Preacher Boy: A Citations-Included Scholarly Performance Review, and Guerrilla-Raw Recordings From The Show
I have been fortunate to receive a great many press reviews over the years. Most of them have actually been quite favorable, for which I’m grateful. Some even remarkably so. Many have been funny, some almost frighteningly spot on, and virtually all have had something insightful to contribute.
That Canadian publication that likened my singing to “Motorhead’s Lemmy singing the blues?” That was awesome.
The Seattle newspaper that described my music as “dark, beautiful, desperate, and soulful?” I loved that.
And of course, getting reviewed by Rolling Stone was pretty special, though getting a nod from Living Blues may have even topped that, given that I pretty much grew up reading that magazine. Still hard to believe I ended up in those hallowed pages.
The point being, I’ve been lucky that so many generous individuals have elected to write about my music. But a scholarly article, complete with citations and the like? That’s something new for me.
Yet that’s exactly what has transpired. Jonathan Dryden, one of the finest musicians working today–a true piano virtuoso–and a deep musicological student of all things Americana, has penned what I think is a rather extraordinary article based on a recent Preacher Boy performance, and focused on a suite of turn-of-the-century songs that feature in my rather ramshackle repertoire.
I am humbled beyond imagining by this piece of prose, and honestly hesitated to even share it. Well, at least I hesitated for a second or two. Truthfully, I couldn’t wait to share it. I am proud and humbled both, and genuinely stunned to find what I do so deeply understood, so “gotten.” Mr. Dryden is as sensitive and intelligent a writer as one could hope to be on the receiving end of, and I am so grateful to have been considered in this fashion.
Here is an excerpt from this paper:
“Compared to Len Spencer’s jerky and hurried version from the 1910s [Preacher Boy’s] pace was leisurely but well-timed. In his hands, the song didn’t sound one hundred-twenty years old. It was fresh and exciting, and the lyrics weren’t dated. He played it in a modern shuffle rhythm, alternating between G major and minor from beat to beat in the opening four measures instead of the traditional G major throughout. Where there had only been a tonic and dominant chord in the song, he found ways to insert sub-dominant and relative minor chords that brought out the melody and lyrics even more than a plain rendition would have done.”
You can read the full paper by clicking Preacher-Boy-at-Aptos-BBQ-1232015.
And should you wish to listen to some of the performance yourself, here are a few live guerrilla-raw recordings from the show in question:
For my versions of the above, I am indebted to recordings by Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Leon Redbone, and Dave Van Ronk.
And for this post, and the story it contains, I am indebted specifically to Jonathan Dryden. Thank you, sir! And I am of course indebted to all at Aptos St BBQ, upon whose stage I had the pleasure of performing these songs. I am also indebted to anyone who has been gracious enough to write about me and/or the music I play. And finally, I am indebted to the music that came before me, and the musicians who made it. Deep bows to all.