Tag Archives: Virgil Thrasher

Rest in Peace, Robert Lowery

robertlowery_goinawayblues

Robert Lowery’s boots no longer walk the streets of Santa Cruz. Robert Lowery’s fingers no longer pluck and slide on a resonator guitar. Robert Lowery’s voice no longer tells us the stories we need to hear. Robert Lowery’s ears no longer hear the sky songs. Robert Lowery’s eyes no longer watch us as we absorb his lesson. But Robert Lowery’s spirit is still with us, and for this, we are grateful.

Robert Lowery represents a critical thread in the fabric of our musical history and heritage. As I am still sad for myself for having been born too late to have met Mississippi John Hurt in person or seen him play live, I am sad for everyone today who will miss the same experience with Robert Lowery.

I am fortunate. I did meet him in person. I did hear him play live. When he was presented a lifetime achievement award from Santa Clara University, I played with him. Just a few weeks before Robert passed, I was able to play for him, an honor I am all the more grateful for now. With me on stage that night was Virgil Thrasher.

Virgil and Robert occupied a very special world together. This was more than music. They embodied and enacted a story of nobility, humanity, artistry—one that transcended time and place. If history is behaving itself, it is right now dipping its quill into the black ink of time, to write the names Robert Lowery and Virgil Thrasher alongside Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee; alongside Hammie Nixon and Sleepy John Estes; alongside Carey Bell and Louisiana Red; alongside Little Walter and Muddy Waters.

That night but a few weeks ago, when Robert Lowery came to see Virgil and I perform, I asked Robert how he was doing. He said, “not very well.” Honest, straightforward, raw. Just like his music. When he left that night, I spoke from the microphone, and told the small crowd that they had a legend in their midst. The room applauded as he left the building.

“Country bluesman Robert Lowery died today at 85-years-old. His music touched many in Santa Cruz and throughout the blues world. He could tap into the core of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill Broonzy, and Lightnin’ Hopkins with great authenticity. He was a real treasure. Here is a poster of his last appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, his very favorite event. RIP, Robert.” —Virgil Thrasher

robertlowery


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!


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.


The Dogs: An Irish Ghost Story Set To Minor-Key Slide Guitar

The Dogs [LIVE]

It was written while the missus and I were living in Ireland. In the wild barren west of County Clare. In The Burren. In a 200-year-old stone house that was once the parochial house for the small village down the coast road. Under Jameson’s. Under a peet fire. It was written in Ireland.

It was recorded for “The Devil’s Buttermilk.”

It has never been performed live. Until last week.

Raw, guerrilla-audio. Live. The almighty Virgil Thrasher on harmonica. Meself on 1936 National Resophonic, in Open Dm. Stomps via boots.

The Dogs [LIVE] (click to listen)

the dogs
the trees, come the nightfall
turn a deeper shade of purple
and their gnarled limbs tighten into fists

the webbing of the spiders
gets sewn ever tighter
a latticework of silver in the mist

the trails, clearly marked
dissolve in the dark
and the bog creeps in upon the ankles

the wind blows a foul breath
the last glow is extinguished
and the stars are cut down from where they dangle

it’s said that in the bogs
lay the skeletons of dogs
never buried, only thrown to the ground

into the bog, they were delivered
with no pity or grave-digger
and with time their lonely bodies sank down

in the midnight’s darkest center
when even summer nights are winter
and silence presses into the dark like a fossil

comes the lonely anguished howling
the barking and the growling
and the hot breath of a thousand nostrils

oh, the sad, hopeless panting
from the ghosts of the abandoned
searching restlessly for the masters that left them

but the masters, long deceased
have left the ghosts eternally
on a cursed hunt that’s doomed to not end

so, of this place, you must beware
let not the nightfall catch you there
and if you doubt it, remember what happened to patrick jones

who swore he’d prove our fears unfounded
and in the morning, when we found him
there was nothing but tooth-marks on his bones


Rollin’ the PreachSongs Dice

PB_VT

Tonight, Virgil and I, we gon’ jus’ roll the dice, and see what songs come up. Recent “set lists” (in quotes of course, cuz they’re not exactly planned!) have included songs from just about every Preacher Boy album over the last 20 years (including some I’ve NEVER played live before), plus a whole slew of groovy ol’ country blues gems and other Preachorum Obscurata. Here’s just a sampling:

 

The Cross Must Move & Dead, Boy (from Preacher Boy and the Natural Blues, Blind Pig Records)

Ugly & In The Darkened Night (from Gutters & Pews, Blind Pig Records)

Old Jim Granger & Rollin’ Stone (from The Tenderloin EP, Blind Pig Records, Wah Tup Records)

Black Crow & Coal Black Dirt Sky (from Crow, Wah Tup Records)

The Dogs & At The Corner Of The Top And The Bottom (from The Devil’s Buttermilk, Manifesto Records)

A Little Better When It Rains & One-Way Turnstile (from Demanding To Be Next, Coast Road Records)

A Person’s Mind & A Little More Evil (from The National Blues, Coast Road Records)

 

-plus-

 

Mama, Let Me Play With Your Yo-Yo (Blind Willie McTell)

Stagolee (Mississippi John Hurt)

Levee Camp Blues (Mississippi Fred McDowell)

Milk Cow Blues (Kokomo Arnold)

I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry (Mance Lipscomb)

Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes)

Fixin’ To Die (Bukka White)

Preachin’ Blues (Son House)

Spoonful (Charley Patton)

Maggie Campbell (Tommy Johnson)

 

And more, and more, and more!

