Category Archives: Live Performance

Can You “Win” at The Blues? Thoughts On “Competing” in the International Blues Challenge

The International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo Competition, presented by the Golden Gate Blues Society, and hosted by Mission Street BBQ, begins at 2pm PST on Sunday, Oct 21, 2018. All are welcome to attend and listen, and those who purchase a ballot may vote on who to send to Memphis to represent the region!

IBC - BANNER

Call it what ya wanna: Folk Blues, Delta Blues, Country Blues, Original Blues, Early Blues, Classic Blues, Vintage Blues, Acoustic Blues, Ragtime Blues, Gospel Blues, Roots & Blues, etc. Ultimately, the name doesn’t matter, as long as we know what we’re talking about.

What we’re talking about is music that doesn’t come from money.

Woody Guthrie, as much of a blues musician as anyone in my book, may have said it best:

“It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people, and to disturb comfortable people.”

Underserved and marginalized communities have to stick together. But the powers-that-be don’t want it that way. Divide and conquer. Get folks squabblin’ amongst themselves. That’s how the man runs the plan. The man is comfortable. And we’re here to disturb him.

We take care of each other, and we sound our horns.

The Golden Gate Blues Society is presenting an event this weekend in Santa Cruz, CA. The International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo competition. Three acts will “compete” for the opportunity to represent the region in Memphis, TN.

But do we “compete?” We do not. We celebrate. We exalt. And besides, you don’t “win” at the blues. What this is, is the comin’ together of the community. Where there is good BBQ, where there is good drink, where there is good music, there be the people.

The Westside Sheiks - Photo

The Westside Sheiks are one of the acts that will “compete.” I am a proud half of the core that comprises said Westside Sheiks. The other half is Jonathan “Captain Ahab” Dryden, the most talented musician I’ve ever known. He’s like Jaki Byard, Errol Garner, and Bill Evans meets Garth Hudson, Benmont Tench, and Leon Russel. In the Sheiks, I have the honor of being Scrapper Blackwell to his Leroy Carr.

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Also to “compete” is the incomparable Rob Vye, within whose fingers the ghosts of Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, and Blind Willie McTell roam. He is the ragtimiest of fingerpickers. The gospeliest of soapboxers. The footstompiest of bluesmen. He’s a mendicant at the altar of Mt. Zion. He’s Zen and the Art of a Dog and a Van. He’s a crooner where others might holler. He’s a tune-down when others might tune-up. He’s a syncopating, three-finger alchemist of the country soul. In short, he’s the real deal.

 

maxresdefaultThird in this line-up is Mr. Pete Madsen, accompanied by Celeste Kopel. They have recently bequeathed unto the world a phenomenal album entitled “From The Delta and Beyond,” which aggregates their performances of the almighty delta canon—the canon built on the works of Son House, Skip James, Tommy Johnson, and more. Mr. Pete is a scholar and a teacher, yes, but he’s also a player. A finger-bouncin’, thumb-thumpin’, swinger of the steel strings, yes, but also a rocker, a fiery electric bluesman who can grease up and pull down some Albert King from the sky as needed. That said, this competition is about the down home, the back porch, the boot on the ground; it’s about the intimate on the parapet, and Mr. Pete and Celeste’s rare muso chemistry is meant for rakishly downtrainin’ the downtrodden blues into the wood and steel light.

In short, such a night!

The point is, there is no “competition.” There is only the music. You, and the night, and the music.

IBC

 


When a Guitar & A Piano Play The Blues

PreacherBoy_JonDryden

I have been enjoying so much having the opportunity to perform with Jon “Captain Ahab” Dryden on piano—and when I say “piano,” I mean piano with a capital P. Piano. Acoustic. Wood. Wire. Keys. Life.

Ahab’s abilities are vast, virtually limitless, and beyond classification. His ear is extraordinary, his versatility unrivaled, his grace at the keys sublime. I simply LOVE what he makes of the songs we play together.

