by Janet Goodman
“You know the blues ain’t dipped in amber/I wanna fill my own big shoes.” So sings Ted Drozdowski, guitar-slinging frontman of Scissormen, the edgy blues duo based in Nashville, on the title track of their fifth and latest album, “Big Shoes: Walking and Talking The Blues” on Vizztone. The award-winning music journalist by day/hypnotic slide player by night, along with R.L. “Rob” Hulsman on drums, pay homage to hill country heroes, such as R.L. Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill, blending the primal juke-joint, North Mississippi electric sound with contemporary psychedelic blues. It’s their self-described mission “to make sure that tradition lives on to the future.”
Some of this fifteen-track CD was recorded live on a 2010 Midwest tour while being filmed by renowned music documentarian Robert Mugge (Gospel According To Al Green). The filmmaker follows the band on the concert road to various historical stops: Key Palace Theatre in Red Key, Indiana, where they pick the brain of the now-late club owner, Charlie Noble; Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis, which was a safe house for runaway slaves along the underground railroad; the Starr-Gennett buildings in Richmond, Indiana, home to Gennett Records; and Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, where President and CEO Terry Stewart talks about their blues collection.
The ninety-minute DVD, released along with the CD as a two-disc set, captures the band’s rawness speared by a white-hot poker of reality in their sometimes dive-y surroundings. As they forge ahead on the lonesome snowy pikes from gig to gig, Drozdowski says, “Playing the blues is not for sissies. You have to strap yourself in, lock it down and go.” He has a hand in writing most of the songs featured (the nine-minute ominous “Tupelo” is powerful), with one Burnside cover of “Jumper on the Line.” Either through his music or during film interviews, this co-author of “The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues” can be counted on to give listeners an education on an American treasure called the blues.
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