 

#DIG

 


Cornbread: Guerrilla-Raw & Gittin’ It [LiveVideo]

photo by Jake J Thomas

photo by Jake J Thomas

 

Cornbread

(scroll to the bottom of the post to see guerrilla-raw live video performance!)

Peggy sat cross-legged in her tri-cornered hat
with a Barbie and a GI Joe, playin’ ball and jacks
and the sun went from touchin’ ground, to straddlin’ north and south
to settlin’ on the roof of Mr. Beckman’s house

and when the sun came down, Peggy’s mother put her hands
in the shape of a megaphone, and she yelled hard as she can, she said:

“c’mon honey, c’mon now, I gots a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise”

Maxwell ran lap after lap, around the ol’ backstop
with a baseball glove in one hand, in the other soda pop
and Autumn sunshine and moonlight shared a dusky place
and there were shadows and a tan competin’ over Maxwell’s face

and when the clock hit 7 Maxwell’s papa pulled his pipe
from between his yello teeth so’s he could holler into the night, and he said:

“c’mon sonny, c’mon now, I gots a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise”

I like a little bit o’ butter, on my cornbread

Jake drew Orphan Jennie motorcycle pictures every day
and he passed him to her during class, when the teacher turned away
at recess and after school and all the weekend long
they’d sit up together on the Beckman’s fence and pretend they was ridin’ on

and Jake’s ma would come around to fetch her son for supper
and she’d tell that Orphan Jenny she was welcome to come over, she’d say:

“c’mon honey, c’mon now, I gots a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise”

i like a little butter, on my cornbread


Live Recording! Country Blues w/ Virgil Thrasher

PreacherBoy_VirgilThrasher

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’…

~Preach


#ZenBlues

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

CHO:
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

CHO

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

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

CHO

~

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.

ASBBQ_TrainTracks

Dig.

 


You Gonna Need Me Some Ol’ Cold Winter Day

ASBBQ

Boots to the floor, national in my hands, and my good friend Dr. Virgil Thrasher on my right side. That’s how the night began, and that’s how the evenin’ ended…

And I put the slide to brass, I said I put the slide to brass, and Virgil put them reeds to lips, and Virgil put them reeds to lips and that’s how the night began, and that’s how the evenin’ ended…

Some nights you work your favorites, try and turn ’em inside out, upside down, shake ’em out, to see what secrets they might hold for you that evenin…

Other nights you pull deep into the fedora, see what’s down there in that cavern, see what songs are rattlin’ roundin your sonic sound spelunk for that evenin’

This night was one of the latter sort of evenin’… lots a songs was rattlin’ round the caverns…

So here’s some fresh, raw recordin’ of some live tracks from the evenin… this was Thursday, three September, at the ‘Q…  Aptos St BBQ, that is…

First up, a lil’ somethin’ called:

Cornbread (never yet been released: lyrics at the conclusion of this post)

Then, quite the lil’ rarity for a Preacher Boy set, an arrangement of:

Cold Winter Day (learned from a recording by Blind Willie McTell)

followed by a fine performance from Virgil on a poppin lil’ rendo of There Go John

And finally, a new live performance of a never been released PB song that actually was debuted at ASBBQ back in September of 2014, a lil’ thing called:

Blister & A Bottle Cap (never yet been released)

~

Here’s them lyrics I promised ya:

CORNBREAD

peggie sat cross-legged in her tri-cornered hat
with a barbie and a gi joe, playin ball and jacks
and the sun went from touchin’ ground to straddlin’ north and south
to settlin’ on the roof of mr. beckman’s house

and when the sun went down, janie’s mother put her hands
in the shape of a megaphone and she yelled hard as she can

she yelled “come on honey, come home now, i got a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise

now, maxwell ran lap after lap around the ol back-stop
with a baseball glove in one hand, in the other soda pop
autumn sunshine and moonlight shared a dusky place
and there were shadows and a tan competin over maxwell’s face

and when the clock hit seven maxwells papa pulled his pipe
from tween his yella teeth so he could holler into the night

he hollered “come on sonny, come home now, i got a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise

i like a little bit of butter, on my cornbread…

jake drew orphan jenny motorcycle pictures everyday
and he passed em to her during class when the teacher turned away
at recess and after school and all the week-end long
they’d sit up together on the beckman’s fence and pretend they was ridin on

and jake’s ma would come around to fetch her son for supper
and she’d tell that orphan jenny she was welcome to come over

she’d say “come on honey, come home now, i got a big surprise
there’s fresh butter from the dairy, and the cornbread’s on the rise

I like a lil’ bit of butter, on my cornbread…


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

https://rd.io/i/Rl7WwEErHV2Q/

~

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!

PreacherBoy_JJs_FacebookPoster

 


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