Scissormen Brought Raw and Gritty Blues to New England
On Saturday night, I left the mellowness of the Gordon Lightfoot show at the Lowell Summer Music Series and headed to The Back Page Jazz and Comedy Club, also in Lowell, to see Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen tear the roof off the venue!
Sometimes a transition such as that can be jarring, but this was not. Maybe I was simply in the mood to be rocked. More likely, though, it was because the music was terrific.
There was a reasonably sized crowd when we arrived at this fairly small venue, but my group was able to snag tables close to the stage. When we arrived, the band was well into its first set of the three they performed that evening.
This Nashvilel-based band is touring on the heels of its latest release, Love & Life, which I heard a number of times prior to this show. Even though I had a good feel for his music, I was overwhelmed by his mastery of blues and especially slide guitar. I was unprepared for the high quality of his live performance. He is, after all, a performer who knows how to work a room. He played on the stage itself for a small portion of the show, but otherwise preferred to wander through the audience, sitting on tables, lying on tables, standing on tables. I’m not sure if he got onto the bar, but it would not surprise me had he done so.
He also let people hold his guitar flat while he played it. There was nothing contrived about his antics; I suspect he merely enjoys getting physically closer to his fans.
The other musicians who form this trio are Sean Zywick on bass and Peter Pulkrabek on drums — both excellent players, too. I kept wishing I had paid more attention to them but it was hard to take my eyes off Drozdowski. He had a number of guitars with him this night, but the most fascinating were the two diddley bows. Yes, it is the instrument from which Bo Diddley took his name (I did not know that). It is a one-stringed guitar and usually homemade. The music he coaxed from that single string was astounding.
One of the diddley bows was made for him by a fan who used a lobster pot with a plywood face. I am still shaking my head with wonder at it. (My guess is that when Drozdowski is not in New England, it is simply a stock pot.)
Drozdowski was a protégé of R.L. Burnside, and you can hear Burnside’s influence on his music, but he pays homage to Burnside rather than trying to mimick him.
I am surprised I had never seen them perform, as Drozdowski told me it was his fifth or sixth appearance at the Back Page (although it was my first appearance there). Now that I have experienced one of their shows, I plan to see them whenever I get the chance. Maybe they’ll be playing in Nashville next time I am in that fine city.
If you love the blues and Drozdowski and his Scissormen are appearing anywhere near you, it would behoove you to go.