did it with. Your drummer on these sessions, Dave Dowda, tells me it took about five hours to record the whole thing. It was recorded by the nearly legendary J.B. Beverly...and you've got a bass player! Didn't you get the memo? No bass players allowed? I know we've talked about the importance to the boogie of that bottom end. I was glad to hear that lowdown sound. Who else helped out on Tales From East End Blvd?

(HB) :: 
Well, it took about a week to record. Drum tracks were done

very quickly for sure, thanks to Dave "Burma Shave" Dowda. J.B. and Buck Thrailkill did the album at Rebel Roots Studio. J.B. is responsible for the bass! Damn him. He actually laid all the bass tracks down except for "Rick's Late For Work", I did that one. I love the tone and runs he put down on bass too. It made me smile hearing killer bottom end on my tunes...especially the older tunes I'd played for so long without bass! J.B. and Buck were so easy and cool to work with. Other than those two, the only other help was on a brand new track I just finished writing before getting there. So at 4am with moonshine running in our veins very strong, me, J.B., Buck, Billy Don Burns, Shooter Jennings and Aaron Rodgers laid down the track "Come On Carolina" on a whim, and we ended up using it for the album. It was gonna be a bonus track/campfire version kind of thing but never got labeled that way. Tracking the album instead of doing it all live was something I wasn't used to and hadn't done in a long while. But hearing the end result I'm more than happy we did it that way. Big thanks to Rebel Roots Studio on that one.

Rebel Roots is JB's studio? And where is it located?

(HB) :: 
J.B. and Buck own it together. It's located in Fayetteville, NC. Great little spot. Secluded, quiet, rather perfect environment for doing what they do.

Come On, Carolina is such a stand-out track. It's different

from anything i've heard from you before. I think one of the things I like best about this album is the variety. You've got the hard blues stompers and low-down ass kickers that we expect from you, but there's also Come On' Carolina which is kinda country/bluegrassy, an instrumental track, the gospel country blues of On My Way, and the menacing blues of That Liquor. Come on, Carolina is a new sound for you with the addition of banjo. It's old timey but straight from today. Tell 'em about that song. What's the story behind that one?

(HB) :: 
I never expected to put this on any album (and definitely

never expected these guys 
playing/singing on it). Maybe something like my acoustic EP from 2012 but definitely not my full length cause it's so different. I get bored when writing sometimes and think "this one sounds too much like the last one" etc. or "man, I wanna do a song like THAT one". So after a long two weeks of listening to singer-songwriter folk/blues/country type artists. It kinda just started itself with the guitar riff. It was going to be a Tennessee influenced tune about my home state. I started realizing I had more going on in the Carolinas at the time and how nice North Carolina had been to me as of recent so it was going to be easy to write. The lyrics flowed out pretty quick and easy for that one. Easier than they would have had it been about Tennessee.

I dig the nod to Hendrix on the song Work It. I hear him as an influence but also a lot of ZZ Top, tone wise. Who else would you call influences?

(HB) :: 
Lyrically, a lot of my influences are folk-country singer-songwriters. Roger Alan Wade is one my biggest influences. It's funny cause I can never seem to write as deep and heavy as those guys like Roger, Kristofferson, Guy Clark and Gram Parsons, (in most situations it wouldn't fit the tunes or style that I play), but, it's still a huge influence to write period. I'm a big lyric guy when it comes to being a listener/fan. As far as soul and blues go, it's Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jr Walker & the Allstars and Leon Russell. I listen to them, and all I hear is dirty, nasty grooves and boogie, in one way or the other. So in a lot of my songs I try to go for that feeling and groove. 
It's got to have a groove.

You're known for an intense live show. You play as if your life depended on it, like if you just dropped dead on stage you'd be cool with that. Talk a little about that. 

(HB) :: 
I'm an old school rock n roll guy so maybe that's where the intensity comes from? I'm not real sure but, if I had to guess I'd say that's it. I played in metal and rock bands growing up and always loved the intensity of it so I guess I just haven't lost that feeling for music, listening and playing both. 

RS::Your also known for an interesting array of guitars. What are you using these days?

My current guitar roster for live shows is an Epiphone Dot Studio hollow body for my electric slide tunes, a Diamondback Stringworks custom telecaster-copy build for all my electric standard tuning songs and a Cigar City CBG's 3-string cigar box guitar for a few tunes. For acoustic stuff I'm still using my trusty National metal-body resonator. I have backup electrics I like to bring such as an Epiphone SG and Epiphone Les Paul Standard.

I'm wondering if you'd mind giving a little rundown or back story on each of the songs from East End Blvd.?

