Photo by John Thomas Collins
Love & Life is Scissormen's most recent album—a major evolutionary step that spotlights Ted's best songwriting, playing and production to date, with epic guitar performances and true-to-life stories including "Beggin' Jesus" and "Let's Go To Memphis"—both staples of Sirius/XM radio. Love & Life is also the band's first studio recording as a trio. Michael Ross in Guitar Player magazine said, "The band’s new record has three things current blues records often lack: great songs, a sense of mystery, and the concept of a record as a work of art in and of itself, and not just as a recorded bar performance.” And Joe Wolf-Mazeres wrote in No Depression. “Drozdowski and his Scissormen are adept in walking the line between purism and innovation. The band brings a reckless raw energy that drips with honeysuckle wine and the stifling yet comfortable humidity of the Deep South. There is mysticism and mystery in the music.” You need this album!
Letter from Hell
Let's Go to Memphis (featuring Mighty Sam McClain)
R.L. Burnside (Sleight Return)
Can't Be Satisfied
Black Lung Fever
Dreaming on the Road
Lived to Tell
Scissormen’s CD+DVD BIG SHOES: Walking and Talking the Blues documents the final reunion tour of the original two-piece version of the band. The set offers a live recording from the Key Palace Theater in Redkey, Indiana, and acclaimed roots music film maker Robert Mugge’s 90-minute documentary starring Ted and Rob that's part road movie, part blues history and all high-octane. The movie debuted at the Starz Denver Film Festival.
Mattie Sweet Mattie Intro
Mattie Sweet Mattie
Jumper On the Line
The Devil is Laughing
Move Baby Move
Jessie Mae Intro
R.L. Burnside Intro
Whiskey and Maryjane
When the Devil Calls
Big Shoes (Slight Return)
Scissormen’s first full-length studio album ranges from hill country to the Delta to, well, just about everywhere we go.
Move Baby Move
Mattie Sweet Mattie
Preachin’ the Blues
Whiskey and Maryjane
The Devil is Laughing
John the Revelator
When the Devil Calls
Do Wrong Man
A full length CD of Ted’s solo acoustic performances
Buy on iTunes
When the Devil Calls
Mattie Sweet Mattie
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
I Put a Spell on You
Emergency Lover Man
That’s Not Funny
7/18/2019 Nashville, TN True Music Room and Bar, 118 8th Avenue South, Cambria Hotel 6:30 p.m. COYOTE MOTEL
Join us for our debut at this luxurious new venue with an outdoor patio and pool at the bar, and sweeping views of downtown Nashville from the 5th floor of this luxury hotel. Admission is always free, and dinner and cocktails of all kinds are available in this great listening space that also believes in rocking out! We’ll be followed by Renee Wahl and Dave Isaacs. A great night of music! You in town from NAMM? Come by and bring your instrument. Let’s take it out a little!
8/10/2019 Nashville, TN THE 5 SPOT 6-8:30 p.m. An epic night of music, lights and more SPECIAL COYOTE MOTEL CONCERT
We return to the 5 Spot to do a reprise of our Coyote Motel album release gala, with the Darling Lucifer Productions Light Show and special guests. Stay tuned for more! The 5 Spot is at 1006 Forrest Ave., in East Nashville’s 5 Points entertainment district. Plenty of parking in the library lot across the street, on the streets, and in nearby lots.
8/31/2019 Nashville, TN Tennessee Brew Works 2 to 3:45 p.m.
We return to entertain our day-drinking friends at Tennessee Brew Works: truly a great place to come and hang out and have a beer and delicious food any day—but especially this Saturday, ‘cause we’ll be playing! And yes, dogs are welcome on the outside porch. Plenty of space for humans inside. Come dig this cool alternative venue. It’s within a stone’s throw of Third Man Records, and there’s a parking lot in back—at 809 Ewing Avenue.
9/22/1029 Nashville, TN The World-Famous Blue Bird Cafe 6 p.m.
Come join us at one of our favorite regular stops: the Bluebird Cafe! Watch the listings at https://bluebirdcafe.com/ and get your free tickets as soon as they go on sale, because they sell out, or be among the first in line at the show, because 25 or so pew seats are held open for the performance. We always have great shows here, the audiences are wonderful (that’s you!) and the vibe is perfect. The Bluebird is at 4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville. Call 615) 383-1461 for more info. See you there!
10/19/2019 Clarksdale, MS DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL: Two shows
We’ll be kicking it hard on the final day of the Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale this year. First up: 10 to Noon at the Bluesberry Cafe’s Saturday morning brunch. That’s at 235 Yazoo Ave. Seating is limited, so come early and order your omelette or pancakes, and settle in. And then, we’re at Clarksdale’s premier blues club, Ground Zero, from 5 to 6 p.m. And that’s at Zero Blues Alley and it’s a big ol’ place with lots of seating. See ya there!
