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SCISSORMEN – BIG SHOE: Walking and Talking The Blues – review by Georgetown Fats

by GFats on March 26, 2012

SCISSORMENDVD/CD - A Robert Mugge Film - A Scissormen music disk
Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues
Dolly Sez Woof/Hillgrass Bluebilly/VizzTone

A Robert Mugge Film

Blues as a genre is musical style filled with amazing stories from amazing storytellers.  Having learned life lessons from some of the best originators of the North Mississippi Hillcountry sound, namely Jessie Mae Hemphill and R.L. Burnside, Ted Drozdowski has more than enough pathos and ethos to fill the shoes of those departed legends that walked before him. The Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues DVD follows juke joint duo SCISSORMEN as Drozdowski and then-drummer R.L. Hulsman tour and share their stories for the camera as part documentary, travelogue and live concert film.

Though SCISSORMEN now call Nashville home, Ted Drozdowski and drummer Matt Snow will be bringing the SCISSORMEN back through New England for their annual spring sojourn.  Check them out on April 19 (Thursday) at Chili Head BBQ in Bridgewater; April 20 (Friday) at Nick-A-Nees in Providence; April 21 (Saturday) big CD+DVD release show at the Lizard Lounge with Peter Parcek and The Ten Foot Polecats; April 26 (Thursday) at Club Passim, Ted solo; April 27 (Friday) at the Back Page Cafe in Lowell; and April 28 (Saturday) at the Elevens in Northampton.

The DVD starts off with the band headed down a snowy Midwest highway on the way to Red Key, Indiana for a gig at the Key Palace Theater.  In typical Mugge fashion, the shots are kept very simple; those onscreen carry the action, with the backdrops and locales also coloring the documentary.  There are long drawn shots of the city of Red Key, paying homage to that hardscrabble Midwest city.  When SCISSORMEN open the musical portion of the documentary with the aid of wireless and a hand-held tambourine, Hulsman and Drozdowski play the opening to “Big Shoes” while walking to the stage.

While in Red Key, Drozdowski and Hulsman interview Charlie Noble, owner and operator of the Key Palace Theater.  As a man with a dream and the drive to see it through, Noble explains how he became inspired to build the cabins behind the theater after his time spent in Clarksdale, Mississippi and watching the reformation of the Hopson Plantation.  Always the conversationalist, Drozdowski slips back into his journalism roots and allows Noble to just open up and share his pride in his theater, cabins and vision.

From Red Key, SCISSORMEN make their way over to Indianapolis, Indiana for a stint at the Slippery Noodle Inn, which is known as Indiana’s oldest bar.  Drozdowski opens with an interview of the Slippery Noodle’s proprietor, Hal Yeagy.  Having booked Jahn Mayall, Albert Collins and others, Yeagy’s Slippery Noodle is the perfect place for SCISSORMEN to play and to offer up a slide guitar clinic, as Yeagy’s policy is to book acts he likes, and he is a blues guy.  With murals of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson on the bar room walls, and having been a bar since 1850, if ever the spirits in a room could talk, it would be at The Slippery Noodle.

While in Richmond, Indiana, SCISSORMEN have one of the more surreal moments of the tour.  While learning of the jazz influences that have made their names in Richmond, with the help of Bob Jacobsen, a board member of the Starr-Gennett Foundation, Hulsman and Drozdowski chip away at the snow-filled ground with a car shovel and an ice scraper in order to see the walk-of-fame plaques of Hoagy Carmichael and Duke Ellington.

All throughout Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues and the accompanying Big Shoes CD, SCISSORMEN’s fifth disk, Drozdowski effortlessly jumps from guitar player, singer, journalist and storyteller.  Though a technical and talented musician, Drozdowski shines when expressing his passion for a harder blues sound.  Kudos to Robert Mugge and his team of videographers for documenting SCISSORMEN doing what they do best, and to Drozdowski for bringing more attention to the works of R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Jessie Mae Hemphill through his own material.

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