Category Archives: Performance Stories | Tales From The Road

San Francisco Nights, San Francisco Days

Preacher Boy - 1

Image from the very first Preacher Boy photo shoot, for the very first Preacher Boy album. Photo by Pat Johnson.

Sad Bastard Club, Monday, April 15, 2019, feat. Tom Heyman, Matthew Edwards, Ted Savarese, and Preacher Boy.  Make Out Room. 3225 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

San Francisco was my home town for many, many years. It’s where I came of age musically; and in fact, literally. I was on stage at the Full Moon Saloon when I turned 21. The audience sang me a hearty Happy Birthday, while the bartender looked on a bit perplexed, given that I’d already been playing (and drinking) there for at least a year.

Of course, the Full Moon Saloon is now gone, as are so many of the great venues from those days. The Blue Lamp (name-checked in the Preacher Boy song “At The Corner of the Top and the Botton), Boomerang, the I-Beam, the Kennel Club, the Last Day Saloon, Nightbreak, Paradise Lounge (one of my personal all-time favorite venues), and far too many more.

Mercifully, some are still going strong. Bottom of the Hill (I was fortunate to play there the first week it opened), Hotel Utah, Biscuits and Blues (played more shows there than I can count), and of course the Great American Music Hall, possibly my choice for “final gig” venue. And of course, there is Slim’s, where, thanks to the benevolence of Harry Duncan and Dawn Holliday, I played some of the most important shows in my career. Dawn was especially important for me, and she invited me to open for so many incredible artists I can still hardly believe it. From The Texas Tornadoes, Uncle Tupelo, and Peter Wolf, to Jimmy Vaughan, Diamanda Galas, and Ratdog, I was fortunate to be part of a musical era I will always recall with awe, fondness, and gratitude.

I signed my first record deal in San Francisco. Blind Pig Records. I signed the contract—literally, physically signed the contract—on a table at a bar in North Beach.

There were so many memorable musical things happening then. So many memorable bands. Sister Double Happiness. Red House Painters. American Music Club. Richard Buckner. Chuck Prophet. The list went on and on and on.

On Monday, April 15th, I return to San Francisco, for precisely the kind of show that made San Francisco such a remarkable musical city in those days. A show with imaginative, unique, diverse musicians, performers, and songwriters, who come together in the spirit of rock n’ roll craftspersonship to deliver serious—and seriously fun, music—The show will be at the Make Out Room. I join a bill comprised of Tom Heyman, Matthew Edwards, and Ted Savarese.  The show is one of a series called the “Sad Bastard Club.”

If you’re anywhere in Northern California at that time, I hope you can come. It will be a night to celebrate the city, its music, and its musicians.

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)
Catfish blues
Spoonful blues
There go John
Jackson Street
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
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
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
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:



Setlist Chronicles -or- The Strange Bird Songs I Played Tonight

Preacher Boy, Mission St. BBQ, photo by Jake J. Thomas

(Preacher Boy, live at Mission St. BBQ. Photo by Jake J. Thomas.)

Kind of an intriguing set tonight, if I do say so myself. I certainly bookended with a pair of the usual suspects, and there were a few other familiar chirps throughout as well, but all in all, quite a lot of strange birds making sonic appearances tonight. Lots of country blues in here. Here’s the full list of what I ran down:

  1. If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day (Robert Johnson, arr. PB)
  2. Preachin’ Blues (Son House, arr. PB)
  3. Levee Camp Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell, arr. PB)
  4. Old Jim Granger (from the Preacher Boy album “The Tenderloin EP”)
  5. Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes, arr. PB)
  6. Evil Blues (Mance Lipscomb, arr. PB)
  7. A Little More Evil (from the Preacher Boy album “The National Blues”)
  8. Revenue Man Blues (Charley Patton, arr. PB)
  9. Milk Cow Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell, arr. PB)
  10. Catfish Blues (Willie Doss, arr. PB)
  11. The Dogs (from the Preacher Boy album “The Devil’s Buttermilk”)
  12. Spoonful Blues (Charley Patton, arr. PB)
  13. Down And Out In This Town (from the Preacher Boy album “Gutters & Pews”)
  14. Sliding Delta (Mississippi John Hurt, arr. PB)
  15. Stagolee (Mississippi John Hurt, arr. PB)
  16. A Person’s Mind (from the Preacher Boy album “The National Blues”)
  17. Down South Blues (Sleepy John Estes, arr. PB)
  18. Coal Black Dirt Sky (from the Preacher Boy album “Crow”)
  19. Black Crow (from the Preacher Boy album “Crow”)
  20. Railroad (from the Preacher Boy album “Gutters & Pews”)
  21. Motherless Children (Blind Willie Johnson,/Mance Lipscomb/Dave Van Ronk, arr. PB)
  22. Shake ‘Em On Down (Bukka White)