(HB) :: 
Ok. Here's the back stories::

1. East End Blvd. - This was written about a real bad area in Chattanooga, TN. I had my troubles down in this low place and got sucked into it for a period of my life so I figured I'd write about it. Jill Scott put it best in one of her songs, "Your background, it ain't squeaky clean. Shit, sometimes we all got to swim upstream". There's plenty to write about from those days!

2. Highway 41 - Highway 41 runs right down the road from where I grew up and also where I live now. Lyrically, it was just intended to be one of those good ol' hometown/highway/woman cheating tunes we know so well. I wrote the main riff on accident (at 2am in a tattoo shop after a show with the Pine Box Boys) during an instrumental blues jam session with Dodds (drummer) and Lester (vocals/guitar) of the Pine Box Boys. I love that tune

3. Work It - This one I've had for quite a while. There's no frills to the backstory on this one. It's about gettin' it on, sexual relations, doin' the do, bumpin' uglies. Nothing more, nothing less.

4. Beat & Lowdown - I wrote this one in a trailer park. Haha. My old drummer and I were out back at his place trying and trying to come up with a new tune. While fooling around on break I came up with the riff and here we are. It's another favorite of mine on this album. I wrote it around the time I was having what we'll call "woman problems" so it kind of speaks for itself there.

5. That Liquor - When I wrote this one I was dying for a slow, creepy, groove-blues tune. It's written, very loosely, on some crazy shit from my rebellious younger days. I'm very thankful I had J.B. Beverley as a producer on this one.

6. See-Saw - This one is kinda like "Work It"....strictly about getting it on. I've always loved those blues tunes that are a bit comedic yet about real life happenings, such as sex, jail, partying or anything else percieved as bad things. So I figured i needed me one of them songs.

7. On My Way - This one is special to me. I wrote it in the van on the way home from tour. I tried to incorporate everything I like in a folky song like this: good lyrics, meaning, feeling and little concentration on your instrument to bring the folks in with the words. I'm a big lyric guy so I tried to make something I would want to hear. It's coming from the eyes of an old Mississippi farm hand in the days of slaves and cotton fields but it's pretty much universal to the working man of any kind in any area.

8. Dazed Away - I wrote this about those days where being a road dog isn't your concern, playing tonight can't physically happen or "I'm sorry but I just don't wanna do it today". You can't help but have those kinds of attitudes and feelings running through your blood on some days after being on the road for a while. I think everyone gets tired of traveling at some point. It may take a few years for those of us who have to do it every week, every year to keep a roof and food but, we still get tired at some point. This song is about when you just can't "go in today" and the batteries have to be recharged. Musically, I just thought it was time i had some kind of rock n roll in a song again.

9. Coonie Hill - Coonie Hill is just a fictional story about an actual place. While on tour in upstate NY last year my friend Maryrose and I were driving past some very wealthy neighborhoods on an off-day. One of the streets was Coonie Hill Drive. We laughed at how it didn't fit and should be the name of a street in a dark neighborhood street on the bad side of town. So, really, it just started out as a joke but with a title like "Coonie Hill" I felt it was my duty as a citizen to write this tune!

10. So Far From Home - This tune was written out of pure anger and disappointment. Sometimes there are shows that suck, sometimes there are shows where you wish someone would stab you in the face to put you out of your misery. This was written about the latter, after a show in Daytona, FL. I wrote it the next morning around 8am in Titusville, FL at my boy Lone Wolf's house. I tried to describe the discomfort me and the band felt that night. It was definitely song-worthy.

11. Rick's Late For Work - This was written along with the handsome fellow doing this interview, the almighty Mr. Rick Saunders while we were jamming for the fun of it. We stopped by Rick's house the morning after a show in his town, St. Augustine, FL. We sat around geeking out on music, talking jazz, blues and biographies, when all of a sudden jamming in his back room sounded like a better idea than him going to work in a few minutes. This rebel called in to work and told them he's gonna be late just so we could jam together. The rest is history and track #11 on the new album.

12. Come On Carolina - This one is completely different than any other tune I've written or recorded. Six musicians, all acoustic, recorded live sitting around one microphone (only a couple days after I finished writing it). A killer line-up on this one: Me on vocals/rhythm guitar, Billy Don Burns on rhythm guitar/backing vocals, Buck Thrailkill on banjo/backing vocals, J.B. Beverley on snare drum/backing vocals, Shooter Jennings on backing vocals and Aaron Rodgers on slide guitar/backing vocals. It was actually never intended to be on 
the new album but once it was done we felt it needed to be. We were in Fayetteville, NC at Rebel Roots Studio for a few days hanging out, playing shows and drinking moonshine when miraculously on the last night we got something recorded. I just got lucky that it was my tune honestly. I'd been having a lot of good things happen for me in NC at the time (the studio, the label, great gigs, newfound family, etc). It's almost like a nod to those times and those people believing in me and bringing me in to give me a shot. It was very easy to write.

Thanks for taking the time, Husky! See you down the road.  Y'all can buy Tales From East End Blvd via the links up top.

01 September 2015

An Interview With TED DROZDOWSKI of Ted Drozdowski's Scissormen

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You should know that this is all pretty much Ted Drozdowski's fault. He was the inspiration for this whole writing about weird blues-based bands thing that I do.

See, what happened was see...I first read a review about Junior Kimbrough in '93-'94 via some other writer (Mike Nickles I think was his name...via Tower Magazine) but after that the only guy that it seemed was doing any writing about R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford, Junior Kimbrough and the rest of them from the hillcountry/Fat Possum Records scene was this guy Ted Drozdowski in The Boston Phoenix weekly. He was always smart and spot on in his reviews of this new, yet ancient form of blues, this north Mississippi trance blues boogie thing that was slowly seeping out of the regions hill country. It seemed like this Ted knew the people that he was writing about.

It turns out that he did know them. And he knew Jesse Mae Hemphill, too, among others. Now, not to humble-brag, but I was blessed to see Junior Kimbrough one night in Seattle, and even got his autograph. My guitar playing friend Jim Friesz went with me and, he'd never heard any Kimbrough music, he said later that it changed his life in the way that he looked at guitar. Years later I went to his juke around Holly Springs, Mississippi...and I got to visit briefly on occasion with R.L. and T-Model over the years, but this guy has stories to tell, he had hang time with the heroes. And continues to do so via his writing gigs. Auerbach, Gibbons, Joe Perry, Honeyboy Edwards, Kid Congo Powers, and on and on...

Me want to write real good one day and Ted's work inspired me to try and do just that. So. Here I am over a couple thousand posts later, still tapping away. So thanks for that, Ted!

Who the hell is this Ted Drozdowski?

Ted is an award-winning
music journalist and a guitarist of prodigious talent, who plays with real depth, raw honesty, and originality. Drozdowski's guitar solos are often meditative and just as often savagely raw...sometimes at the same time.
He's an honest blues lyricist in that he writes and sings what he knows rather than throwing out my mama left me cliches. He's also a fellow who has one of those singing voices like Dylan, Neil, Hank, Morrissey et al that might take a listen or two to get into, but the payback is unique and often outstanding.

But it's live...live is where Drozdowski shines, because Ted is also a showman in the classic old headcuttin' (literally, in Ted's case) sense. He's bringing back that good old blues-psych-rock action and entertainment for the whole family. He shuffles and he slips, he's got a dip in his hip, he's got hard pointy stylish shoes (one pair became the name of a film made with the director of the documentary Deep Blues Robert Mugge called Big Shoes.)

I don't know if he's got an Ass Pocket of Whiskey, but Dude knows how to put on a show. He likes to get folks to hold his guitar while he rips a solo using anything handy for a slide, from whiskey bottle to a candle, to...well...anything, as you would see should see HERE: Blurt slide guitar challenge. He likes to roll in the soul, and get hip to this tiny tip: to make that human connection with the audience, letting them sit with him, and dangle a leg over the fourth wall, so to speak, to bring us in on it.  Drozdowski's an inclusionist and wants everybody to dig the blues. That's what it's about. And it ain't braggin' if you can do it, as the man said, and Drozdowski and his band do it.

I saw Ted play in St. Paul for one of the Deep Blues Festival shows a few years back. He was wailing hell on a solo, sliding around that guitar while walking the length of the bar, but unfortunately he misjudged and managed to get ka-bonked in the forehead by the blade of an industrial ceiling fan that he'd somehow misjudged the height of. But he kept rocking, and he walked on down the hall and out the front door, still plugged in, to play solo on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his face. At last, some guys guided him to the bathroom and cleaned him up while he and his drummer kept playing. After the show, he went to the hospital. That is all.

Ted Drozdowski has played with the masters of north Mississippi. He's kind of a modern-day Brian Jones (without the issues) in that regard in that rather than go to Morocco to connect to the source, Ted went to Mississippi. He's a blues guitar adventurer with a craving for the deeper level, that deep blues thing, that blues/soul/gospel moment of beauty. He digs the cosmic blues, but he digs it with all the grit and the heaviness of the first '60s electric blues albums...with a literate stoniness/grooviness...a soulful sense of space and pocket. There at times this dub vibe to his blues, it's that psych thing. It gets trippy. He knows the right solo, the proper groove, how to hit that punctum and hold it. Catch and release, call and response, that thing that moves us to cry from sadness or dance from happiness...to feel like somebody else is feeling it, dammit! He's listening for something that'll take us out of this place. And he tends to find it.