We’ve been playing so many different things, and it’s been a total joy. Whether it’s gems from Victoria Spivey, Leroy Car, Jelly Roll Morton, or Bessie Smith with The Westside Sheiks, selections from past Preacher Boy albums like Demanding to be Next or The Devil’s Buttermilk, vintage country blues workout from the likes of Charley Patton, Mississippi John Hurt, or Tommy Johnson, or experiments with brand-new songs, it’s all just been magic.

This past Tuesday night, we pulled a couple of rather groovy rabbits out of the hat. Two debut runs at songs from Estate Bottled Blues, and a rather rollicking Piano-National take on Seven’s In The Middle, Son from The National Blues.

Here are some guerrilla-live bootlegs (mastered, but rough!) to give you an aural snapshot of what was afoot!

Pulling Black Flowers From An Hourglass – LIVE

Seven’s In The Middle, Son – LIVE

Fever Moon – LIVE

Stream ’em, download ’em, share ’em, enjoy ’em, do with them what you will. I just hope you dig!

Lyrics below, should you wish to follow along!

Pulling Black Flowers From An Hourglass

There’s nothing quite so lonesome as an empty Ferris Wheel,
rusting on its hinges in the rain,
save for that feeling when you’re driving down a lonely stretch of 5,
next to tracks that are carrying no train.

And I can see the body of a bird that met its doom,
just another case of roadkill for the highway to consume.
And you know that I’ve been feeling every life that I pass,
pulling black flowers from an hourglass.

I can see the fog come tumbling down the hillside,
like a tree whose will has been broke.
I can hear the raindrops spattering on my hood,
like a playing card pinned to a spoke.

And I can see a scarecrow with nothing to protect,
just another broken phantom in the caverns of neglect.
And you know that I’ve been feeling every life that I pass,
pulling black flowers from an hourglass.

The lake moves left to right, and the old men do the same,
when they take their favorite circuits ’round the shore.
But there’s a mighty hidden shadow looming out over the blissful,
and it’s too hard for the old men to ignore.

Saint Helens had a fire buried well within her soul,
it’s so frightening how the relapse of a saint can take its toll.
And you know that I’ve been feeling every life that I pass,
pulling black flowers from an hourglass.

Seven’s In The Middle, Son

made a deal with a strange man
he could deal his deck with either hand
winked at me and said goodbye
then switched his patch to the other eye
i did my best to play my song
but he stopped me before too long
took my guitar off my lap
tuned it up and then gave it back
rise and shine, and give god the glory, glory
rise and shine, and give god the glory
wrapped himself in an overcoat
silver necklace ’round his throat
rattlin’ keychain in his pants
sounded like bones when he danced
i faced myself in the mirror glass
swear to god i heard him laugh
felt his name rise in my gut
seven years of bad luck
rise and shine, and give god the glory, glory
rise and shine, and give god the glory
he said “seven is in the middle, son
pick a side and ride that one”
like jewels hangin’ on the vine
it’s a pendulum that’s drowning time
i lay my head down window-side
neon lights like a reaper’s bride
i tried to sleep beneath the black
of the space behind that devil’s patch
rise and shine, and give god the glory, glory
rise and shine, and give god the glory
he put a shiver in my soul
shook my hand and froze it cold
walked me ’round that endless shore
’til i knew i’d never been before
i hear him singin’ from the road
it’s a children’s song he knows i know
i lay myself down on the ground
emptied both my ears of sound
rise and shine, and give god the glory, glory
rise and shine, and give god the glory

Fever Moon

i saw grey at the temple
i saw blue in the sky
i saw white at the castle
with a black eye

night sweat, soak, broke, hallucination
not yet doc, i like this prescription
deep pill chill, refill my irrigation
back in the cups, i changed up my station
from pirate to tycoon, fever moon

i saw red at the rose
spreading green on the lawn
i saw brown at the derby
but the gold was gone

night sweat, soak, broke, hallucination
not yet doc, i like this prescription
deep pill chill, refill my irrigation
back in the cups, i changed my station
from pirate to tycoon, fever moon

i saw bronze take an age
i saw silver place
i saw rust take a belt
from an ashen face

night sweat, soak, broke, hallucination
not yet doc, i like this prescription
deep pill chill, refill my irrigation
back in the cups, i changed my station
from pirate to tycoon, fever moon