And for your listening pleasure, two straight-from-the-stage-to-yer-ear-buds guerrilla-live tracks:

Preacher Boy – Sliding Delta [LIVE]

(arrangement based on the Mississippi John Hurt version)

Preacher Boy – Levee Camp Blues [LIVE]

(arrangement based on a recorded performance by Mississippi Fred McDowell)

For the guitar heads amongst ye, this version of Sliding Delta is performed on a ’36 National (Grandpa’s National), which is set up for standard tuning. This chords are based on Key of E forms, but the guitar is capo’d at the 4th fret. Levee Camp Blues is performed on a different ’36 National (THE National), and the guitar is tuned to an Open G tuning, then capo’d at the 2nd fret.

For the footwear fanatics amongst ye, the stomps come courtesy of my cowboy boots, which are a Size 13.


Celebrating David Bowie


-or- Dining on Blues with The Thin White Duke

-or- What the Texas Flood had to do with the Serious Moonlight

It might be said that David Bowie was an omnivore who subsisted on a variegated diet of genius. His was an elevated mammalian instinct—a refined sensorial ability to identify, internalize, and reproduce the gorgeous bleeding edge of his world like some dangerous polyphagist blazing with a courtesan’s practiced grace through fields of sounds and visions.

Was David Bowie a bluesman? Certainly not. But could he sniff out in its bestial flanks the raw funk of pagan genius? Most certainly he could.

I’m not talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan, by the way. At least not yet.

Nor, however, am I talking about “Running Gun Blues” from The Man Who Sold The World. Sure, there is a rawness to the lyric:

I slash them cold, I kill them dead

I broke the gooks, I cracked their heads

I’ll bomb them out from under the beds

But now I’ve got the running gun blues

But musically, it’s a different animal. Blues it ain’t.

I could though, potentially be talking about just about all of Hunky Dory, though with some explanation and contextualization required. If the folk-blues of Dylan’s early records, for example, presented a young, blues-struck songster-artist wrestling with which side of the musical soul tracks to fall on—and whether to love or mock his gods and demons— Hunky Dory could be Bowie wrestling with Dylan’s blues-struck songster-artist. Hunky Dory of course contains those Romulan and Remun songs of fidelity and scandal: one song which arguably mocks Dylan (Song for Bob Dylan), and one that arguably imitates him (Changes). Such wrestlings (Church and Jukejoint) have always been the proper moral stuff of proper blues.

Bowie was also a good rock n’ roller. And you can’t be a good rock n’ roller without having spit a bit into the handkerchief of the blues. Whether it’s theatre or not, ironic or not, Suffragette City is good rock n’ roll, and that whole wham bam, thank you m’aam bit is straight up old school sex hokum.

Which brings me to The Jean Genie.

I’m going to be singing this song on Tuesday, March 22, at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, in the company of so much talent I can hardly believe I have a thing to do with it. But it’s happening. It’s called Celebrating David Bowie. It started at the Roxy in LA, shortly after Bowie passed. It was led by a very old musical friend of mine named Scrote (who I know from my earliest musical days in San Francisco, and who is today one of the most innovative, creative, and thoughtful guitar players and composers around) and Gary Oldman, the very, very fine actor, musician, and filmmaker. Celebrating David Bowie literally took on a life of its own, and the concert turned into a truly remarkable happening, featuring a stunning array of musicians who had collectively and in myriad ways orbited through Bowie’s orbit. This powerful experience is now coming to San Francisco for an encore appearance. Gary and Scrote are at the helm again. Jerry Harrison has signed on to perform (cue fanboy spazz out from yours truly … The Modern Lovers!!!). The musical cast is incredible. Here they are in toto, as listed on the event site:

Jerry Harrison, Holly Palmer, Mark Plati, Gaby Moreno, Angelo Moore, Joe Sumner, Dorian Holley, Lyle Workman, Mirv, Patrick Warren, Brain, Eric Gorfain, Magik*Magik Orchestra, Blair Sinta, Mark Degli Antoni, Paul Bushnell, Jebin Bruni, Ron Dziubla, House, Princess Frank, Rob Reich, Wil Blades, Celia Chavez, Simon Petty, Alex Painter, Jordan Katz, Michael Urbano, Preacher Boy, Josh Lopez, Jeremy Little, Jamison Smeltz, Brett Hool, Marcus Blake, Jim Greer, Shawn Davis, Libby Lavella, Adam Theis, Rich Armstrong, Karina Denike, Jim Bogios, Mark Growden, Craig McFarland, Meryl Theo Press, Mike Klooster, Brad Brooks, Carletta Sue Kay, and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Ensemble.

And as noted on said site:

Musicians on this show play with or have played with David Bowie, Tom Waits, Sting, Seal, Herbie Hancock, Daniel Johnston, De La Soul, Brian Eno, Bruce Springsteen, Jellyfish, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jackson Browne, Danny Elfman, Bob Dylan, Soul Coughing, Stevie Wonder, John Scofield, Guns N’ Roses, Lana Del Rey, Dr. Dre, Burt Bacharach, David Byrne, Todd Rundgren, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dwight Yoakam, Cassandra Wilson, Eric Clapton, Raphael Saadiq, Frank Black, Melody Gardot, Lenny Kravitz, etc etc etc…

In short, this is once-in-a-lifetime. I still can’t believe I’m going to be there. But I am. And I’m going to sing The Jean Genie.


I’m a little bit terrified. But by god, I’ll make it!

After all, musically, Jean Genie is just Bowie doing I’m A Man by way of The Yardbirds, right??? And lyrically, it’s just a hipped-up, druggy, urban-nocturnal kind of Wang Dang Doodle, ain’t it?

Tell automatic slim

Tell razor totin’ jim

Tell butcher knife totin’ annie

Tell fast talkin’ fanny

Tonite we’re gonna pitch a ball

Down to that union hall

Gonna romp and tromp ’till midnite

We’re gonna fuss and fight ’till daylight

We’re gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long


A small Jean Genie snuck off to the city

Strung out on lasers and slash back blazers

Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters

Talking bout Monroe and walking on Snow White

New York’s a go-go and everything tastes right

Poor little Greenie

The Jean Genie lives on his back

The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks

He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls

Jean Genie let yourself go!

It’s a legendary song, is what it is. How legendary? A handwritten copy of the original lyrics is—in a strange bit of timing—currently being auctioned as I write this. Opening bid? $43,000. Wow.

And ok yes, there’s the David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan thing. Did he “discover” Stevie Ray Vaughan? Of course not. Did their somewhat surprising musical dance together dramatically impact each other’s careers? Absolutely. Are “China Girl” or “Let’s Dance” blues songs? Of course not. Did David Bowie sense something that no one else could really sense—did he see something we couldn’t see, hear something we couldn’t hear, did he walk on a plane where, if you were there too, you too would know what the Texas Flood had to do with the Serious Moonlight?



A Scholarly Paper On Preacher Boy?


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:

Take Me Back


You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon, Daddy But You Done Broke Down

Shine On Harvest Moon

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.

Everytime I hear “Preachin’ Blues” I think of Will Scott

From the moment I heard Will Scott play, I have esteemed him greatly. I have for him a love that is brotherly, and a competitor’s admiration. I have been both his student and his teacher, and I remain the former forever more. I am proud to call him friend, and put simply, as a musicianer, he is a motherf&*#er.

We got to do an album together. It’s called Gnawbone, and it’s an incredible bloody record. If you don’t own it, own it.

Will Scott: Gnawbone

His next album is Keystone Crossing. It’s essential listening.

Will Scott: Keystone Crossing

Here’s the thing about Will and I. When I heard him sing, I knew I was f&#*ed. He came from a RL Burnside, Johnny Shines kind of thing, whereas I was more Bukka White and Blind Willie Johnson. We met in the middle at Son House. He could sing like Son House, and that was hard for me, cuz I couldn’t. But, I could PLAY like Son House, and that helped.

