24 June 2016

MOONSHiNE MEDiCiNE :: An interview with BLACK RiVER BLUESMAN & BAD MOOD HUDSON + An interview with Memphis alt-luthier/performance artiste JOHNNY LOWEBOW

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This Finnish-punkass-distorto-rural-downtown- country-blues duo is a gift for fans of blues-infected music...more Stooges than Son House, less International Blues Contest contestant, more a band you want to hear when you need a good, weird, alt-blues ass-kicking. 

Guitarist Black River Bluesman & drummer Bad Mood Hudson are Super-Alien knuckledraggers, primal rock blues scientists, delta garage band dirt metallurgists. Precise in their riffs, dancing around each other with each change, a united front against boring, automatic safety blues. They're a great European representative of the so-called,"punk blues" genre (whatever that is) in that they're like a punk band that decided to play non-overtly sexy grooves, instead of music to yell at people with.

Their sound a stylish savagery, 
a turquoise crushed- velvet pummeling, powered by guitarist Jukka Juhola's exclusive use of a series of Memphis-built Lowebow guitars, cigarbox and cigarbox-esque guitars known for their broomstick-like dowl necks and hand-wound pickups, all hand-built by one of a kind luthier John Lowe aka Johnny Lowebow. 

Drummer Bad Mood Hudson 
is rock solid and deeply in the pocket, with a groove any North Mississippi guitarist would dig rolling with. He swings as hard as a good metal drummer
should, while building a solid corrugation for Jukka and his slide-driven Lowebow guitars to walk on. Solid, but not without soul. They bring mystery back to blues, that creepy feeling I get...that frisson I feel when the music is right. Black River Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson are right.

I've been following these guys for ages it seems and they only get more refined in their rawness, more punk/metal, but at the same time deeper into blues, retaining the forms, yet expanding on energy and distortion.

From the punk-blues of title-song, Moonshine Medicine, to the stripped down Lowebow slide and washboard Chicken Song (because what blues album is complete without a chicken song? Ask Hasil Adkins!) to the JSBX super blues rock action of Candy Box Blues (note to someone: make a video for this song of a 1967 Ford F-250 dragging a chainsaw down a gravel country road.) Up next is Gasoline, which rocks a sort of Finnish T-Model Ford meets (the) Melvins blues-sludge. The Sex Pistols-y blues stomp of Digital Ghost is followed by the joyous Lowebow guitar homage of Going Down With A Lowebow. Jukka and Hude rock as one, get down as one. They are a matched, but slightly cracked (cracks filled with gold) pair. They compliment each other's playing, yet rock on their own.

It's a primitive, yet Now sound, hearing Jukka aka Black River Bluesman simultaneously playing the bass and the guitar via one of his Lowebow Guitars, as Hude aka Bad Mood

Hudson regulates like a swingin' jack-hammer. To me, their music is blues, as authentic as South Anywhere, or Northern Nowhere as the case may be. It's a natural sound. It's based in American blues, sure...what isnt anymore? But, it's their own thing. It is to my hearing, hybrid Finnish blues. Local and international. Jukka and Hude doing what Iggy tried to do covering Junior Kimbrough. In Finland. I wanted to know more.

///////((( Interview with Black River Bluesman and Bad Mood Hudson )))////

RS:: (Rick Saunders) : It was great to see you guys at the Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale. You were amazing. What was that experience like for you?

JUKKA: Thank You. 

I have been a big blues fan since early 70's. Mississippi was a place of my dreams that I was not sure if it even exists. Just to finally get there not to mention to perform there I cannot describe by words. One of the shows was on a porch at Shacksdale by Hopson plantation. In the middle of our show, a spotlight caught fire in front of us. It was quickly put out, the shack didn't burn down, I survived the electric shocks I got from the microphone and the music never stopped.

HUDE (=Andy the Bad mood) : I was born in the 70's and Clarksdale is an is amazing place! I really enjoy to be there! Great place to organize festival! It was great to be part of it!

JUKKA: The Deep Blues Festival has been the best festival ever and we'd like to thank everybody who made it happen. Special thanks go to Chris Johnson, John Lowe, Mary Anne Norwood and Stan Street.

RS:: Jukka, you play Lowebow guitars. Could you tell me how you found out about John Lowe and his Cigarbox guitars, how many of his guitars you have, and what makes them


JUKKA: We played at a festival in Scotland 2008

and met a Danish guy who was playing cigar box guitars that he had made by himself. He told me he had visited John & Bev Lowes' shop Xanadu Music & Books in Memphis. That time there was nothing much about John or Lowebows in the internet but I managed to get in contact with John and mail ordered my first Lowebow – Purgatory Hill Harp # 30. Now I have four of them. The Hill Harp, a Double Decker Triple Necker Baritone # 1, a Cresting Wave # 1 and a Cathead Diddly Bow. Yes – two number ones!

Lowebows are not only just the same old cigar box guitars. The Cresting Wave has a solid body but the sound is still the genuine, distinctive Lowebow sound. John makes the pick-ups himself by hand which certainly is part of the secret. Most of his guitars have one bass string and three guitar strings with separate bass and guitar outputs for separate amps which adds to the sound.

HUDE: I like the sound of Lowebow's so much I couldn't help but buy me a Hill Harp and a 
Diddly-bow too!

