Tag Archives: Johnny Azari

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 5

Johnny Azari – Songs From A Motel Room


There are far too many artists out there today throwing inordinate amounts of marketing money around trying to put forth a facade of authenticity the likes of which very few actual artists have actual claim to. Put another way, you’re not a musician just because you play one on TV.

And then there is Johnny Azari.

In the hands of virtually any other aspiring troubadour, Songs From A Motel Room would sound like yet another hapless ivory tower attempt to play Bukowksi by way of Cohen for a hapless pack of damp-knickered co-eds still prone to getting titillated any time love, sex, and death walk into a bar together.

And then there is Johnny Azari.

Is there a more straightforward way to say this, than to say that this is the real shit? Songs From A Motel Room is not aspirational marketing-speak for the next high-fashion Townes Van Zandt to come down the No Depression pipe, nor is it a season on the street for someone’s thesis.

My favorite part of the whole aurual spelunk into Azariville is the fact that he provides geo-notes on where the songs were recorded—turning these songs into genuine songs of place in a way we rarely experience anymore.

I’ll confess, at first listen to Don’t Mind The Dyin (Track 1), I got hung up on the sound. I mean, it SOUNDS like it was recorded in a motel room. It’s a bit tinny, and abrasive, and distorted, and it’s not “not-pretty” in a chick-with-a-limp kind of cool way, it’s literally just not pretty. But honestly, could it be any other way? That’s where the risk comes in.

One of the things I admired so much about Nelson Algren’s writing, is that he wasn’t afraid to point out that poor people are often assholes, because being poor sucks. That’s what I feel here, in this music. Being away from home, alone in motel rooms, with the echo of no applause ringing in empty ears—that can suck. And it can make you an asshole. Or, at least, it can make your songs assholes.

Picture the scene. Johnny Azari, shirtless, sweaty, looking both half-crazed and half-exhausted, as he wavers in a kind of anti-spiritual post-reverie. He’s wedged into the corner of a spare motel room. There’s a wall-mounted air conditioning unit inches from the headstock of his guitar, and a single bed two feet from his right thigh. Two microphones on boom stands loom in—one a broken crow, the other a spindly vulture. In front of him, a laptop on a makeshift table. He dazedly fingers a staggering arpeggio, then tilts his head back, opens his mouth, and sings:

Standing before, the lord’s darkest door …

This is the Dead Sea Scroll moment. The moment you uncover something that changes history as you’ve understood it. Azari’s revelation is neither musical nor spiritual. It is simply human. In some ways, this is the simplest album ever made, as it is nothing more or less than exactly what it says it is.

It is: Songs From A Motel Room. By Johnny Azari.

The #DisruptiveCountryBlues Tour

The #DisruptiveCountryBlues Tour

I had a dream about this tour last night. It was called the #DisruptiveCountryBlues Tour. We played all 50 states in the US. Brother Dege, Dave Arcari, Johnny Azari, Will Scott, and Preacher Boy. Before the tour started, we invited artists from every state to enter our competition: write an essay about “Disruptive Country Blues”—what it means, what it means to them, and why the term applies to their music. We also asked them to submit a video of their music. We then picked one artist from every state to join us on the bill. So, a 6-artist show in every state. Plus, we got to help support the careers of 50 MORE Disruptive Country Blues artists. It was really beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up.

Brother Dege

Dave Arcari

Johnny Azari

Will Scott

Preacher Boy




Johnny Azari and Preacher Boy’s God Damn National Blues


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.


That’s what’s on offer Sunday night.

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

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