Drozdowski knows his Televisions from his Zappas, his Kings- Albert, B.B. and otherwise, and of course he reveres the Queens- Jessie, Minnie, Sister Rosetta, Big Mama, etc etc.  By the way, he's got a cool ebook out now called Obsessions of a Music Geek, Volume I: Blues Guitar Giants . This book will kick off a series of ebooks on Ted's favorite guitarists. Ted the writer and Ted the guitarist are both great talents, but I'm pretty sure he writes so he can play guitar.

Love & Life is an amazing sounding recording. It breathes space and fire, rolls with sheets of sound and/or howling wolves across the downtown Mississipi hills like he's "backed by the river, and fronted by the grave." to paraphrase Mississippi juke owner Red Paden.

The Scissormen have a psyched-out and heavy, yet nimble sound, that rocks hard (but isn't hard rock) while still remaining blues, still highly-melodious while kicking hard. To see them play together is like watching a game of musical tag. Guitar and bass grooving off each other, pushing each other, pulling each other, as the drummer keeps one hand on the brake and one foot on the gas. They are each a great counterweight to the other.

Ted Dreozdowski's Scissormen drag the blues' stinkin' carcass to the stage and transform it, hot rod it into a sharp dressed sixty-dollar man...a back-door man...dipping its big ol' feet into seventies fuzzed-out psych-rock platinum shoes, and taking a walk through early electric blues grooves, rolling a tussle in the membrane with some early ZZ Top mud vs some early Capt Beefheart soul, some Stooges sonics, and Junior Kimbrough trance.  Mr. Drozdowski throws an audio free-love party/knife fight with Bobby Dylan, Muddy, Lightnin', Fred and R.L. with Ron Ashton in tow. Like an evolving, prodding, throbbing, teetering, shining alien beast, like paper and fire, like lightning and smoke, Drozdowski and friends mix up and kick up the history of Chicago blues and on down along the river past Cairo to New Orleans, or London, or Boston, to the sea and out to deep space. In other words, you ain't never heard nothing like this in a long time.


RS:: Rick Saunders - Ted Drozdowski!
You grew up in Boston? How'd you learn to play guitar? Was your family musical? What'd your folks do? Did they support your young rock desires?

TD:: Ted Drozdowski - Alright, let's get some basics out of the way.
I grew up in the industrial armpit of Connecticut, a town called Meriden, but my folks and family are from the anthracite region of eastern Pennsylvania, an hour south of Scranton, and are basically coal miners and hillbillies, with chickens and cars on blocks in the yard. My mom and dad are first generation American and grew up during the Depression, which took a real toll on my dad. My mom was the artistic one, who got me interested in country music and reading early on.

Their only real attempt to support my interest in music was getting me an S&H Green Stamp guitar that was unplayable — with the nylon strings two inches off the fretboard. I thought it was me until I was in my mid-teens and borrowed a Yamaha acoustic from a friend and suddenly could make those “chord” things I’d read so much about. Dad moved mom to Connecticut just before I was born for a job making engine parts at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. He had that job until he died. Mom still has a garden, reads and crafts, and listens to country music. She’s a wonderful person. I’m generally a self-taught guitarist, but I did take some basic lessons when I first got going from John Curtis of the Pousette-Dart Band, which had the ’70s hit “Amnesia.” That was basic chords and standard tuning, but then I started going deep on my own.

RS:: Were you ever a record store dude? You've got the taste for it. Tell me about influences. Did you always dig the blues or did it take you awhile?

TD:: I never worked in a record store but I was a frequent flyer. I bought my first album with my first allowance money when I was about 10. I saved 50-cents a week for six weeks and then bought The Sounds of Johnny Cash at Star’s department store. Awesome album, and I still have it. For about $2.97 including tax. But as soon as I turned 16 I got a job at McDonald’s and saved enough money to buy a car a.s.a.p.

After that my friends and I hit at least three record stores every weekend, buying up all the used punk rock, prog rock and roots music albums I could find. Watching shows like The Midnight Special and In Concert and being an avid radio listener — to major FM rock, country and college stations — and reading NME and Musician magazine, gave me eclectic tastes.