10/22/2019 Knoxville, KY WDVX Radio Blue Plate Special Live Broadcast
Catch us and another musical guest tba at the Knoxville Visitors Center in the heart of downtown, at 301 S. Gay St., at high noon. There’s plenty of nearby parking, and the show is a lot of fun—just like live radio always is. Plenty of seating available and extra good vibes!
10/22/2019 Knoxville, KY Barley’s
We made our debut at Barley’s during a Blue Plate Special broadcast from there earlier this year. Now, we’re back for a night time show, from 9 p.m. on. Admission is free, and this great music room and excellent restaurant is at 200 E Jackson Ave., in the Old Town area. Barley’s has its own parking lot, and on street parking is also available.
!0/24/2109 New York City, Rockwood Music Hall Special 6 p.m. concert
Join us at Rockwood 1 for a one-set performance at 6 p.m. sharp (start time). Admission is free. It’s the perfect happy hour show. A one drink minimum is required. Rockwood Music Hall is at 196 Allen Street in Manhattan, and its easy to get there via the A, E and F trains, or the M103 and M14A busses. See you in the City That Never Sleeps … well before bedtime!
10/25/2019 Somerville, MA Exclusive Boston-area Coyote Motel debut (and Scissormen retirement party) at the Burren 6 p.m. early show!
We have a very special concert this night at the Burren for all our longtime Boston-area fans. It’s going to be a homecoming party and final local show for Scissormen (opening the night), with special guest Peter Parcek, and then a closing welcome-to-Boston performance by Ted’s new band, Coyote Motel. The concert will be a continuous concert involving all performers. Doors are at 6 and the show runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 day of show. Discount coupon offer details to be announced! This show is in the heart of Somerville’s Davis Square—accessible by the Red Line.
10/26/2019 Putnam, CT The Stomping Ground, special matinee performance from 1 to 4 p.m.
A special Saturday matinee concert at Connecticut’s home of independent roots music—and an excellent restaurant. Come grab a table for lunch, with a ringside view of the show—out first time at this venue. We play sets from 1 to 4 p.m., and the Stomping Ground is at 132 Main Street. Call (860) 928-7900 for more information.
10/27/2019 Meriden CT. Special homecoming performance. Details to be announced soon!
Ted leads a double life. Besides fronting Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, songwriting and producing other artists, he’s also an award-winning music journalist and consultant. Obsessions of a Music Geek, Volume I: Blues Guitar Giants kicks off his series of ebooks. Blues Guitar Giants focuses on seven major figures: John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Johnny Winter, Freddie King, Michael Bloomfield, Z.Z. Top's Billy Gibbons and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Their stories, musical approaches, perspectives and historical impact are explored in warm and insightful interviews and essays delivered in Ted's informed and easy-to-digest style. Ted’s experience as a musician, music scholar and fan fuels the first volume of this free-ranging series that will explore a wide variety of topics, from guitar instruction to musical innovators to roots, rock and myriad musical genres and subjects. Order Obsessions of a Music Geek, Volume I: Blues Guitar Giants today!
"Ted is highly skilled at helping an artist realize his or her vision, potential and individuality and achieve artistic goals. He does this through thoughtful pre-production: helping select songs, potential musicians, studios, etc. He also has a deep knowledge of roots and other music forms and a broad palette of resources to draw on, and can articulate subtleties in nuance and approach. Ted knows how to get strong performances and is not afraid to be bold or reach high."
• “Altogether, Coyote Motel is a hell of a lot of fun, a near-perfect fusion of blues, country, rock, and folkish elements that shouldn’t work but instead sounds like Drozdowski invented the entire Americana genre. Grade: A BUY!” — Rev. Keith A. Gordon, That Devil Music
• “Ted Drozdowski is one of the most imaginative guitarists currently exploring the outer reaches of cosmic roots music. [He has] inventive guitar chops, his deep respect for the blues and an off-kilter artistic vision that’s delightfully mad, but also completely organic. ”— Peter Lindlbad, Elmore Magazine
• “Drozdowski conjures up his own mesmerizing hoodoo on Coyote Motel, which is also the name of his new combo. The guitarist ranges here from the moody atmospherics of “Still Among the Living” to the dirty rocking of “Down in Chulahoma” and the punkish intensity of “Jimmy Brown.” What most of the album’s tracks have in common is the way Drozdowski’s six-string excursions venture far out – sometimes into the realm of the psychedelic – while they and the music manage to remain grounded in the elemental immediacy of the blues.” — Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer (syndicated review column)
• “Their masterful new self-titled LP. Coyote Motel, is something of a lucid dream woven from cosmic threads of blues and other roots musics, as Drozdowski navigates some challenging emotional territory in his lyrics, from the intimately personal to musings on society as a whole. The music is plenty to take you somewhere else.” — Steve Trageser, Nashville Scene
• The depth and layering of this record rewards multiple listens and endures as time goes on. Highly recommended for the listener who is searching for a new non-traditional real deal Blues experience. — Bucky O’Hare, Blue Blast Magazine
• “The band’s new record has three things current blues records often lack: great songs, a sense of mystery, and the concept of a record as a work of art in and of itself, and not just as a recorded bar performance.” – Michael Ross, Guitar Player
• “Drozdowski and his Scissormen are adept in walking the line between purism and innovation. The band brings a reckless raw energy that drips with honeysuckle wine and the stifling yet comfortable humidity of the Deep South. There is mysticism and mystery in the music.” — Joe Wolfe-Mazeres, No Depression
• “Admirers of Drozdowski’s guitar pyrotechnics will find much to savor throughout. Forward-looking, yet anchored firmly in its roots, Love & Life reinforces the status of Ted Drozdowski's Scissormen as one of the most outstanding bands on the scene.” — Melanie Young, Living Blues
• “A guitar player and songwriter of authority and heartfelt passion. This album proves how Drozdowski can tug at parameters, mixing seemingly disparate elements to make fresh, innovative music that’s unapologetically rooted in tradition.” —Rick Allen, Vintage Guitar Magazine
• “Ted Drozdowski does a first rate job penning excellent songs. This is not a cookie cutter blues album and may take more than one listen to fully grasp. It is worth the effort. Their energy and innovation carry over to the stage too.” – Rex Bartholomew, Blues Blast Magazine
• “Drozdowski’s Scissormen cut through the bullshit, with a contemporary cosmic blues drenched in reverb and the dark bayou demons that inhabit each day. Love & Life isn’t your typical virtuoso release. It’s the fulcrum wherein Drozdowski pairs his devotion to a music whose roots run deeper than democracy with his historian’s fervor. And I could go on, but why? If you’re reading this then you’re not listening to Love & Life and that’s the whole damn point, ain’t it?” — Mark Jurkovic, Elmore Magazine
• “Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen are unquestionably authentic. With touchstones from a century of blues and a plethora of rock styles, to pull it off with such élan is particularly noteworthy. The roller coaster ride he creates in the process is the cherry on the cake.” — Don Wilcock, American Blues Scene
• “It’s an album that is rooted in the deepest of blues yet explores the outer edges of the cosmos. True to form, on Love & Life Drozdowski uses the deep, hard hill-country blues of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough as a starting point, then lets the music roam where it needs in order to make a truly modern statement. There's an added shade of tone and color that separates him from the blues pack, and a broader palette than what we've come to expect from folks working within the blues tradition. It's this willingness to buck the status quo while taking the music all the way back to its roots that makes Love & Life (and the live show that accompanies it) so damn enthralling.” — Sean Maloney, The Nashville Scene
• “Drozdowski favors evolution over replication, and with Scissormen, he offers up an idiosyncratic roar rather than a sonic museum piece. … Drozdowski’s intensity and slide guitar mastery are on full display, and interview segments reveal Drozdowski as a uniquely visceral scholar.” — Peter Cooper, The Nashville Tennessean
• “Ted Drozdowski is a trippy guitar player.” — Otis Taylor, Blues Music Award-winning guitarist/songwriter
• “In the traditional arts, all artists of note take what came before them and make it their own, incorporating their own interests, personalities and innovations. Nowhere has that been more true than in the blues, where Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Kimbrough, and hundreds of others have taken what they were given and filtered it through their own times, their own backgrounds, and their own DNA. Among the artists doing that today is blues guitarist Ted Drozdowski, whose blazing covers of Delta and Hill Country standards – as well as his own clever originals – have made him the unchallenged Arsonist of the Blues. If the Devil is still partial to red-hot Mississippi bluesmen, he has to be pretty darn happy with the firestorm known as the Scissormen.” — Robert Mugge, award-winning music documentary filmmaker
