From Roots to Reverend

 Photo:  Beth Herzhaft

A Conversation with Steve Jordan over bottled water

Steve: So what happened, brother? I come back from tour and suddenly you're a reverend?

Shawn: You gotta stay off the road.

Steve: You're dressing good. Nice lid.

Shawn: Goorin Bros diamond top porkpie. Dressing for the blues.

Steve: So when you called me from Chicago a few months back, that was a research trip?

Shawn: Kinda. Definitely saw some serious blues. But I'd say the real research happened last spring [2013]. I got invited to sing some blues in a 14th century castle in northern Italy. Crazy gig. Man, Italians understand and appreciate our music more than we do. It really opened my heart and mind to this music that I had studied and collected but never let into my performing life. I was doing my singer-songwriter, folkie thing — fusing roots music with a decidedly black lyrical point of view. But the blues...

Steve: The blues got a hold of you.

Shawn: Serious. Those songs, man. You know more than anyone. It's the root. I was making shit so complicated. Howlin' Wolf, Muddy [Waters], Junior Wells. My whole DNA is wrapped up in these tunes. It's like tracing your family tree.

Steve: "The blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits."

Shawn: Who said that, Muddy?

Steve: Willie Dixon.

Shawn: Love that. So true. I feel like I'm discovering music for the first time. But the roots are dying, man. No one's keeping this music alive.

Steve: Actually, it's even worse......the newest development is, when the songs are weak and there are some sad solos over a 1, 4, 5 progression, they're calling that the blues. Son House would be flip flopping in his grave!

Shawn: You got B.B. [King], Buddy Guy, your man, Eric [Clapton]. Gary Clark Jr. is the only young dude, really. There's just this big generation gap. It's my mission, man. I gotta do my part to keep it alive, pay it forward.

Steve: Tell it, Reverend!

Shawn: Amen. Keeping the blues alive. 

Shawn AmosComment