So blues — ever since seeing Ike & Tina and Ray Charles on TV, was a vein of interest for me that paralleled many others. And the first blues album that kicked my ass was a Chess compilation I found used for $2 called Wizards of the South Side, where Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters spun my head around, Exorcist style. So those were the first hardcore blues artists I loved. They didn’t sound like anybody else, which I’ve come to believe, is the essential foundation of being a real artist.

RS:: Who was the first blues artist to kinda flip your lid and make you think you wanted to play this stuff?

TD:: As far as playing the music goes, I’d have to say it was Clapton, as un-hip as that might sound today. I got a two LP Polydor compilation of tracks from his early solo albums and “Bell Bottom Blues,” with those exquisite pinch harmonics, and “Let It Rain” really touched me — but not any more than Richie Blackmore on Deep Purple’s Machine Head. That was also a really inspiring album, “Smoke On the Water” and all…

From Clapton solo I backtracked to Cream and read about Robert Johnson, and then the hunt for all kinds of regional blues — Chicago, Mississippi, Texas and West Coast — was on. I started playing in a punk rock band a couple years after I got a guitar …also loved the Clash, Ramones, X, Gun Club — especially that first Gun Club album, which is a blues record. I always considered my bands before Scissormen to be “secret blues bands,” because blues was the foundation of my playing no matter the genre. The sound of blues just seems to reach deeper into my head than any other sound — although I loved it all. Gimme Fred Frith and a cheeseburger and I’m happy as a pig in a spa.

I didn’t really achieve anything approach “blues enlightenment” until I was living in Boston, and at the same time I discovered my music journalist hero Robert Palmer’s book Deep Blues, a club called Nightstage opened in Cambridge, the next city over the Charles River, and had every great blues artists still alive come play, and Stevie Ray Vaughan came along. Hitting that trifecta put me over the edge and started to fill me up with an understanding of the music.

And then half a decade later, here comes R.L. Burnside, and then he almost single-handed changed my life.

RS:: As a beginner guitar player I'm always interested in what real guitarists use for equipment. Let's talk gear. I'm particularly interested to hear how you like playing the diddley bow that our mutual friend artist MikeWindy made for you, but also what other guitar(s) you use.

Do you use much in the way of pedals? How about amps? You have a diverse guitar sound, yet it has a kind of thick, heavyness to it. How did you develop your sound...or would you say you are still a process you are developing?

TD:: Gear is a deep swamp for me, and I’m happy to wallow in it all day! And I do not travel light to gigs. I typically bring two amps, two round-neck guitars and two one-strings, and if I had my way I’d bring a third round neck, but you can only fit som much gear in the van.
I am by nature a Les Paul guy. Their depth and fullness is a good foundation for the low, fat tones I like, which are more mysterious, to me, than the tones from most single-coil guitars.

That said, after playing my Pauls for about three years straight on stage, I’m back with my workhorse Fender Esquire reissue. I dropped two vintage Les Paul pickups into it and refitted the neck with jumbo frets. It’s a really versatile guitar and the thin neck feels perfect to me, as do the ’60s profile necks on my Les Pauls.  On a whim, I took the Esquire and a Flying V out to a gig early this year. The V went down and I had to use the Esquire for the rest of the night, and it reminded me how much I love it. I call it my “signature model,” because it’s covered with autographs from friends and influences. But it’s mostly the Les Pauls on the album, along with a ’70s Stratocaster, a Les Paul Special, an ES-345 and an ES-150. I used the Esquire for the solo on “Watermelon Kid” and “The River,” which is a live first take.

In general, I like low tones, heavy on midrange. Bright breaks the hallucinogenic bubble for me, and I like things weird. I hope to keep developing my sound until the day I die. The chase is too much fun to give up, and there’s always a new sound in my head I want to track down.

To that end, I have reduced my pedalboard for the road to the essentials: tuner, a MXR Micro-Amp for boost, an Archer pedal (which is a superb Klon Centaur clone at a fraction of the cost), a Phase 90 phase shifter, a vintage VB-2 vibrato pedal, a Digitech PDS-1000 vintage digital delay and a Supernatural reverb, which lets you paste trails on the ends of notes, almost like a B-3, without needing to change your picking approach.  Sometimes my MW Fuzzytone pedal also makes the scene, and can be heard on the solos of “Black Lung Fever.” I probably have about another 40 pedals that wait at home for the right day in the studio or the right gig.

The crawfish pot diddley bow Mike made for me is a ridiculous amount of fun to play, and when I added the Mexican Strat pickup, it started to really bark. You can hear the galvanized steel of the pot. It’s unique. I play it with a slide bar, like a lap steel.

