A lesson in blues

Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen at Canal Public House

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen will perform at Canal Public House on Oct. 24; photo: Peter Sloane


If Ted Drozdowski weren’t a musician, he’d probably be a teacher. The blues musician, who will play in Dayton on Friday, Oct. 24 with his band Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, is all about teaching and learning with his fans. At festival workshops, he teaches the slide guitar, which he’s known for playing, and, for children, the diddley bow, a one-string instrument that was influential in the development of blues. He won’t hesitate to teach a history lesson in blues, either.

“There’ll probably be some accidental learning,” Drozdowski said of his show at Canal Public House.

“The audience can expect a bunch of songs that go back to the historical roots of blues, but also are completely contemporary,” he said. Drozdowski is known for his North Mississippi-style blues, which he described as being closer to the roots of traditional blues music.

In North Mississippi, Drozdowski said, African slaves were freed much earlier than in the rest of the South. Because it wasn’t suppressed, their African music was preserved.

This history is so close to Drozdowski’s heart because it was in North Mississippi that he found his niche. There, he met his mentor, R.L. Burnside, who helped Drozdowski develop his own authentic style of blues.

“I had been playing in rock bands quite a long time, but whenever I tried to play Texas or Chicago-style blues, I didn’t really have my own authentic language or style,” Drozdowski said. “To me, that authenticity is really important.”

He called this North Mississipi-style of blues “inherently psychedelic with a transcendental groove” because it was less removed from traditional African blues.

“I don’t know if it was something in the air, or in the water, or in the moonshine, but something made that music special, hypnotic and exciting,” Drozdowski said. “I fell in love with it.”

He’s played with a few groups since then and started his current band, Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen, in 2004. The band now includes Drozdowski as lead guitarist, Sean Szwick as bassist and Pete Pulkrabek as drummer.

“We’ve got guys from Eastern European family backgrounds playing African music,” Drozdowski said. “It just goes to show how blues has transcended cultural gaps.”

Drozdowski and his Scissormen are currently based in Nashville, but they’ve toured all over the country and world. Their résumé includes performing at a music festival in the Cognac region of France and at Bonnaroo in 2008.

They still enjoy playing locally, too. Drozdowski said, for the time being, they’ve purposely cut down on tour dates outside Nashville because the band is hard at work on a new album, due out June 10, 2015. The album has a working title, Love and Life, because Drozdowski said it seemed a fitting representation of his career in blues.

“Right now, we’re just touring because we like to tour,” he said. “This is a great occasion for all of us to get to play together, because we’re great friends,” he said of the other bands on the bill at Canal Public House, including Ten Foot Polecats, Cannibal Ramblers and Velvet Crane.

Drozdowski said they plan tour dates based on where they’ve had successful shows before. He called it strategic touring because he books all of the band’s shows himself and looks for places where fans are looking for the band to come back.

“I like to stay in touch with people,” he said.

Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen have played Dayton before, once at South Park Tavern and once at a custom car shop. Drozdowski said fans can expect to hear some music from their upcoming album, as most of it has already been recorded.

“They can expect a bunch of songs that go back to the historical roots, but also are completely contemporary,” he said. “We take that old blues sound and put it in a contemporary context.”

When describing his sound, Drozdowski uses the word “contemporary” quite frequently. He said he likes to keep blues alive as an evolving medium.

“Blues isn’t a traditional medium; I keep the blues evolving,” he said. “The audience is going to hear some very contemporary sounds from all three musicians.”

He also said fans can expect a high energy performance from Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen.

“I’ll probably stand on their table,” Drozdowski said. “It’s a very active band. I like to get close to people and break down that wall between the stage and the audience.”

“I’ve jumped off some ridiculously high stages,” he added.

Ted Drozdowski and the Scissormen will perform at Canal Public House, 308 E. First St. in Dayton on Friday, Oct. 24 at 9 p.m. with Ten Foot Polecats, Cannibal Ramblers and Velvet Crane. Admission is $7 for patrons ages 21 and up. For more information, please visit scissormen.com.

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