We started doin’ shows together, and it was one night in some weird place in Williamsburg (of 15 years ago, mind you), and here he comes out with the slide lick from “Preachin’ Blues” and I about fell about the place. Cuz now he was singin’ like Son, and playin’ like Son, and everytime I hear that lick I think of Will. Everytime I hear “Preachin’ Blues” I think of Will Scott.

So this song, really, is several notes of appreciation for Will Scott, because when I play it, I think of him. He’s a couple thousand miles away from me right now, but I’m thinkin’ on him. This is a brand-new song called “Obituary Writer Blues.” And if you know your Son House, you might think I copped a lick from him to build this song on top of, but honestly, I stole it from Will Scott.

Obituary Writer Blues

I’m gon’ quite writin’, gon’ lay down this pen I use
Oh, now I’m gon’ quit writin’ gon’ lay down this pen I use
And you know by that I got the obituary blues

I been at the typer, lord, honey, ’til my fingers sore
Honey, I been at the typer, lord, ’til my fingers sore
I ain’t gon’ write no obituary anymore

Black was the color, one after another
They lay down on sheets of white
Time may erase me, but I ain’t so crazy
That I don’t know my wrong from right

Oh, sweet mama don’t ‘low me to stay out all night long
I may act like I’m crazy, but I do know right from wrong

It was rock, paper, scissors ’til the sword get the better of the pen
Oh, it was rock, paper, scissors, ’til the sword got the best of the pen
I seen it printed in the paper, somebody shot up some poor kids again

Black was the color, one after another
They lay down on sheets of white
Time may erase me, but I ain’t so crazy
That I don’t know my wrong from right

Oh, sweet mama don’t ‘low me to stay out all night long
I may act like I’m crazy, but I do know right from wrong


On the subject of thievery, I owe nods to Sleepy John Estes and Nina Simone as well. Dig.


Live Recording! Country Blues w/ Virgil Thrasher


I had the great pleasure of bein’ joined on stage last night at Aptos St. BBQ w/ blues harmonica legend Virgil Thrasher (you may recall him from decades of mojo-laden music w/ country blues icon Robert Lowery). We did about 2 hours straight, and amongst other things, hit on some lovely ol’ country blues songs that have been real close to my heart for a real long time … Here’s some raw, guerrilla audio of two of those tracks (recorded last night); hope you dig:

Maggie Campbell

Motherless Children

The first is a tune by Delta man Tommy Johnson, and it’s worth noting that it opens with what I think is one of the great haiku-spirit blues couplets of all time:

Who’s that yonder, comin’ down the road?
Lord, it look like Maggie, but she walkin’ slow

That’s a whole lot of pathos right there … so simple, but I get chills even typin’ it out … so much meaning writ into those few words …

The next song is a staple of a kind, and this arrangement is a bit of a modge podge worth of versions, drawin’ mainly on a cocktail of Blind Willie Johnson, Mance Lipscomb, and Dave Van Ronk …

Anyhow, hope you dig, and thanks as always fer listenin’…



One year ago, I debuted at Aptos St. BBQ. I had no idea then that I’d still be there tonight. But I was there tonight.

That night one year ago, I debuted a song I’d never ever ever ever played live before. It was newly written, and I called it “Blister And A Bottlecap.” You can see a video of that performance at the end of this post. It’s me, and the very great Virgil Thrasher, doin’ it.

So tonight, it was my one-year birthday at the ‘Q. To celebrate, I debuted a new song. One that I’d never ever ever ever played live before. One that was newly written. I figure if I do this every year, then a decade from now, I can release an album entirely comprised of songs debuted at Aptos St. BBQ.

One must have goals.

So the song tonight? “Now Is The Only Moment That There Is (Zen Blues)”

If you wish, you can listen to tonight’s performance of the song by clicking below:

Now Is The Only Moment That There Is (Zen Blues)live at Aptos St. BBQ, 9.17.2015

And if you wish to follow the lyrics along, here they is:

The more you want, the more it hurts
and it only gets worse
Still, everybody want to go to heaven

Just ask St. Christopher
he know for sure
how it feel to fall from saint to legend

Oh, people be so unkind
but honey, it’s ain’t none o mine
she gon’ get hers just like he gon’ be gettin’ his
And the past gon’ have to ‘low
that we makin’ the future now
because now is the only moment that there is

When the war took that one more step
and bled upon her doorstep
she broke the arrow into point and feather

And when the river was agitated
she just sat on the bank and waited
for the wind to put the moon back together


Mona Lisa
Mother Theresa
Billie Holiday singin’ “Stormy Weather”

King Macbeth
Malcom X
Willie Johnson singin’ “God Moves On The Water”



And here’s that video of “Blister And A BottleCap”

Thanks so much to Aptos St. BBQ. And everyone that hangs out with me down there. By the train tracks.