My other one-string is a ’60s Epiphone hollowbody that I saved from the Tremo-Verb head, a Big Muff pedal and a 1x12 Eminence speaker, on “Can’t Be Satisfied” on Love & Life.
 boneyard. It’s headstock was sheared off so badly it couldn’t intonate correctly, so I stuck it on with the kind of glue they repair boats with, pulled out the frets and gave it a new life. You can hear it, running to a Mesa Boogie

For amps, I used a bunch of things for Love & Life: a 1972 Marshall Super Lead head, my Mesa Dual Rectifier Tremo-Verb, a 1963 Supro Lightning Bolt, an Epiphone Valve Standard with an Eminence speaker, a 1966 Fender Twin Reverb and even a Roland Cube 30, for the immediacy that transistors give — required for the backwards solo in “R.L. Burnside (Sleight Return).”  And often I paired or tripled them up in the studio to get unique sounds for the heavier tracks.

RS:: Tell me about how you got started writing. You've been doing it on a professional level for a long time. You recently wrote an e-book titled Obsessions of a Music Geek, Volume I: Blues Guitar Giants covering John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Johnny Winter, Freddie King, Michael Bloomfield, Z.Z. Top's Billy Gibbons and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, which I understand will be a series of books. How'd you get started, what writers influence or inspire you?

TD:: The writers who first inspired me were Dr. Seuss and Stan Lee — my on-ramp was Seuss books followed by comics, as a reader. And I was one of those withdrawn kids who writes fiction and poetry. But when I was in my teens I started reading music magazines, and while I was studying journalism in college in dawned on me that at some point I might be able to make a living writing about music. By then I was reading Lester Bangs in The Village Voice and Robert Palmer in The New York Times religiously, and I enjoyed the Rev. Charles M. Young in Musician (magazine) and Rolling Stone.

While I loved the wildness of Lester and Charles, I really enjoyed Robert’s focus, depth and ability to explain what music sounds like, and his tremendous insight. Later, when I discovered his book Deep Blues and we became friends, he opened up my perspective more directly — although I was pretty wide-open by the time we connected, which, I think, is why we connected. He sought other musical freethinkers. And he was my original deep Mississippi connection.

After graduating with a print journalism degree and working on a newspaper and an industrial trade magazine, I got a job at Musician, which was a bucket-list item, but the magazine had peaked at that point, in terms of scope, imagination and leadership. The days of Vic Garbarini, another free thinker, were over. Nonetheless, it was a great experience. I’d never been encouraged to smoke pot at work before… And when I began writing for Rolling Stone as well, Anthony DeCurtis became my editor there and was a significant mentor and remains a friend. I already loved his writing and was so delighted that we hit it off as well. That was even before meeting Palmer. So, short version: Bangs, Young, DeCurtis, Palmer… and by then my ideas and style were fully formed, I think. Now it’s just a matter of lifelong refinement, like songwriting, guitar and mindfulness.

I’ve been a musician and freelance writer since leaving the Boston
Phoenix, where I was music editor and then associate arts editor, in 1998. So that’s a long time to avoid an office or an assembly line. I’m proud of that. Today I’m writing mostly for guitar publications, which suits me fine because it keeps my nose down in the instrument.
Folks have been urging me to do books on various topics for years, but the money’s so short I figure it’s not worth the time it would take away from making music — which is a much bigger rush and an amazing experience, always. I finally decided that since I had accumulated a body of work that’s many thousands of pieces deep, I should revisit my own back pages, revise and improve upon certain key pieces, and share them with folks. Doing an ebook lets me stay indie, which I like, and also makes it easy to publish a series on my own schedule. Since I have a new psychedelic blues based album coming out, a book on blues guitar heroes seemed like a good starting point. Next up, I think it’ll be a volume of inspirational pieces for beginning guitar players. And for volume three I’m considering a collection of pieces on musical innovators — maybe guitar, maybe broader.

RS:: I'm wondering if you'd be interested in talking about the process of releasing this album...the timeline...what it's like trying to hype yourself when everbody with GarageBand and Bandcamp can slap up an album on the interwebs, and does. I'm also interested in how you recorded it. Studio? Rehearsal space recordings? Hell you can make amazing stuff these days with a laptop that back in the olden days we'd have to walk thru the snow backwards uphill both ways and barefoot to record. What were your thoughts about how this album would sound...sonically?

TD:: This is an album I’ve wanted to do for five years. I have an exact blueprint demo of “R.L. Burnside (Sleight Return),” the song that really set the tone for the album as I was writing tunes, going back that far. But figuring out how to get it done was a dilemma. I didn’t really have the right players available and didn’t know how to begin the recording without the funds to pay for the sessions and, then, to get the album out.