• “Like the Black Keys, Scissormen leader Ted Drozdowski is a white guy raised in a depressed Northern city who’s drawn to the haunting and primal sounds of the Delta. But while the sound of his hipster counterparts from Akron bears a certain retro fetishism, Drozdowski’s music is a little more forthright and a little less, well, du jour. It’s also raw, hypnotic and occasionally jarring.” — Jack Silverman, The Nashville Scene
• “Not content to play with just a slide on his pinkie finger, Drozdowski climbed up on the bar and played with knives and forks; he got down on his knees on the floor and played with an empty ashtray; he interrupted someone’s meal in the café next door to play with their dinner plate.” — Buzz McClain, The Washington Post
Hey friends, you might already know Ted does a fair amount of live radio appearances, either playing live with the band or doing interviews to talk about his music and life, and the latter types of shows often include a song or two. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:
• WDVX Knoxville TN Radio “Blue Plate Special”: Here’s a half-hour live Coyote Motel mini-set, including “Josh Gibson,” “Trouble,” “Los Alamos” and “The River,” from March 29, 2019: https://soundcloud.com/user-291233833/wdvx-blue-plate-special-march-29-2019
• “The River,” Live at the 5 Spot, Nashville, 2016: Here’s that mysterious ghost story from Love & Life, with Ted backed by the Mark Robinson Band. It’s a very Pink Floyd-like rendition: https://soundcloud.com/user-291233833/the-river-live-at-the-5-spot-2016
• “Roots Now with Barry Mazor” appearance on Nashville’s ACME Radio, January 30, 2019: A longform interview with Ted by respected music journalist Barry Mazor on his acclaimed “Roots Now” show. Listen here: https://www.mixcloud.com/AcmeRadioLive/barry-mazor-ted-drodzowski-137-roots-now-20190130/
• “Songs on the Wire” on Nashville’s WXNA radio with Ann McCue, February 12, 2019: Ted guests on Ann McCue’s delightful weekly show, and the subject is songs, of course. During the conversation, you’ll also hear Ted play a few on a National Tricone resonator guitar: https://www.wxnafm.org/broadcasts/10548
• “Department of Tangents” podcast with host Nick Zaino: Here’s a conversation between Ted and Nick about Ted’s career as a journalist and musician, his formative years in the Boston music scene, Scissormen and Coyote Motel, with some recordings getting spun along the way: http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2019/03/20/dot-ep82-musician-and-journalist-ted-drozdowski-plus-an-audiobook-excerpt-from-sarah-mosss-ghost-wall/
• East Nashville Radio 2105: Here’s an interview with live music performances Ted did for East Nashville Radio in 2015, with lots of pickin’ and singin’ … again with a resonator: https://soundcloud.com/user-291233833/ted-drozdowski-east-nashville-radio-interview-with-song-performances-2015
“Altogether, Coyote Motel is a hell of a lot of fun, a near-perfect fusion of blues, country, rock, and folkish elements that shouldn’t work but instead sounds like Drozdowski invented the entire Americana genre. Grade: A BUY!”—Rev. Keith A. Gordon, That Devil Music
“Ted Drozdowski is one of the most imaginative guitarists currently exploring the outer reaches of cosmic roots music. [He has] inventive guitar chops, his deep respect for the blues and an off-kilter artistic vision that’s delightfully mad, but also completely organic.”—Peter Lindlbad, Elmore Magazine
“Drozdowski conjures up his own mesmerizing hoodoo on Coyote Motel, which is also the name of his new combo. The guitarist ranges here from the moody atmospherics of “Still Among the Living” to the dirty rocking of “Down in Chulahoma” and the punkish intensity of “Jimmy Brown.” What most of the album’s tracks have in common is the way Drozdowski’s six-string excursions venture far out – sometimes into the realm of the psychedelic – while they and the music manage to remain grounded in the elemental immediacy of the blues.”—Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer (syndicated review column)
“Their masterful new self-titled LP. Coyote Motel, is something of a lucid dream woven from cosmic threads of blues and other roots musics, as Drozdowski navigates some challenging emotional territory in his lyrics, from the intimately personal to musings on society as a whole. The music is plenty to take you somewhere else.”— Steve Trageser, Nashville Scene
Yes, Blues Blast and Vintage Guitar magazines are the latest publication to give our new album Love & Life a rave review. You can read it here: http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/ted-drozdowskis-scissormen-love-life-album-review/ And in other way cool developments, the Huffington Post has just premiered the second video from the Love & Life album, for "R.L. Burnside (Sleight Return)." Check it out Mike Rogana's music blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ragogna/electronica-and-grande-am_b_8285738.html Oh, and while you're at it, there is this aforementioned glowing review from Vintage Guitar: http://planetsixstring.com/ted-drozdowskis-scissormen/
The consensus from critics, writers and radio programmers is that it's a helluva good album. For more proof, check out the following.
You can stream the entire album for free at AllMusic.com by cutting and pasting this link: http://www.allmusic.com/blog/post/album-premiere-ted-drozdowskis-scissormen-love-life And if you like what you hear, get the download at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Life-Ted-Drozdowskis-Scissormen/dp/B00ZSABEWU Or you you can buy the physical CD at CDBaby.com here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/teddrozdowskisscissormen And if you want more proof of awesomeness, check out Joe Wolf-Mazeres' eloquent and detailed review of the album at No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/album-review/ted-drozdowski%E2%80%99s-scissormen-love-and-life-mind-bending-time-trippin-blues OR a live show review in No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/scissormen-brought-raw-and-gritty-blues-new-england WOW!!!!!!!!!! Stay tuned for more, with more tour stops including the Music City Roots radio show and more national coverage. AND you can hear Scissormen play and Ted talk on the famed 2.4-million listener Beale Street Caravan radio show here: http://bealestreetcaravan.com/listen/shows/2015-07-29 And this just in: a long interview with Ted in the highly respected publication for touring, Pollstar: http://www.pollstar.com/news_article.aspx?ID=819701 And wait, THERE'S MORE: another great review — this time from the Rev. Keith A. Gordon's That Devil Music blog: http://www.thatdevilmusic.com/2015/08/cd-review-ted-drozdowskis-scissormens.html And, and don't forget about The Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2015/07/30/drozdowski-scissormen-mix-blues-psychedelia-and-more/Fexybc0YzKoqT1rQFC9M8J/story.html Elmore magazine, too: http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2015/08/reviews/albums/ted-drozdowskis-scissormen There's also this feature interview in American Blues Scene: http://www.americanbluesscene.com/2015/08/ted-drozdowski-and-the-scissormen-authentic-innovative-and-a-tad-eccentric/ And if that's not enough, there's a cool interview with Ted in the Nashville Scene: http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/ted-drozdowski-and-the-scissormen-take-the-blues-into-uncharted-territory/Content?oid=5461375
Our new album Love & Life arrived in the world on Friday, July 31, and has been getting an overwhelmingly warm reception from radio, journalists and, most important, fans. We've just completed the first leg of this year's touring behind the release, with shows in NYC, MA and CT and stops coming in MN, IN, KS, NB, CO and elsewhere. You can catch up with Love & Love now!!!! You can stream the entire album for free at AllMusic.com by cutting and pasting this link: http://www.allmusic.com/blog/post/album-premiere-ted-drozdowskis-scissormen-love-life And if you like what you hear, get the download at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Life-Ted-Drozdowskis-Scissormen/dp/B00ZSABEWU Or you you can buy the physical CD at CDBaby.com here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/teddrozdowskisscissormen And if you want more proof of awesomeness, check out Joe Wolf-Mazeres' eloquent and detailed review of the album at No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/album-review/ted-drozdowski%E2%80%99s-scissormen-love-and-life-mind-bending-time-trippin-blues OR a live show review in No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/scissormen-brought-raw-and-gritty-blues-new-england WOW!!!!!!!!!! Stay tuned for more, with more tour stops including the Music City Roots radio show and more national coverage. AND you can hear Scissormen play and Ted talk on the famed 2.4-million listener Beale Street Caravan radio show here: http://bealestreetcaravan.com/listen/shows/2015-07-29 And this just in: a long interview with Ted in the highly respected publication for touring, Pollstar: http://www.pollstar.com/news_article.aspx?ID=819701 And wait, THERE'S MORE: another great review — this time from the Rev. Keith A. Gordon's That Devil Music blog: http://www.thatdevilmusic.com/2015/08/cd-review-ted-drozdowskis-scissormens.html And, and don't forget about The Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2015/07/30/drozdowski-scissormen-mix-blues-psychedelia-and-more/Fexybc0YzKoqT1rQFC9M8J/story.html Elmore magazine, too: http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2015/08/reviews/albums/ted-drozdowskis-scissormen There's also this feature interview in American Blues Scene: http://www.americanbluesscene.com/2015/08/ted-drozdowski-and-the-scissormen-authentic-innovative-and-a-tad-eccentric/
Check out Jonathan Perry's Life in Analog blog to see his entire piece on Ted and the new album via this URL: http://rpmlifeinanalog.com/2015/07/22/love-life-lit-ted-drozdowskis-scissormen-cut-deep-to-the-blues-and-beyond/
And read this except review of Love & Life.
Ten years of doing anything you love is a victory in and of itself — a triumph of focus, dedication, and longevity– and that milestone is certainly worth celebrating. That celebratory spirit shines — or, perhaps more accurately, blazes — through much of “Love & Life.” At heart, it’s a fun, bracing work that stings with the fervor of open-road adventure, while also being a summation and embrace of the accrued miles, destinations, and experiences of the past. At its soul, a palpable sense of restlessness and yearning threads through the material. The feeling you get, right from the muddy shoe’d strut of “Beggin’ Jesus,” the opening track and first single (see the cool video link below), is one of a quest to find meaning amid tumult, redemption amid temptation, and the state-of-grace rewards suggested by the title. The next two tracks, “Letter From Hell,” a big, boozy, Bo Diddley-beat inspired workout, and “The River,” a slow smolder ofspooky-then-roiling majesty, capture the kind of approach their author has always placed at a premium: namely, standing at the crossroads of the blues and rootstraditions of the past, and then driving the music forward to new, unchartered territories as brazen and wide open as tomorrow.