9 Reasons To Attend The Golden Gate Blues Society’s International Blues Competition Solo/Duo Round


Oakland. My former home. The Oakland of a long-gone Navy. The Oakland of Ken Stabler. The Oakland of Eli’s.

To misquote that English bluesman (for that is, in so many ways, what I think he really is) Billy Bragg, “I don’t want to change the world, I’m just looking for a new Oakland…”

I and you and we will find a new Oakland Thursday night. A blues Oakland. A solo Oakland. A duo Oakland.

(To find out more details about this event, please click here. You’ll be taken to a Facebook Events Page)

We will be the Oakland of Your Place Too and Flint’s. And we will be the Oakland of The Terrace Room.

What follows are 9 Reasons you should be in this Oakland/that Oakland Thursday night. These 9 reasons are an aggregation of what was once 7 reasons, then appended with an 8th, and now modified to include a 9th.

*Historical Note: The James Brown chord is a 9th.

Read on, and dig.

(and if you’re already familiar with reasons 1-8, then get on to the end of this post and dig Number 9. Number 9. Number 9. Number 9…)

Because, what is blues? Blues is not some chump in a designer suit in front of a wall of amps playing “tributes” to a huge crowd of $100 ticket holders in a theater. Blues is a person, and people. Blues is raw. Blues is an instrument with a sound, in hands with a feel, below a voice with a power. It is not whispered. It is music for all generations, played where there is food and drink and diapers and bottles and laughing and talking and dancing and silence and nothingness and just being present. It is not the cry of an oppressed people any more than it is formulaic entertainment. It is American Haiku with a thumb pick. It is slightly dangerous and very funny and a bit about fucking but also the strange intelligence of old people and the smell of swamps and the in-the-momentness of monks. This is REASON ONE to attend this event. Because you will hear boots stomp to the raw sound of American Mojo Haiku Swamp Songs.

Coyote Slim. Because of all the above. Because he’s the real deal. Because he plays farmers’ markets, and is grateful about it. Because he cares about his clothes because he respects his opportunities. Because his bio says he’s an arborist. Because he understands how to sing, and why it’s important. Because you should listen to Coyote Slim. Because he has R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Because when he plays and sings, the sound is alive. This is REASON TWO why you should attend this event.

John Maxwell. Because his latest album has him playing “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me.” Which is one of the greatest not-as-well-known performances Mississippi John Hurt ever recorded. Because he plays a slide guitar version of “St. James Infirmary.” Because CD Baby says he’s recommended if you like Leon Redbone. This is REASON THREE why you should attend this event.

John Maxwell | Blues for Evangeline

Chicken & Dumpling. Because they’re called Chicken & Dumpling. This is REASON FOUR why you should attend this event.

Country Pete McGill. Because Holy Crap, check him out:

And THAT … is REASON FIVE to attend this event.

Preacher Boy. Yours truly. I’m writing this, so I can’t say anything about myself, but I’m a reason to come all the same. So I am REASON SIX to attend this event.


A reviewer once wrote of one of my albums that I sung every word as if I were about to expire. I was very proud of that review. I still try to sing that way, and some day, I’ll be right. Your life is a choice, too. Every moment of it. Is your past impacting your present right now? It is. So the past is here right now. And of course the present is here right now. And is what you’re doing right now going to impact the future? Of course it is. So the future is here too. Which means now really is the only moment. So I sing that way. And on the evening of September 10th, it will be your only moment, and you can do with that what you will, but I hope you choose to attend this event, because that will illustrate and exemplify what you care about. That you care about realness. That you care about hearing skin on brass. Boot on floor. That you care about the actual sound of a throat framing the word “down.” That you know all soulful people wear groovy shoes. It will show that you’re a Blues Monk Haiku Zen Blues Master with big mojo. And you want to be that don’t you? Because you want to be close enough to reach out and touch the musician, but you won’t, because you won’t need to.

