Tag Archives: Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues

One Of The Old Songs

PreacherBoy_GitCase_TrainTracks

I played 3 hours straight, no break. Solo acoustic. Just me and my two Nationals. It was a night of rarities. Preachorum Obscurata. In no particular order, I am pretty sure I played:

De Vamp (from debut album Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues)

Dead, Boy (ditto)

The Cross Must Move (ditto)

Like Me (PBATNB again)

Down & Out In This Town (from 2nd album, Gutters & Pews)

In The Darkened Night (G&P again. Last time I played this live? 2001, in Boulder, CO, methinks …)

Railroad (from G&P. This was my Grandpa’s favorite Preacher Boy song …)

Ugly (G&P)

Old Jim Granger (from The Tenderloin EP)

Black Crow (from Crow)

A Golden Thimble (from The Devil’s Buttermilk)

At The Corner Of The Top & The Bottom (fromTDBM again. Written about a lil’ corner just up the street from Biscuits & Blues in SF)

Friend’s Lament (also from TDBM. As far as I can recall, I only ever performed this song once live before tonight. On a radio show in Brighton, England)

Whistleman (from Demanding To Be Next)

Rock Skipper (also DTBN)

My Gold Canoe (DTBN again. Written with the very great Colin Brooks)

Comin’ Up Aces (DTBN)

Jackson Street (DTBN)

99 Bottles (DTBN)

West of the River (new/unreleased. NEVER performed this live EVER before)

Envelope (I think the last time I performed this live was at Two Boots in Park Slope)

My Car Walks On Water (unreleased)

Down The Drain (unreleased)

Cornbread (unreleased)

A Little More Evil (unreleased)

Blister and a Bottlecap (unreleased)

… and some other things as well, which I cannot currently remember. Other than “Sliding Delta.” I know I played that too …

The show was at Jerry’s Front Pocket in Santa Cruz. The cleanest dirty bar in world. Jerry is fantastic. We talked Nick Cave after the show, and MC 900 Foot Jesus.

PreacherBoy_PreachorumObscurata

 

It was epic.


Searching For The Perfect Road Song

TheRoadThe perfect road song is a kind of Holy Grail for songwriters.

To write it is to experience a holy striking of compositional lightning, the result of which is ideally a song magically evoking the singular juxtapositions of fear and exhilaration that inevitably define a long, possibly late-night, and certainly lonely drive.

This is something I believe all songwriters pursue.

My most recent attempt did not succeed. It is not the perfect road song.

It is called “My Car Walks On Water,” and while it is not the perfect road song, I will say in its defense that it has certainly stood the test of time. I first tried to demo an early version of this song back in 1993. 21 years later, it is still with me, still alive, still changing, still convincing me it is real, a real road song …

I am safe in here
No need to worry any longer
The rain may break the forest’s bones
But my car walks on the water

To equate one’s car with Jesus is the usual unusual nocturnal moxie of the driver driving, alone …

This new iteration is my favorite version. Somehow, with Bones …


My desert island road song is probably “State Trooper,” by Bruce Springsteen, from his dark acoustic masterwork Nebraska. The imagined conversations (or so I perceive them to be) with a State Trooper play out like a narcoleptic head play starring a driver, and no one else …

Maybe you got a kid
Maybe you got a pretty wife
The only thing that I got
Has been botherin’ me my whole life
Mister State Trooper
Please don’t stop me

And the descriptions of the passing nocturnal nightscape are desperately, dirtily perfect …

New Jersey turnpike
Ridin’ on a wet night
Beneath the refinery’s glow
Out where the great black rivers flow

My first “proper” attempt (meaning, my first published and recorded attempt) at the perfect road song was a cut called “The Drive Goes On” from my debut album Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues:

The rearview mirror shines back my red eyes
And the yawns come on, just before sunrise
I keep my eyes open, cuz accidents happen
My left leg is asleep and the right one’s nappin’

It was not perfect either, but to this day, some 20 years later, I hear the song, and I remember exactly where I was driving on that dark mountain night …

 The Drive Goes On (stream)

 

“My Car Walks On Water” is altogether a different kind of narrative animal; more compressed, bluesier, a broader reconciliation of the simple (It’s rainin’ hard, and I can’t see) and the strange (The rain my soak time’s swingin’ braids).

But is it, “The Perfect Road Song?”

No, it is not.