Amid all the revelations, reveries, and reflections to be found (“Black Lung Fever” is, for instance, an account of the illness that claimed both of Ted’s Pennsylvania coal-mining grandfathers before he was born), there are tributes too. A couple of them were born out of affectionate gestures of respect (“Watermelon Kid” is about blues renaissance man Watermelon Slim; “R.L. Burnside [Sleight Return]” is an homage to Drozdowski’s friend and mentor, the late Mississippi hill country blues patriarch R.L. Burnside). Another track, the Stax-spiked ballad, “Let’s Go To Memphis,” also began as a tribute, albeit a very different kind than Drozdowski had in mind. Now it’s an elegy; a final farewell from one ofAmerican music’s great, if under-heard soul and gospel singers, Mighty Sam McClain, “a dear friend” for more than 20 years, as Drozdowski describes him.
Last night, I lost my dear friend Mighty Sam McClain. Sam was a lion. An inspiration. A good and honest man. And one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived. Others may have sold more records and been more widely accepted by the music business insiders who call too many of the shots, but Sam was a unique and powerful artist with a big heart, big dreams and a special bond with his fans, who often sent him letters and emails telling Sam how much his music meant to them and how it had saved their marriage, their faith and, in some cases, their lives. I loved my conversations with Sam and am going to miss them greatly. We'd typically start by complaining about some music biz BS or another we were dealing with at the time, and end up talking about how lucky we were to have our art, to be creative and to be loved and cherished by the ones we love and cherish, with all sorts of left turns in between. The last time I saw Sam, I knew we were losing him. He was lying in a hospital bed and the vitality was slipping from his body and mind, and the cancer dug deeper. But the beauty of his soul was intact. He was one of the very best friends I've eve had. I am going to miss him every day for the rest of my life. But I feel lucky to have known Sam, and I am so happy to have recorded a song with him. "Let's Go To Memphis" on Love & Life meant the world to me when we recorded it. To have a song with his voice – truly, to borrow a phrase from Sam Phillips, "a voice from the place where the soul of man never dies" — means even more now. I love you Sam. I miss you, and I am going to carry your spirit, your work and the fire of your inspiration with me for the rest of my life.
B.B. KING was a beacon for the best things about blues: it's beauty, depth of feeling, storytelling, originality, character and musical excellence and evolution. He was also a kind, generous and gracious man who cared about the people he entertained and the people he employed. And he was a living link to an era when performers were truly shining ambassadors of the arts – larger than life in a way that reflected a knowledge that with their status came certain responsibilities to themselves, their fans, their creativity and the qualities that made them special. I was privileged and lucky enough to meet and speak to B.B. quite a few times, and to see him perform even more. There were many highlights, including an incendiary performance closing the Newport Jazz Festival and his guitar intensive summer shed tours, including a year that he concluded his set at Mansfield, MA with a six-string shoot-out between himself, Lonnie Brooks, Buddy Guy and Eric Johnson in which he was clearly the last man standing. King was perhaps the most influential guitarist since the use of amplification, and carried the torch for many players who influenced him, with T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Nighthawk and Django Reinhardt — whose playing he studied reverently for decades — at the fore. Guitarists looking to perfect vibrato need only to look at and listen to King. And as a vocalist with supreme soul and authority, he had few peers. Until he was diminished by age, King also exemplified the idea that growth is a requirement for committed artists, consciously working to expand his playing abilities and his creative realm. And he embodied the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to urban centers in the North — even if the North for King was initially Memphis — and he achieved all of the promise that Migration held for so many. When performers like King — and I also add the names Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington. Bill Monroe, Sun Ra, Les Paul, Miles Davis… — pass, we lose a part of American culture – in attitude, example, very literally in song catalog — that will never be replaced. King was more than merely the "King of the Blues," an easy tag for him because of his stature and world-wide recognition. He was one of the people who truly make Great American Music "great." And while it may seem cliche, there is only one song of B.B.'s — despite his vast and often moving catalog from "Three O'Clock Blues" to "When Love Comes To Town" – that I feel can carry this moment. And if you're a fan of King's, you know what it is.
Nashville-based guitar daredevil, singer, songwriter and producer creates a sonic and soulful 10-song set,
funded by fans and featuring liner notes by Anthony DeCurtis. First single and video: “Still Among the Living.”
Hi. I’m Ted Drozdowski. Welcome to my Coyote Motel. I hope you enjoy your stay!
In case you don’t know me, I’m a moderately successful guitarist, songwriter, singer and producer, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife, Laurie, and our dog Dolly. We’ve got a good thing going.
And if you’re wondering how to pronounce my name, it’s three syllables: Droz-dow-ski.
There’s a chance you might know my other band, Scissormen. We’ve toured the U.S and played Europe, hitting everything from juke joints to coffeehouses to Bonnaroo, and put out six releases, including my previous, Love & Life, and the DVD/CD set BIG SHOES: Walking and Talking the Blues, which includes a 90-minute movie by the great music documentary filmmaker Robert Mugge. It debuted at the Starz Denver Film Festival, which I think is cool enough to mention. Along the way, we’ve gotten a lot of airplay and many people have said and written nice things about us.
Coyote Motel is cosmic roots music. I’ve always heard what I call Great American Music as a glorious continuum, and I believe that, like parallel universes, all of the sounds that it encompasses exist and can be heard at the same time. So for me, the influences of Muddy Waters and Daniel Lanois, or Lonnie Mack and Sonny Sharrock, not only can but should exist in the same song. I also believe the mark of a true artist is to distil influences and ideas into an original voice. With Coyote Motel, I’ve done my best to live up to those principles.
To me, the 10 songs on Coyote Motel, which is also the name of the band, are a complete sonic vision. Some of my best lyrics and finest recorded guitar playing is here—but you should catch the band live. We have a reputation for explosive performances. We’re serious about upholding tradition while pushing the envelope, but we’re also seriously committed to everybody—including ourselves—having fun.
Coyote Motel was recorded in Nashville with me and my friend and longtime bassist, Sean Zywick, co-producing, and my newer friend, Kyra Curenton, on drums. Pete Pulkrabek also played drums on half the album’s songs. He’s a friend, too.
I write the songs and play electric, acoustic, resonator, and lap steel guitars, and a little percussion, and I sing. I’m joined on four numbers by the great Nashville-based vocalist Luella Melissa Mathes, who some of you may know from Luella and the Sun and Crackerboots. Another friend, Mark Robinson, a respected singer/guitarist/songwriter who was voted Best Roots Guitarist in The Alternate Root’s readers’ poll, engineered half the album, and Sean recorded the rest. Mike Purcell mixed and mastered. Mike Windy created the cover painting and our longtime graphic designer is Katrina Grimwood. The liner notes are by the author Anthony DeCurtis. It’s nice to work with so many friends! It’s also terrific to have the support of all the people in many countries whose generous donations via Indiegogo allowed me to make both Coyote Motel and Love & Life. Angels exist!
As an instrumentalist, I’m mostly known for my slide guitar playing—which can be aggressive, wild, spacey, or deeply traditional—but Coyote Motel has allowed me to branch out in a lot of different styles and directions. So maybe now is a good time to talk about the songs. A few are simply good fun, like “Los Alamos,” which is a tongue-in-cheek ditty about the Apocalypse, or “57 Flavors,” which is about life’s chaos. But like anybody, what I see in the world today makes me reflect, so “Trouble”—which I played on a one-string electric diddley bow—and “Jimmy Brown” are protest songs. “Josh Gibson” is, too, but it’s subtler, letting the story of Josh’s amazing life in baseball do the work. I learned about Josh Gibson years ago through my friend Ronnie Earl, who educated me about the Negro Leagues.
“Still Among the Living” is an important song for me. It’s about living with the legacy of abuse, and it has a guitar solo that I think really gets to the tune’s heart. Luella does a killer job on it, too. “Frog Alley” is about the opioid crisis in East Tennessee, but it’s got a sense of humor. (Really!) “My Friend” was written for my dear friend, the great soul singer Mighty Sam McClain, but I think it’s also for anybody who mourns the loss of a valued compadre. True friends are too few in this life. And speaking of dear friends, “Down in Chulahoma” reflects on the years Laurie and me spent in north Mississippi having our brains rewired by R.L. Burnside (who inspired me to start Scissormen and changed my life profoundly), Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Junior Kimbrough, and absorbing the music of the hill country. Along with Sam and the jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, they are my deepest musical and personal influences. I think of them all and miss them every day.
Some of these new songs have already had three or four lives. I kept pushing myself to make the lyrics true to the stories I wanted to tell, and sometimes a song that started as one thing evolved into another, and another, before it was recorded. Occasionally final lyrics presented themselves as I was singing into the microphone. Living in Nashville, there’s a high bar for songwriting, and I want to hold up my end.
There is one cover tune. I have been smitten with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s smoldering version of Bob Geddins’ “Tin Pan Alley” since the day I heard it. And I’ve long felt that a slow blues is an ideal departure point to reach for the stars, sonically—which Stevie did in his own way. Now, I’ve done that, too, taking a vastly different approach.
This isn’t a simple album, necessarily, but it’s not superfancy, either. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s an evolution for me and gets to the core of what I wanted to say as we recorded, both lyrically and musically. I’m really excited about Coyote Motel. I hope you like it, too.
If you’ve got any questions for me about any of this or the other stuff I do or have done, you can always drop me a line via the email address on the teddrozdowski.com website. It’s at the bottom. There’s also a lot of info on show dates, Scissormen, my ebook, my slide guitar and music history workshops, and my music journalism. Reach me via Facebook, too. And hey, if you’ve hung in this long, my sincere thanks!