THAT … is REASON SEVEN to attend this event.



Due largely to when and where I was born, I haven’t had too many flesh-and-blood musical teachers. My Grandpa certainly, from whom I received my Nationals. But that’s very nearly it. Certainly I’ve had friends, peers, fellow musicians that I’ve learned uncountable amounts from, but I like to think/hope those are give-and-take relationships.

By and large, my teachers have been recordings and books. Vinyl releases from Vanguard, Takoma, Arhoolie. Books by Samuel Charters, David Evans, Stefan Grossman. And of course, the music. This has been my true teacher. The music of Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes, Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Pete Williams, and so, so, so many more.

There is one exception to the above, however. There is one teacher, one flesh-and-blood teacher, at whose knee I have genuinely studied. His name is Big Bones.

I’ve told the tale too many times to merit repeating here, but suffice it to say Big Bones looms large in my life. I played with him for the first time on a street corner in Berkeley, some 25 years ago. We’ve gone years in silence since, intermingled with long, strange, beautiful and hard hours, days, weeks, months on the road together. We’ve driven to Arkansas, flown to Amsterdam, sailed to Ireland.

Here is he and I together, from The Kitchen Set:


What I have learned from Big Bones is immeasurable. What you will experience in the presence of he and his music is inexpressible. Big Bones. He is REASON EIGHT to attend  The Golden Gate Blues Society’s International Blues Competition Solo/Duo Round.

Through the strange machinations of fate, I am not scheduled to play WITH Big Bones that night. Rather, I am scheduled to compete AGAINST him. This is of course ridiculous. I could sooner eat dinosaur marrow w/ mole sauce than compete with Bones.

The event is of course not a competition of any kind, really. It is a celebration of a raw, urgent, vital music. A music that lives fully within the boundaries of Big Bones.

Please CLICK HERE to attend this event.


Finally, REASON NINE: You.

You are the reason to attend this event. Because you DO want to change the world, and you ARE looking for a new Oakland.

Live & Raw: Preacher Boy & The National Blues at JJ’s

Need Mo’ Blues & Dead, Boy. Nasty …

Preacher Boy & The National Blues_2


From left to right: Jonathan “Captain Ahab” Dryden on the keys, Zack “The Olsen Twin” Olsen on the drums, Ben “Gentle Ben” Herod on the Baritone Saxophone, Virgil “Dr. V” Thrasher on the Harp, and yours truly on National and Vox. This was us at The Pocket (i.e. in the pic above), and this was the very same line-up we took over the hill to JJ’s one July 3rd in America.


cue: “I’m Goin’ Over The Hill” by Mississippi Fred McDowell


I’ve been very privileged to have assembled some of the nastiest, funkiest, grooviest, zennist ensembles imaginable over the years, but I’m hard put to recall one more spontaneously dangerous than this one … it’s a strange one, to be sure: keys, bari sax, harmonica, national, no bass … but damn, it grooves, and it’s just very, very, very nasty … diseasedly subversively mojo’d … It’s like Tony Joe White meets Morphine meets 16 Horsepower meets Bukka White meets Motorhead meets Captain Beefheart meets Blind Willie Johnson meets Joe Cocker meets … Whistleman.

So we took to JJ’s recently, and dropped down 2+ hours of completely raw swamp … and I invite you to bend an ear to it, if you would. Mind you, these are unmixed, unmastered, unedited … they’s just straight from the stage into yer ears … but I hope you dig!

First up, just a downright sleazed and brutal take on “Dead, Boy” and I mean wicked. Just 9 minutes of asphalt:

Preacher Boy & The National Blues: Dead, Boy, live from JJ’s
just click to dig the stream)

Hear a bit of squall & wail weavin’ in there? That’s Ryan “The Home Town Hero” Acosta on some git …

And fer yer second course, the National takes a ride on the Crybaby Train as the ensemble burns up a workout of Sleepy John Estes’ “Need Mo’ Blues.” Check it out:

Preacher Boy & The National Blues: Need Mo’ Blues, live from JJ’s
(just click to dig the stream)

I hope you dig, man! Let me know what ya think …

And for any of y’all that go WAY back, tell me the first time an iteration of Preacher Boy & Co recorded a live version of “Need Mo’ Blues.” Get it right, and I’ll buy you a bike!



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