WIB Interview: Black Market III

Outside The Box

An interview with Scottie Blinn

of Black Market III

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Josh Rose, Nick Abadilla

Honest, gritty and effective. Those are some of the words that leap to mind listening to Dashboard Jesus, the latest musical offering from Black Market III. The album reflects the sensibilities of these San Diego stalwarts, who trust in the value of hard work and choose blue-collar edginess over Hollywood flash.

The trio revolves around singer/guitarist Scottie Blinn and singer/bassist Roxy Coverdale – partners in life and in music. Blinn was bit by the blues bug at age 16, after catching a performance by Stevie Ray Vaughan at a local open air festival. But rather than become one of a hundred thousand SRV copycats, Blinn latched on as a sideman with another native of Texas, Tomcat Courtney, who grew up on the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker. This elder statesman of the San Diego blues scene, now 89 years old, led him deep into the heart of the traditional, down-home blues.

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WIB Interview: Sue Foley

The No Bullshit Factor

An interview with Sue Foley

Words: Vincent Abbate

Sue Foley is in a good place.

Even though I’ve had a few and she hasn’t – “I’d really love a beer, but don’t want to start drinking yet” – she’s the one who’s in high spirits during our pre-show interview, laughing about life and being back on the road in Europe after a long hiatus. Hot on the heels of The Ice Queen, her first solo album since 2006’s New Used Car, the Ottawa native is a renewed presence on the international blues scene. She refuses to think of it as a comeback.

“That sounds so depressing. It’s not like I went anywhere!”

Let’s consider that for a moment.

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WIB Interview: Erja Lyytinen

Strong Stories

An interview with Erja Lyytinen

Words: Vincent Abbate

It’s a half-hour before showtime and Erja Lyytinen is about to take care of the last, most vital bit of business before taking the stage.

Loosening up the left hand? Overrated.

Doing vocal exercises? You’re joking.

It’s her make-up that demands attention. It’s time to get made up. She looks fine just as she is – more than that, really – but nowadays, fine and $2.75 will get you a ride on the New York subway. For better or worse, styling is part of Lyytinen’s job description; she wouldn’t dream of standing unmasked under the bright lights any more than Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley would. The vocal warm-ups can wait.

“When I walk downstairs later, I’ll hum a little bit.”

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Sideman Special: Doug Corcoran (Pt. 2)

Under The Spell Of JD McPherson

An interview with Doug Corcoran (Pt. 2)

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Amanda Devitt

Having traveled in blues circles for over 20 years now, I’ve seen the different ways musicians react to the purist attitude held by many long-time blues enthusiasts: They either conform, stick to their creative guns, move on to another genre or pack it in completely. While conversing with multi-instrumentalist Doug Corcoran for the better part of an hour, I learned something. Rockabilly fans can be every bit as conservative.

There’s a difference, though: On the style-conscious rockabilly scene, purism has as much to do with having the right image as with the music itself.

“The really hardcore rockabillies don’t care how good the music is. It’s more about if the band wears the right things. Are they playing vintage instruments? Do they have an upright bass? It’s more about what it looks like, does it fit their lifestyle.”

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Sideman Special: Doug Corcoran (Pt. 1)

Under The Spell Of JD McPherson

An interview with Doug Corcoran

Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Jimmy Sutton, Amanda Devitt

Some musicians crave the spotlight. They’re born to raise hell, jump security barriers and take twenty-foot leaps into the crowd. Others just show up and do their jobs without any fanfare. Saxophonist Richard Oppenheim, who has blown his horn alongside Otis Rush, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gaye and dozens of others, put it this way: “There’s a certain comfort in being a sideman. (…) Basically I shut up and play.”

Chicago product Doug Corcoran would likely echo that sentiment. Though his steady hand on guitar and occasional saxophone flourishes are integral to the ever-evolving, neo-rockabilly sound of JD McPherson’s five-piece band, Corcoran is a stoic figure onstage who shuns extraneous motion. In conversation, he’s deliberate and self-effacing. “JD’s a lot harder to get an interview with. I think there’s about six hoops you have to jump through.” It’s almost as if he’s apologizing for being the one doing the talking – without actually saying “So you’re stuck with me.”

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WIB Interview: Larkin Poe

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves

A Q&A with Larkin Poe

Words: Vincent Abbate

If you happen to be one of the 250,000 people following Larkin Poe on social media, you probably noticed more and more blues turning up in those little spur-of-the-moment videos they post on a regular basis.

Megan and Rebecca Lovell – the Georgia-born sisters that comprise Larkin Poe – share much of their creative life online, letting listeners in on what shapes them musically. In the past, you might have seen them experimenting with the Allman Brothers or Fleetwood Mac. More recently, seminal bluesmen like Son House and Robert Johnson have been getting the Larkin Poe treatment. The duo’s backstage video of House’s “Preachin’ Blues” has over 50,000 views on YouTube. An a capella version of “Black Betty” filmed inside a shower stall has surpassed 80,000.

By sinking their spades deep into America’s musical soil – always with respect, but with no qualms about making the classics their own – these two very talented siblings have obviously struck a chord.   Continue reading

WIB Interview: Watermelon Slim (Pt. 2)

Still Fierce and Free

An Interview with Watermelon Slim (Pt. 2)

Words by Vincent Abbate / Photos by Mike Latschislaw

(Click here for Part 1 of the interview.)

“Is any part of what you’re telling me off the record?”

I really had to ask, because Watermelon Slim wasn’t using a filter. He was sharing the most intimate details of his life – stuff you might tell your closest friend in confidence – though I’d never spoken with him before apart from a brief exchange at a blues festival ten years prior.

No. Every word of our interview was fit for print as far as Slim was concerned. When you have given up all hope of commercial success and accepted physical decline as a fact of life, you stop holding back.

“I’m an old man. I’m not in the greatest of health. I dance around it and put on a pretty good front, but…”

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WIB interview: Watermelon Slim (Pt. 1)

Still Fierce and Free

An Interview with Watermelon Slim

Words by Vincent Abbate / Photos by Mike Latschislaw

In an age of dime-a-dozen blues guitarists whose chief calling card is their technical proficiency, Watermelon Slim is a cherished exception. A bold, blatant personality who actually has something to say.

His success – modest as it is – owes less to effects pedals and vintage axes than to his ability to communicate universal truths. Listening to Slim, one is constantly confronted with the human struggle. For a brief, heady period roughly a decade ago, it looked as though the blues community had found – in this late-blooming Vietnam vet turned truck driver turned country bluesman – a working class hero for the long haul.

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