With love from Nashville,
Left to right: Sean (bass), Ted, Kyra (drums)
NASHVILLE, TN — The most recent album by Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, 2015’s Love & Life, was yet another leap forward for the band. It received a warm reception from press and radio, including a multi-page story on Ted in the December 2015 issue of Guitar Player magazine and extensive airplay on Sirius/XM and around the world. It also led to hundreds of live performances.
Like the albums before it—the full-length documentary DVD and concert CD set BIG SHOES: Walking and Talking the Blues (which includes the entire Robert Mugge feature film of the same name starring Ted) and the ghostly, hypnotic sonic experience Luck in a Hurry—the cinematic Love & Life was a major evolutionary step for Ted and the band, blending the sound of Great America Roots Music’s past, present and future, and enlisting the talent of such respected guests as the late soul powerhouse Mighty Sam McClain and the Grammy-nominated organist Paul Brown.
So what’s next? Yet another drive toward new sounds and new song concepts with an album in progress and a radical new approach onstage and in the studio that’s so daring it requires a new name: Coyote Motel. While any high-energy performance featuring Ted and his bandmates—longtime collaborator Sean Zywick on bass and textural sounds, and the dynamic, creative drummer Kyra Curenton—will take the deepest roots of America’s musical tradition and cast them in fresh ways, the early shows we’re playing as Coyote Motel are really a workshop for exciting, unpredictable music in this vein. They focus even more on improvisation and creating sounds not commonly heard in historic genres like Delta and hill country blues, old-school country, mountain songs, and the art of the songster. Let’s be blunt: This is a band with a unique sound and vision. It’s not for the faint-hearted, shortsighted, or genre-bound—and Ted and his musical friends wouldn’t have it any other way.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of Ted’s Scissormen and Coyote Motel—both bands alive and well. And for a new album due late in 2018 that promises to be yet another step in pursuing an increasingly unique and original vision for Great American Music.
Ted has been writing and consulting about music for 40 years. His work has appeared in a wealth of publications, from international magazines to newspapers to liner notes to genre encyclopedias to the Grammy and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction books. He is currently a senior editor at Premier Guitar. This is some of Ted’s more recent writing about artists for that magazine:
Chrissie Hynde/The Pretenders: https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/24979-chrissie-hynde-if-it-gets-politegame-over
Start Playing Slide Guitar Now: https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/26244-dust-that-broom-a-newbies-guide-to-slide
Cedric Burnside: Lion of Mississippi Hill Country Guitar: https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/27890-cedric-burnside-lion-of-mississippi-hill-country-guitar
Ted calls his Zuzu guitar the Green Monster. Like all Zuzus, it is hand-built by Chris Mills, who also made the bridge pickup, which is an original design. The top and back are from an antique recycled packing crate. The body is solid mahogany, with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. The bridge pickup is a Porter Overdrive. Positions 2 and 4 put the pickups in single-coil mode. You can find out more at zuzuguitars.wordpress.com.
Ted’s mainstay amp is a 2007 Carr “The Vincent,” which is a small, powerful and versatile combo with a 12-inch Eminence Private Jack speaker. (That’s Ted’s favorite speaker flavor.) It is switchable between 7 and 33 watts, and 7 watts is loud enough for most small clubs with or without a PA. It’s harmonically rich and has luxurious reverb. Turning the midrange dial all the way left engages a boost switch the moves the amp from super-Fender-like turf into Marshallville (but without sacrificing the richness of the lows and mids). It’s superb!
Ted’s main pedalboard (He has a second with a shifting line-up of pedals, for experimentation.) has a simple, direct chain of effects: TC Electronic PolyTune 2 tuner, Origin Effects Cali 76 compressor, a J. Rockett Archer for boost and a little dirt, an MXR Phase 90, a vintage Boss VB-2 Vibrato, a vintage DigiTech PDS 1000 delay, a DigiTech HardWire Supernatural Ambient Reverb (where the stereo signal splits) and a DigiTech HardWire DL-8 Delay/Looper (often set for backwards play).
This Sam Hill Custom cabinet was built in Nashville by Sam to match the Green Monster guitar, in a shade of Behr paint called Fish Pond. It’s solid pine and contains a single Celestion G12M 20-watt speaker, made to 1967 specs. This cabinet is badass and voiced like a classic, bigger Marshall cab.
2 vocal microphones (on bass and guitar positions)
2 guitar amps
1 bass amp
Kit 1: Kick, snare, 2 floor toms, hi-hat, 1 cymbal
Kit 2: Kick, snare, 2 floor toms, hi-hat, 4 cymbal
Power required at stage front for guitar and bass pedalboard
2 vocal microphones (on bass and guitar positions)
2 guitar amps
1 bass amp
6 piece kit: Kick, snare, 2 floor tom, hi‐hat, 1 cymbal
Power required at stage front for guitar and bass pedalboard