While I could conceivably have made the album using GarageBand, which is the best recording capability I have at my house, the results would not have been able to cast a net as wide as I want. I’d like as many people in as wide a population as I can reach to hear Love & Life, because I think this deeply rooted music is important and has something to offer to the modern world.

Over the course of about seven years, from 2008 to 20014, I’ve appeared on the Mando Blues Show (https://www.facebook.com/MandoBlues) on Radio Free Nashville more frequently than any other guest. I’ve always loved the quality of the live recordings, and had become good friends with the show’s host, Whit Hubner, and the owner of Omega Lab Studio, Robert McClain, Jr., where it’s taped for rebroadcast and the podcast.

The studio is in three military surplus tents on top of a mountain down a dirt road in the woods behind the Loveless Café, just outside of Nashville.

Although a few live albums have come out of there, there hadn’t been any studio productions — more layered and nuanced work — done in the tents. So it dawned on me that a full-blown studio album might be a cool project for Rob, and he agreed. And at about the same time, the line-up of players for the album came together.

We started working on the tracks for one afternoon and evening a week, taking our time but recording really efficiently, because I knew exactly how I wanted the album to sound and how almost all the parts of the arrangements would fit together. The bass and drums were cut in two sessions, and then it was pretty much me layering in guitars and vocals. And I traded Rob a really nice guitar and some other things along the way. So, really, the album was made on friendship and trades, with the hope that it’ll bring a little sunshine for all of us.

Love & Life is an evolutionary step to what — for the foreseeable future — I see as the band’s destination. I’d made five albums and a film with the duo line-up and really wanted to expand the sound live, with a trio, and on album with new sounds, like the B-3, and more nuanced, textural and diverse guitar. The songs I was writing were asking for that, too. Guitar-wise, Love & Life draws on a lot of aspects of my earlier playing that I’d put aside in the duo. Plus, all of the earlier Scissormen albums were cut live in the studio or on stage, including vocals, and I wanted to change that.

When I went into the studio, I was using the period of psychedelic recording between 1967 and 1972 as a guide. I didn’t have an exact blueprint, but for inspiration I was thinking of Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and Then Play On. I would have liked to spend more time mixing, to make things even more psychedelic, but I think we got pretty close to the bone.

The album sounds essentially like I wanted it to before we recorded note one. 

We finished recording in early 2014 and I spent a year looking for a label to partner with me, but struck out. I didn’t have the cash to even pay for the pressing. Most of the labels I’d approached, even those who I’d done work for in the past as a writer or consultant, or are part of the same music communities as me, couldn’t even be bothered to listen. Everybody’s busy, but that’s disrespectful. Let me leave it at that.

So my wife Laurie and I undertook an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to manufacture the album and put it out, get it to radio and hire a publicity person. We hit our goal, with 166 donors from nine counties, which a great validation and really empowering. And the label name Dolly Sez Woof was inspired by my dog — who is also the label’s CEO, because she’s got a nose for good stuff, can sniff out opportunities and gets her business done every day.

RS:: Something that really sticks out on this album is the track you did with Mighty Sam Mclain. Tell about how that came about.

Sam and i had been friends for more than 20 years. I think he was truly the last of the great red clay soul voice in America, and I learned a lot from Sam about having a vision and being an artist. We were very close — he passed away shortly before the album came out, which was sad. I was looking forward to us sharing the life of the album together a bit.  He was a great man and an amazing artist. Anyway, I'd been dreaming about some kind of musical collaboration with Sam for years, and when I wrote "Let's Go To Memphis" I knew his voice would be perfect for it. I ran it by him one day, and he instantly agreed. He and his guitarist and producer Pat Herlehy cut the vocal to tracks I mailed to them on CD. When we got the results back, everybody in the studio had goosebumps. Anyway, Sam was a dear friend and hero who I admired and his lost is major for me and, I think, the world of music.

RS:: I heard you did a project in a school in Nashville where you helped kids make a diddley-bow?

TD:: Well, Mike Windy who is a great artist and a teacher living here in Nashville, built the bows with his class and then had me in to lead the kids in playing them and to show them the ropes — or, at least, the string. What was exciting about it was the great energy of the kids and Mike, who really has a gift for opening to world wider for all people through art. Plus the chance to talk to a diverse group of elementary school kids about Muddy Waters, Son House, Charley Patton and Jessie.

RS:: Speaking of our friend MikeWindy, I asked him to come up with some questions for you.
RS:: Yo MikeWindy! Gimme some questions to ask Ted Drozdowski in an interview!

MW (MikeWindy) :: 
Why live in Nashville when he could've worked from anywhere? (Talk about) the connections between psychedelic music and blues music. 
What was working with Robert Mugge like? Ask him about his backyard concerts!