But it is one more humble and deeply felt contribution to a growing canon of songs that collectively represents our search for harmonic Americana Nirvana.

~

For more about Preacher Boy, or to connect with Preacher Boy on a particular platform, please click any and/or all of the links below:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
ReverbNation


Preacher Boy: FAQs

Q: Where does the name Preacher Boy come from?
A: Well, it started out essentially as a demi-derisive nickname a good friend used to call me when I’d get to soapboxing too much; sort of a Hazel Motes call out.

Q: How many Preacher Boy albums are there?
A: 6, if you include the 4-song Tenderloin EP:

 

Q: Best gigs ever?
A: Too many to count! How about favorite acts I’ve gotten to perform with? Some highlights:

  • Opening for Taj Mahal in Denver, Colorado
  • With Los Lobos at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, and then with JJ Cale at The Catalyst
  • Opening for Shane MacGowan (The Pogues) at his annual X-mas show in London, ON my 30th birthday!
  • The San Francisco Blues Festival, the same day and stage as John Lee Hooker
  • Guesting in the set with Eagle-Eye Cherry, for his live concert film at Shepherd’s Bush, in London
  • Opening for Clarence Gatemouth Brown at The Great American Music Hall
  • With Sonny Landreth at The Great American Music Hall
  • 4 different shows at Slim’s in SF, opening for Bob Geldof, Peter Wolf, Jimmy Vaughan, and The Texas Tornadoes
  • With AJ Croce at Moulin Blues in The Netherlands
  • Opening for Cracker at The Warfield
  • Playing the Glastonbury Festival on the same bill as Portishead, Nick Cave, and Bob Dylan
  • Opening for CJ Chenier in LA, and for Buckwheat Zydeco at Bimbo’s in SF
  • Opening for Chris Whitley in Portland, OR
  • Playing opposite Chris Isaak at The Paradise Lounge in SF
  • Opening for Charlie Musselwhite at The House of Blues in New Orleans

PreacherBoy_TheNationals

Q: How old is your National?
A: 1936! And actually, I’m so fortunate, I have two now, both from 1936!

Q: What tunings do you use on your Nationals?
A: Well, as I said, I have two, and I use them differently; what I call “The National” (the one my Grandpa gave me) is my slide instrument, so on that one, I use primarily Open G and Open D, and the minors of each as well. My second National (the one that belonged to my Grandpa, and was passed down to me when he passed) I keep mainly in standard, though I’ll occasionally do Drop D or something like that. I have one tune for which I use a really strange tuning (Open C, essentially, but with no 3rd: CGCGCC), and I generally do that on this second National as well.

Q: What do you think about all the Tom Waits comparisons you’ve received over the years?
A: Well, two things, I suppose: 1) High praise, and 2) A lot of people need to go listen to Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, Charley Patton, Dave Van Ronk, Lemmy, Louis Armstrong, and Captain Beefheart.

Q: What’s the most successful song you’ve ever recorded?
A: Depends on the criteria for judging, really, so, four answers:

  • If you ask my bank account, it’s “Long Way Around” which I wrote with Eagle-Cherry. We recorded it at The Magic Shop in New York with Rick Rubin producing, and Eagle-Eye’s sister Neneh sung on it, and it went on to be certified Gold in Europe.
  • If you ask iTunes, it’s probably the version of “Old Boyfriends” I did for a Waits tribute album. Per the question above, I was a little put out by the request initially, but decided to do it as I found what I thought was a clever way to circumnavigate the vocal comparisons; Waits never sung “Old Boyfriends,” Crystal Gayle did, on the One From The Heart Soundtrack. So that’s the one I covered!
  • If you ask my discography, it would probably be “I Won’t Be There” from Gutters & Pews, as I think that’s the one that’s been anthologized the most. Or perhaps “This Is New York,” because that made it onto the Approaching Union Square soundtrack.
  • “Dead, Boy!” Because that was the first “professional” song I recorded with my National, and it was for my debut album, for my first record label! Thus, the beginning of it all …

Q: What got you into this music in the first place?
A: Simple. Side 1, song 1, of a Vanguard Twofer that collected all the great country blues performers who had performed at the Newport Folk Festival in the 60s. I put it on my record player with NO idea what to expect, and along came the first song: Mississippi John Hurt playing “Sliding Delta.” And that was it, man. I heard it, and I said, “I’m sorry Joe Strummer, but THAT! I want to be able to do THAT!”


%d bloggers like this: