Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Web site: http://www.myspace.com/scissormen
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“This isn’t just a band — it’s a mission,” says Scissormen’s slide guitar demon Ted Drozdowski. “We believe the blues is as blood and guts vital and relevant as it was when the music’s giants walked the Earth, if it’s played right. So that’s how we play it — respecting the music’s roots, but not at the expense of its future.”
If that sounds audacious, you haven’t seen one of the Nashville-based group’s live shows, where just a guitarist and drummer harness up the spirit of the Mississippi hills and make it sound like a juke joint armada. That approach has won Scissormen fans across the US and Europe, where they’ve played everything from jukes to coffeehouses to blues, rock and punk clubs to major festivals including Bonnaroo 2008 and France’s prestigious Cognac Blues Passions Festival.
“Our gigs prove that the blues can reach everybody — including people who think its music only their parents or grandparents would like,” says Ted. “Of course,” he adds, “our music also reaches their parents and grandparents.”
And Scissormen’s live audiences reach back, challenging Ted’s unique, fiery slide guitar approach by passing him, well, just about anything to play with: shoes, straws, martini glasses, keys, a lit blowtorch, full dinner plates, a machete, a 9-mm pistol.
Critic Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone, VH-1, etc) has proclaimed Ted “a guitarist of spellbinding invention and intelligence. His slide playing shears the skin off your bones, and he can unleash roaring gales of sound. But lyricism and musicality lie at the heart of even his wildest moments. I have never listened to him and not been transported to a strange, beautiful place I&’d never been before.”
Now that place has a name: Luck in a Hurry. Scissormen’s first nationally distributed album packs the band’s inventive and exciting energy into 11 slide-powered songs including nine originals. The music knits the inspiration of Ted’s musical mentors and friends like R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough and Sonny Sharrock together with his experience as a rock-based improviser and songwriter.
Scissormen’s guests on Luck in a Hurry include Morphine drummer Billy Conway, the late veteran blues pianist Teo Leyasmeyer (who was a sideman with Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, Johnny Copeland and G. Love), and Dicky Barrett, the powerhouse frontman for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Dicky applies a layer of vocal gravel to the defiant anti-anthem “Whiskey and Maryjane,” which also guests Ted’s former psychedelic rock band Devil Gods. Ted’s longtime musical foil Rob Hulsman, a vet of cow punk renegades 9 Pound Hammer, and Larry Dersch play drums. And Dan Kellar adds violin to two songs, including the guitar-violin-drums trio “Mattie Sweet Mattie.”
Luck in a Hurry expands the sound of Scissormen’s previous albums, their all-duo debut EP Jinx Breakers and the solo acoustic When the Devil Calls&ellips;.
“What these songs have in common are deep roots, great big guitar tones, and a lotta soul,” says Ted. “They were performed live in the studio so we could keep things raw and spontaneous — the way we like ’em. ”
And that’s just one more reason why Luck in a Hurry captures the heartbeat of modern blues — and the pulse of its future.
But the band’s story begins back in 1991. Ted was already a rock guitarist/songwriter and an internationally respected music journalist with a passion for blues when he was introduced to the sounds of North Mississippi’s juke joints by one of his mentors, the late musicologist Robert Palmer.
“As a guitar player in punk, psychedelic rock and improv bands, I’d digested a lot of music by then, but when I heard R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Jessie Mae Hemphill — thanks to Robert — they totally blew my mind,” Ted recounts. “Their music had the deepest spirit of blues as well as the transporting qualities of psychedelic rock. It was a sound I’d wanted to hear my whole life, without even knowing it still existed.
“I’m just a guy whose family crawled out of the coal mines in Pennsylvania,” Ted continues. “I still can’t believe how lucky I was to meet and to be befriended by R.L., Junior and Jessie Mae, and to have R.L. talk me into trying to play his music. I resisted for three years, because I revered R.L. and his sound. But eventually I caved and after the first time I played with him on stage I guess I had the fever. It just took a while to spread.”
Once it did, Scissormen began — with just two rules.
“The first,” Ted says, “ is to always move ahead and blaze our own musical trail while honoring the musicians who’ve touched our lives and inspired us. And the second is to pack every gig we play with all the heart, soul and energy we can muster. Playing the blues for keeps is not a job for slackers.”