The World Is Going Wrong

Feel bad this mornin’
Ain’t got no home
No use a-worryin’
‘Cause the world gone wrong

I can’t be good no more
Once like I did before
I can’t be good, baby
Honey, because the world’s gone wrong

—from The World Is Going Wrong, by The Mississippi Sheiks

thewestsidesheiks_alt

 

In order to get a new side project off the ground, I’ve been listening to a LOT of The Mississippi Sheiks. Tremendous songwriters (“Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” anybody? Yeah, that was them …), great and powerful instrumentalists (Delta Blues fiddle? Yep, and tough as fu*k to boot …), and genuine Delta royalty, countin’ Sam Chatmon and Charley Patton amongst their kin …

And as you can tell from the lyric above … prophets. Cuz that’s just about how I feel …

This new project is called The Westside Sheiks. It’s gon’ be real, real cool. We’re on to somethin’ … see if you agree … Here’s the very first song we ever performed together …

video link: https://youtu.be/ZK2X0u99Om8

The takeaway tho, is DO be good. You must. No matter how wrong the world feels, you must be good.


A Taste of The Devil’s Buttermilk

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If you’ve heard The Devil’s Buttermilk before, you know it’s a bit of a different record in the Preacher Boy canon. In my mind, it’s almost a sort of collection of shorts, combined into a larger, longer film.  Every song was really recorded to be its own self-contained universe, it’s own completed circle. The songs seemed to ask for that, and so that’s what I did. There is very little sonic continuity from song to song; this one is lighting fast and loaded with electric guitars, that one is soft, quiet, acoustic. This one is whispery and spooky and moody, that one is full bore and monstrous.

The album is populated with a lot of different characters. The destructive, white -trash-noir anti-hero of “On and on it goes,” the cracked Wiseblood-ian preacher of “Glory Man,” Patrick Jones, whose white bones close “The Dogs,” the neighborhood drunk in “Spaceman,” and more.

The theatricality and comparatively complicated instrumentation has meant that these songs don’t get played live very often—some of them I’ve never played live. But recently, I’ve committed to working out arrangements of a great many songs that I haven’t given much stage time to, and songs from The Devil’s Buttermilk are looming large on that list. Last night I played “On and on it goes,” “Rust,” and “Spaceman.” Two of those I’ve NEVER played live before, and “Spaceman” I haven’t performed live in over a decade. It was an adventurous evening.

Here’s a raw and straight-from-the-stage recording of “Spaceman” from last night:

if you don’t see the embedded media player above, please click below to stream:
Preacher Boy – Spaceman [LIVE]

(lyrics are at the bottom of this post)

The whole show was a bit of a journey song-wise … a pretty diverse mix of country blues workouts, and a great many album tracks I don’t often play. Here’s the whole set list:

  1. if i had possession over my judgement day (robert johnson)
  2. rollin’ stone (rev. robert wilkins)
  3. evil blues (mance lipscomb)
  4. rust (from “the devil’s buttermilk”)
  5. levee camp blues (fred mcdowell)
  6. my gold canoe (from “demanding to be next”)
  7. black crow (from “crow”)
  8. gun (from “gutters & pews”)
  9. jake j. thomas’ ol’ mission st blues (new)
  10. catfish (willie doss)
  11. chop wood, carry water (new)
  12. that’s no way to get along (rev. robert wilkins)
  13. down south blues (sleepy john estes)
  14. my car walks on water (from “the national blues”)
  15. nehemiah james (from “demanding to be next”)
  16. down and out in this town (from “gutters & pews”)
  17. spaceman (from “the devil’s buttermilk”)
  18. on and on it goes (from “the devil’s buttermilk”)
  19. change (from “demanding to be next”)
  20. setting sun (from “the national blues”)
  21. motherless children (blind willie johnson/mance lipscomb/dave van ronk)
  22. a little better when it rains (from “demanding to be next”)