Why live in Nashville?

I love being in Nashville now. It reminds me of being part of the alternative rock scene in Boston during the ’90s, when music helped start bonfires all across the creative arts scene. It was an amazing time and I can’t believe I’m experience this kind of artistic eruption again! Boston was getting more expensive and less fun, and we needed to go somewhere. I’d been coming down south with the band regularly, and we’d often use Nashville as a hub for doing shows out to GA, AL, AR, MS… And we knew a lot of people here who’s already moved to Nashville. Laurie came down and took a look around, and we decided to take the leap. Then-low housing prices helped, too And, of course, we wanted to be in a music town. Pretty clearly, we’re now in THE music town.

Q: Connections between psychedelic music and blues.

A: To me, they’re deep and plentiful, starting with Son House’s approach to resonator guitar — intoxicating — and moving right up to Muddy and Wolf — who had a psychedelic voice — to Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix and Junior Kimbrough. I think there’s something very unusual and spiritual about the world that the blues comes from, which immediately lends itself to psychedelic song interpretation and creates a beautiful aura of timelessness.

Q: Robert Mugge…

A: Working with Bob was a gas. It cemented our friendship, which was a big deal to me considering how much I’d loved and enjoyed his work. I also learned that he’s a real taskmaster!!!! But he gets results and I still can’t believe I’m the focus of a Robert Mugge film. It’s crazy. It almost seemed surreal until I saw myself on a huge screen on a Dolby 7.1 theater at a Florida festival. Then it was clear that it was surreal!!

Q: House concerts?

A: A few years ago Laurie and I decided we wanted to do something fun in the summertime with our home, and I was also really wanting to play more and do something with other musicians that didn’t involve hitting the road. We decided to do a back porch concert series — we’d hosted a series in our loft just before we left Boston — and tour amazement, we’d ask somebody we thought was a really serious artist and nearly all of them said yes: Webb Wilder, Amelia White, our friend Dave Arcari from Scotland, Nick Loss Eaton from NYC’s Leland Sundries, Eric Brace & Peter Cooper, Kristi Rose & Fats Kaplin… It was an amazing experience. But this year we can’t do it because I’m so busy with the release of Love & Life.

Q: My dream line-up?

A: Honestly, I feel like I’m  already playing with my favorite bass player, Sean Zywick. He’s a great creative mind and a top-notch human, so I’d hang onto him while he got Elvin Jones and John Bonham on drums; Jimi and Sonny Sharrock to help out of guitars; Otis Spann on piano, Jon Lord on keys and Coltrane on sax. It’s good to play with people who are better than you, so you can learn. I’d learn a lot. Oh yeah — the utility player would be Tom Waits!

RS:: Thanks MikeWindy for the Q's!

RS:: Tell me about your new
band members. What's
their story?
Were they who you had in mind when you decided to expand your bands palette?

TD:: Although the band’s not a trio on the album, there are four band members overall including me. It’s Sean Zywick, my main musical compadre and creative foil, on bass; Pete Pulkrabek on drums, and a second drummer, Chip Clarke.

When the money and circumstances are right, we expand from a trio to a four-piece with two full-kit drummers — and we do most hometown gigs that way. On the road, we can literally only fit three or us on the van, so usually it’s Pete or Chip.

I met all of them here in Nashville, although they’re from Michigan, upstate New York and Maine respectively. And they’re veteran players. Although Chips is only 22, they’ve had a lot of experience. What they haven’t had is a lot of experience playing “blues.” I need players who are going to attack the music with a rock edge and attitude, even if they are playing a shuffle. I need musicians who can play the music and create on the spot, not play, as some blues drummers have told me, “all the forms.” I don’t play forms. I play songs and original music.

They weren’t exactly who I had in mind when I decided top open up the band’s sound five years ago — but after playing with them for the better part of two years, as it turns out they are exactly who I had in mind.

For me, this album is a leap I've been longing to make for a while, as I've tried to find ways to transcend limitations of $ and personnel. It turns out pretty much as I'd conceived of it in advance, and lived up to the three goals I'd set: more texture accomplished via multiple guitars on most songs; my signature slide playing as a thread throughout the album; songs that told stories.

I think it's the best work I've done as a songwriter and player, and it draws on every element of all the music I love while still, essentially, being the work of a juke joint blues band with ties to the earliest forms of the music, from it's first few decades.
It's amazing fun to play these tunes live, and I hope to be able to continue to do so for many years to come.

RS:: I hope you do, too. It's been a pleasure to get to know you more, Ted, Good luck with the new recordings.