I don’t know the place yet, but they’re pullin’ in some killer talent, including a couple of my ol’ Blind Pig Records stablemates: Debbie Davies & Popa Chubby.
This is gonna be a great chance to reunite with my new fave drummer pardner Zack Olsen, whom you can hear here poundin’ the tubs with me and Big Bones at Biscuits & Blues:
And as to Virgil and I, we were most recently caught together on New Year’s Day at my new weekly musical home Aptos St. BBQ, runnin’ down an alt. blues stomp-off of “If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day”:
This particular trio format is a pretty odd one (National, Harmonica, Drums), but it’s a gas, with a lot of space for everyone to fill, and big responsibilities for the right hand thump; as there’s no bass …
Gon’ be playin’ tunes from the whole history; pre-Blind Pig, some Blind Pig era cuts, lil’ something from Tenderloin, even a cut from Crow, and of course some things from Devil’s Buttermilk and Demanding To Be Next.
Not to mention a whole slew of Bukka White, Son House, Fred MacDowell, Blind Willie Johnson, Sleepy John Estes, etc.
For this edition of Songs From The Vaults, we’re going to look at a tune called “Old Jim Granger.” This was recorded for, and released on, The Tenderloin EP, a joint release between US-based Blind Pig Records, and UK-based Wah Tup Records.
It was recorded at Coast in San Francisco (if memory serves?), and features Steve Escobar on drums, Danny Uzilevsky on bass, Big Bones on harmonica, and yours truly on National and vocals.
The sessions were engineered by Bryan Zee.
The tune is in Dm, and The National is tuned to Open Dm (D A D F A D).
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:
Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues (Blind Pig Records)
Gutters & Pews (Blind Pig Records)
The Tenderloin EP (Blind Pig Records/Wah Tup Records)
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
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!”