~

Finally, here are the lyrics to Spaceman, if you want to read along!

spaceman

god knows where they go, i only know his name was bob
he had a job somewhere, some office that paid him well
he spent his science fiction days dreaming up
all the things that he’d invent, but never sell
i used to see him whenever i was down at “george & walt’s”
and he’d tell me again, like i didn’t already know
that he preferred to start his nights out with three brandy twists
and then finish two beers before he had to go
the bartender, dave, gave bob his nickname
they’d yell out “spaceman!” whenever he walked in
but he confessed to me, in that weary voice that only drunkards get,
that he was pretty sure they were making fun of him
making fun of him
well, they’ve always been
give him half the chance, and bob could talk for half the year
with a mouth full of nothing but an overbite
he was so far past alone not even pity helped
so i’d just sit with him and drink away the nights
the money he earned would have loved to burn his pocket full of holes
but he had no one to spend it upon
for him, love had become some magic instance that never lasts
like the moment when the street lights first come on
sometimes, if bob got a little too drunk
my friend and i, we’d drive him to his house
and we’d talk and sit, and i’d play a bit on his little guitar
and then we’d leave whenever he passed out
whenever he passed out
we’d just let ourselves out
i haven’t been back to “george & walt’s” for so many years
maybe bob doesn’t mean too much to me now
but i’ve always kept that little guitar he insisted that i take
so i guess he still matters somehow
and if you see him, buy him a brandy for me
tell him the kid that took his guitar says hello
and do me a favor, sit and listen to his stories for a while
he’ll appreciate it more than you know
more than you could know
and i ought to know

 


99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

 

PreacherBoy_MissionSt

The song was originally written from the back window of a 4-room railroad apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, just after 9.11.

It was recorded at RPM studios in Manhattan, which is no longer there.

It was released on “Demanding To Be Next” which is still here.

It was played tonight at Mission St. BBQ, which is over there. I am looking right.

Tonight it wore a harmonica rack around its neck and had a ’36 National in its lap:

Preacher Boy – 99 Bottles [LIVE]

(if you don’t see the embedded audio player above, please click here to stream)

On “Demanding to be Next” it had that same National, but no harmonica. And it went like this:

When you want to sing along, sing it all night long. And it goes like this:

ninety-nine bottles

i think i better kill time
before it kills me
put some silence on a sawed-off
see if anybody hears me
there’s ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
rain is runnin’ off the roof
tick-tockin’ on the fire escape
and i’m pitchin’ pennies at the puddles
and takin’ a drink for every one i make
there’s ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
there’s lights on ‘cross the alley
but everybody’s blinds are drawn
and there ain’t nothin’ stirrin’
and nothin’ is goin’ on
there’s ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
i like wine better, but i make do, y’all
(p) PreachSongsMusic/KobaltMusic/BMI
~

(header image by Jake J. Thomas)


Johnny Azari and Preacher Boy’s God Damn National Blues

JohnnyAzari_PreacherBoy_Final

Johnny Azari’s life and my life overlap in a great many ways. Musical, sure. We both play slide on resonator guitars. We’re both heavily influenced by the country blues. We both stomp our boots a great deal, and sing with rough-hewn voices. Read reviews of our music, and half the words are generally the same. Howl, dark, poetry, Robert Johnson, narcotic, gravel, ghost, whiskey, blues, night, etc.

“Johnny Azari doesn’t pull any punches with his blues. This is in your face, razor-edge reconstruction of a genre that’s gotten soft. His music is the last swig of whiskey after a long night of drinking. The dark alleyway. This is real-life emotion through music and he’s not cleaning it up just to make a few casual listeners more comfortable.”
—We Listen For You

“Johnny Azari is a sort of time traveler. As the musician seeks a blend between Jimmy Rogers and Robert Johnson, he hears his music going back to the roots of blues. Azari’s sound features a mix of Delta blues and alternative country — two genres known to demand authenticity from their performers. Azari said he’s just fine with that.
—The Joplin Globe

“Accompanied solely by his keening, propulsive National and Martin guitar playing, Preacher Boy compulsively unwinds a series of often startling, narcotic tales, that prove image-rich and packed with an aura of sweeping drama – made even more pungent by his gruff, whiskey-soaked vocals.”
—Sing Out

“With some of the most innovative roots music on the scene today, Preacher Boy will make a believer out of even the most skeptical. The album creates dusky lyrical landscapes littered with hobos, ghosts, drunks, loneliness, love, and salvation. The result is a totally unique twist on roots music.” 
—Blues Access

Location? Sure, that too. Brooklyn and New Orleans in particular.

Business? A bit. We overlapped on Altco Recordings for a wee bit there. That’s how we met, actually. Well, we didn’t actually meet. We wrote. We corresponded. We listened to each others music. But we never actually met in the conventional sense of the word. But we’re about to.

Sunday, July 24th, 2016, at 8pm, at The Pocket, in Santa Cruz, CA, Johnny Azari and Preacher Boy are going to meet. And we’re going to play. And we gonna howl, and howl, and howl …

I had the pleasure of writing a review of Johnny Azari’s music once. I share it with you here:

Johnny Azari’s God Damn Blues

Johnny Azari is the kind of artist you often see referred to as an “old soul.” These people evidence a wisdom beyond their years, and seem to speak from another time. We could say this about Johnny Azari, but we won’t. Because while his roots runs very, very deep, and while he does possess a preternatural musical maturity, his music is very NOW. It is funky, it is soulful, it is raw, and it is very, very real. Put another way, God Damn Blues is goddamn powerful.

If your first look at the Lucian Freud by way of R.L. Burnside cover—and song titles like Empire of Illusion, Immaculate Abortion, and Opiated Like Tuesday—suggests to you that you’re in for something intense, the first ominous stomps of the title track will confirm it.

Depending on your own musical roots, you may need some sonic references to help you find your way into understanding this music. So you’ll do well to bone up on your Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, and Charley Patton. And make sure to dose up on some Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits while you’re at it. Bin diggers can happily cue up the gothic Americana of 16 Horsepower, the New Orleans meets the Delta sounds of John Mooney, and even The Doors of “Waiting for the Sun” and “Wild Child.” Ultimately though, the artist you most need to listen to is Johnny himself.

His voice is untamed and without boundary—one part howl and one part hum. His guitar playing and slide work have the frenetic precision of a Kokomo Arnold track, and his lyrics enact some sort of cross between Woody Guthrie and a primal scream therapy session. But at its damaged yet still wildly beating heart, this album is simply about a man and his guitar, and the stories the two combine to tell. At the end of “Empire Illusion” Johnny sings, “Oh, I think I’m too old/I think I’m too young.” Listen to this album, and you’ll think he’s timeless.

Johnny Azari’s God Damn Blues. Preacher Boy’s National Blues.

god-damn-bluesPreacherBoy_TheNationalBlues_Web

That’s what’s on offer Sunday night.

Johnny Azari and Preacher Boy’s God Damn National Blues.


Preacher Boy Trio: Now, Con Funky Adicional

 

 

 

The Preacher Boy Trio

The Preacher Boy Trio, live at Aptos St. BBQ: featuring Zack Olsen & Virgil Thrasher (photo by Ulises Gonzalez)

Tonight’s show was groovy as f&*k—The Preacher Boy Trio was Con Funky Adicional.

Cheers to Zack Olsen (drums) and Virgil Thrasher (harmonica) for blessin’ me with the music tonight. I was so honored. Thanks to Aptos St. BBQ fer havin’ us … such a good home for this music.

So, I’ll run ya the whole set list down below, and some lyrics as well, but here’s a lil’ foursome of raw live tracks straight from the stage to give ya the Con Funky flavor:

If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

i start every show with it, and so you see it listed every time, but i never offer recordings of it, but I will do tonight, cuz this was a particularly struttin’ version of the cut …

 

New Red Cedar Blues

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

essentially pretty much a new song—i did try and roll out an early arrangement of it a few months ago, but it weren’t happenin’ yet, so ’twas shelved and woodshedded, but the thing came back with a vengeance tonight … lyrics at the end of  post…

 

A Thief For Every Bible

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

this is essentially a new song as well, tho it’s born of some pre-existing components—the final lyric is actually a combo of two earlier songs that never quite coalesced independently, as well as a new 1/2 chorus, and the music is a complete re-arrangement of a long-ago track that crawled back out from under a rock and said, “play me as a slide guitar rhumba in a minor key, and I’ll be yer baby tonight … and so, said yes …

 

Blister and a Bottle Cap

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

I include this cuz it’s just f&*kin’ epic. Nearly 8 minutes of AltBlues Con SwampFunk

 

And here are lyrics for the new songs in town:

New Red Cedar Blues

off the banks where the rapids flow
learn a lil’ somethin’ ‘bout what i know
raccoon is as raccoon does
learn a lil’ somethin’ bout what i was

and the good witch of the river
from deep down in the water
asks for you to give her
your wish upon a quarter
flashin’ silver that you feed her
oh, if you get lost …
come on home to red cedar

the thunder sends the lightnin’ first
after that, the cloud bursts
its buckshot through the shadows
to the water’s black staccato

and the good witch of the river…

oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’
oh my darlin’, look behind you
in a cavern, in a canyon
if you get lost, i’m gon’ find you
oh, if you get lost …

we left the lake to greet the sun
and got some walkin’ done
back to red cedar
follow the leader

and the good witch of the river…

oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’…

 

A Thief For Every Bible

rats thin and dried, and the noose you tied
and it’s a bad day comin’
it’s a whistle and a pig
and i can hear the drummin’

sweet bitter tea, and the howlin’ three
got an itch for hemlock
they sold the black mariah
and bought an auction block

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around
somethin’ good ‘bout to rise up, somethin’ bad ‘bout to go down
hey hey, somethin’ even you have never seen
gon’ be a thief for every bible, and a drunk for every dream

soot sweet and thick, and the broken brick
i hear the claws a-climbin’
a crow inside an overcoat
said somethin’ ’bout simon

and so simon said, god bless the dead
and the rest can go to hell
tell the pig to get his whistle
and tell the rat to ring the bell

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around…

hey there gun, tell the seventh son
we ’bout to build a railroad
i know you like the water clear
as dew upon a cane toad

i’m drinkin’ buttermilk , all by myself
been in the cups on rye
i make the fine look ugly
i make the ugly look fine

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around…

 

and here’s the full set list from the evening’s entertainment:

The Preacher Boy Trio: featuring Zack Olsen & Virgil Thrasher

Live at Aptos St. BBQ, 7.16.2016

  1. if i had possession over my judgement day (robert johnson, arr. pb)
  2. i just hang down my head and i cry (mance lipscomb, arr. pb)
  3. down the drain (pb)
  4. cornbread (pb)
  5. the cross must move (pb)
  6. catfish (willie doss, arr. ob)
  7. setting sun (pb)
  8. casey bill weldon (pb)
  9. comin’ up aces (pb)
  10. down and out in this town (pb)
  11. a person’s mind (pb)
  12. my car walks on water (pb)
  13. new red cedar blues (pb)
  14. a little more evil (pb)
  15. revenue man blues (charley patton, arr. pb)
  16. dead, boy (pb)
  17. motherless children (blind lemon jefferson/mance lipscomb/dave van ronk, arr. pb)
  18. a thief for every bible (pb)
  19. down south blues (sleepy john estes, arr. pb)
  20. blister and a bottle cap (pb)
  21. baby, please don’t go (bukka white, arr. pb)

 

I hope you dig!


3 different shows, 3 different set lists — Can you spot the differences?

Show #3. Lovely backdrop. Very small chair. Stacy Adams boots. Bailey brim.

Solid week, this one. 3 shows in 6 days. Not a killer pace, but solid. I don’t do set lists in advance, but when I have a series of shows in a row, the process takes on a life. Some songs naturally seem to clump up together, and they stay that way across the shows. Possibly due to how the guitar tunings transition, but often simply because they seem to be mojoin’ together. Other songs just come out of nowhere. Like ridin’ a bike. You fall off a song sometimes, but when you get back up on it, hopefully  you keep your balance …

Anyhow, here’s the 3 different set lists from the different shows … some differences, some sameness. Few notes along the way as well. And yeah, pretty much always start with “Possession.” Dig …

(and p.s. the shot above is from show #3. lovely backdrop. very small chair. Stacy Adams boots. Bailey brim.)

Preacher Boy set list: Tuesday, July 5

If I had possession over my judgement day
Death letter
Evil Blues
Revenue man blues
Levee camp blues
Setting sun
Comin’ up aces
You been a good old wagon (back in the mix after a long absence. Bessie Smith by way of Dave Van Ronk. First started tryin’ to play this about 30 years ago)
One good reason (back in outta nowhere. Written & recorded w/ Eagle-Eye Cherry originally)
Cornbread
Catfish blues
Spoonful blues
There go John
Jackson Street
Railroad
My car walks on water
At the corner of the top and the bottom
Jesus, make up my dyin’ bed
Casey Bill Weldon (brand-new song)
In the darkened night (outta nowhere. haven’t played this in ages. From Gutters & Pews originally)
New Red Cedar blues (not yet recorded/released)

Preacher Boy set list, Thursday, July 7

If I had possession over my judgement day
Setting sun
Down the drain
Railroad
Dead, boy
Catfish blues
A little better when it rains (back in the mix after a decade away. lead track from “Demanding to be Next”)
Jesus, make up my dying bed
Hang down my head and cry
Casey Bill Weldon
You been a good old wagon
Fixin’ to die
Down and out in this town
New Red Cedar blues
A person’s mind
Cornbread
Down south blues
Evil blues
Revenue man blues
Comin’ up aces
One good reason
Obituary writer blues
Baby, please don’t go

Preacher Boy set list, Sunday, July 10

If I had possession over my judgement day
Death letter blues
Catfish blues
Jackson street
Setting sun
Comin’ up aces
Down south blues
Shake ‘em down
My car walks on water
A person’s mind
At the corner of the top and the bottom
Obituary writer blues
The cross must move (pretty rare for this one to rear up. originally from the very first Preacher Boy ablum, on Blind Pig Records)
Dead, boy
Casey Bill Weldon
Cornbread
Baby, please don’t go

~

I listened back to the recordings of the shows (guerrilla-style, raw), and tried to pick out one I thought ya’d like. I decided on “In The Darkened Night.” This was originally recorded for the Gutters & Pews album on Blind Pig Records. I played accordion and 12-string acoustic on the album version. Ralph Carney and Jim Campilongo did an amazing clarinet and Telecaster thing on it. I dug that track. But I don’t think Blind Pig did. Anyhow, here’s meself doin’ a solo National Resophonic rendition:

Preacher Boy – In The Darkened Night [LIVE]

(if you don’t see the embedded media player above, please click here to stream)

And if’n ya wanna hear the original album version; i.e. that Accordion/Campilongo/Carney version from Gutters & Pews, here ’tis on the ol’ Spotify:

 

 


It Was A Set Your Daddy Dug Tonight [Live Tracks Included]

Preacher Boy - Virgil Thrasher - The National Blues

The inestimably excellent Virgil Thrasher brought his groovily moody and soulfully squallfull harmonica to the stage this evening, and together we ran down a set list which—upon retrospecting—I rather dig.

Here’s the full list of the songs we spelunked in and out of over the course of two solid hours tonight (please click the hyperlinked tracks to hear live, guerrilla-live recordings straight from the stage to vibrating drums:

If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day (arr. PB, after Robert Johnson)

Rollin’ Stone (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Evil Blues (arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Revenue Man Blues (arr. PB, after Charley Patton)

Levee Camp Blues (arr. PB, after Mississippi Fred McDowell)

Settin’ Sun (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Comin’ Up Aces (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry (trad., arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Catfish Blues (trad., arr. PB, after Willie Doss)

Jackson Street (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

The Dogs (PB, from “The Devil’s Buttermilk”)

Obituary Writer Blues (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Down And Out In This Town (PB, from “Gutters and Pews”)

Red Cedar River Blues (PB, new-unreleased)

My Car Walks On Water (PB, from “The National Blues”)

99 Bottles (PB, Demanding To Be Next”)

That’s No Way To Get Along (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Casey Bill Weldon (PB, new-unreleased)

You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon (arr. PB, after Dave Van Ronk)

Death Letter Blues (arr. PB, after Son House)

~

Yeah man. I dig. I dug. I dig.


What A Difference 20 Years Makes: The Evolution of “Coal Black Dirt Sky”

Preacher Boy - LIVE

I wrote the lyrics to the song “Coal Black Dirt Sky” pretty much exactly 20 years ago. With The Backyard Funeral Band, we recorded it for the album “Crow.”

Despite the fact that I really love the song, I’ve virtually never played it live. It could be the arrangement. The way we recorded it was very much the evolutionary result of that particular group of musicians coming together, and it just never made sense in any future ensemble incarnations. The same might be said for solo performances as well—I just never wrapped my head around how to own the song on my own.

And so into the brume it went, disappeared into the obfuscatory tendrils of time …

Until recently. The song just started coming back into me for some reason. I wanted to play it. I wanted to own it. I wanted it to be my song again. I wanted to play it on my National.

So I had a go at working up an arrangement, and I played it a couple nights ago. It didn’t go very well. The brume beckoned. But I didn’t give up. I had to get it. The minor tonality of the chorus’ second chord—that had to be nailed on the National somehow, in a way that wouldn’t dip in intensity.

Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” gave me the first third of the answer. It was all about flipping the chord, and pulling the minor tonality out of the bass strings.

That meant the rhythm had to change. Tricky, as the song has a very particular syllabic pattern. That’s where Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” came in—it gave me the second third of the answer. It had to swing.

Finally, I had to bring the slide in. Thank you Mississippi Fred McDowell, for once again showing me the way. This was the third third.

Boom. I have my song back. I hope you like it too. I really do. But regardless, I’m happy. I have my song back. And I love to play it. I played it last night. And I was very happy.

This is bootleg-quality guerrilla audio, but I think you’ll get the gist. Check it out, see what you think. Then, go check out the version from Crow.

A travelin’ song that’s done a lot of travelin’. That’s what this is:

Preacher Boy – Coal Black Dirt Sky [LIVE],  2016

~

Preacher Boy (and The Backyard Funeral Band) – Coal Black Dirt Sky [Studio], 1998

~

Coal Black Dirt Sky

when you’re alone in wyoming you are truly alone
you look out the window and there’s nothing there but road
and if you make it to nebraska there still ain’t nothin’ ’round
and the night wraps around you just like a gown
you look out the window and the sky is coal black dirt
and you realize you’ve ridden through hell on earth
and you leave behind the creaking night, the whip-slap winds a-moanin’
never again to see the wilds of nebraska and wyoming
it’s a coal black dirt sky
the hills laugh out load as we speed by
between sleep, i spy
nothing in the coal black dirt sky
wyoming is as cold as frost on a metal rail
and the cold wind pins you down like the bars of a jail
and the snow sits at the side of the road like a threat
and you pray for the end of the ride but you’re not there yet
and nebraska is tall as heaven and it’s twice as wide
and it’s bound to take a lifetime to reach the other side
and you don’t know what it looks like ’cause you never saw it’s day
so nebraska lies behind you and just fades away
it’s a coal black dirt sky
the hills laugh out load as we speed by
between sleep, i spy
nothing in the coal black dirt sky

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