JUKKA: It is the unique sound. I play only Lowebow's now as I like to sound the same all the way. And yet there is variation from the four

different models.

RS:: Do you use pedals? If so what kind? What kind of amp set up do you use?

JUKKA: No, I don't use pedals - Lowebow sound is good enough. I trust in the over-drive that comes from the amp. I have a distortion pedal just in case a venue provides amps with only clean channels. Lowebow's are equipped with two outputs - one for guitar and one for 

bass amp. So I always need two amps. My bass amp is Ampeg BA-115 HPT. I have two home made (no brand name) all-tube guitar amps, one small modified Epiphone and a Peavey Delta Blues tube combo.

RS:: You've played in the states a few times now...three? Four times? Is there a difference between U.S. gigs and the shows you do in
Europe or are the people pretty much the same as far as the reaction you receive? Folks seemed to be kind of in awe of you guys at the Deep Blues Festival. 

JUKKA: I have played five times in the States since 2009. Three times with Bad Mood Hudson, once with Livia Noisance Monteleone and once with Washboard Jackson. We have played mostly in the deep south, but also in Minnesota.

I think the audience reactions are more different venue to venue than between the continents. We feel more comfortable at deep blues stages, rock clubs and punkier bills than venues where people are expecting moody easy listening blues by candle light. But yes, I feel that in the USA people at our gigs are more open and find it easier to come and talk to you and say

”Awesome show guys!” At least here in the cold North people are more reserved. We don't tell you you were great until we are very serious about it, really mean it and - drunk enough. I have started to learn a little about these differences, like you are not expected to tell about your family/health issues to a waiter who asks ”How you doing?” We have always felt very welcome in the States.

HUDE: Same and not the same, it depends on the place often, but the audience is much more social in U.S

RS:: What's the music scene like for your kind of blues in Finland? Are there a lot of places to play, and has the local arbiter of blues correctness, the blues society, approved of what you guys do, or is it too much for them?

JUKKA: There are not many blues bands that play what could be described as deep blues – well, just a couple. Although talented and skilled, many of the Finnish blues bands tend to be not so alternative. There are some great bands that are making international career too. Some blues bars prefer more mainstream blues and rock clubs are a little suspicious if there is a b-word in your stage name.

We perform more abroad but sure have played all the blues festivals in Finland. And they are many – big and small. We started an alt.Blues society in 2007 to promote deep blues in

Finland. We have arranged five fests called ”Floating Cockroach Festival” and have booked bands like Deltahead, Johnny Halifax and the Howlin' Truth, Dogbreath, Dirty Trainload, Bullfrog Brown, Dave Arcari and many more. Awesome parties! And I plan to put up at least one more in 2018 when I will be 60....

We've got some big fans in the Finnish Blues Society but I really don't think all of them like punks like us. Anyway, we were chosen by the Society to represent Finland at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. FBS is publishing one of the oldest still existing blues magazines in the world (since 1968). They have written
articles about us and reviewed all of our records and all the reviews have been most positive. All the other Finnish blues media too have published interviews and positive articles about us. So I guess we kinda have been approved. You can tell by the reviews we get that the blues people think:

”They are not a blues band but we love them” and the rock people say: ”This is as blues as it can get but we love it”.

HUDE: I think blues audience keep our music too ugly today, but some people still love it! Good for them. rockers is also found in our music and it's a good thing!!! We have a lot of clubs and festivals in Finland and Europe.

RS:: Let's talk influences. I hear metal, and some punk, definitely Howlin' Wolf, R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, Mr. John Lee Hooker, but its contained in a tight fist of blues tone and rhythm, it never truly sounds like metal or punk, just the vibrancy, the urgency, the passion of, yet it retains the blues form.

JUKKA: Actually I don't listen much to heavy metal so the "metal" influences must come from my childhood when Black Sabbath were the most important band to me. And I still like their three first albums very much. Punk too is obvious. In the end of the 70's punk came to Finland and a lot of bands started to pop up. But of course the blues has always been the main thing in my life. First the British blues
invasion, then I found out about Chicago blues, Delta blues and so on. Hill Country blues became my favorite and later also the deep blues movement. If I had to mention only one favorite band I would say Deltahead.

RS:: I'm glad you mentioned DeltaHead. An amazing and underrated band. I think the ever-dying blues music genre is in an interesting place right now. Italy and Sardinia has a little scene of amazing guitar players and singers, UK's always got something happening, your area has a few bands that have a lot of similarities, You guys, Deltahead, Dogbreath (if either of those two still exist) have a lot of similarities.
Have you played with other "alt-blues" (whatever that is) bands in your region or elsewhere that we should know about?

JUKKA: The "alt.blues" scene is very small and marginal at least in Finland. In Europe there are bands that play very different blues from each
other so I don't know if they have a common thing or if there is a special European style that is different from American deep blues. Except that America has awesome bands in every block - we don't.

RS:: Last question: Imagine I'm coming to your house today to listen to some music. Give me five songs you'd play for me.

JUKKA: If you put the question that way I would probably choose some of my favorites that are maybe a bit lesser known. That's why no Black Sabbath, Bukka White, Ramones, RL Burnside or Johnny Lowebow in this list.

1. Deltahead: Don't move to Finland.

2. Hanoi Rocks: Tragedy

3. Chicken Legs Weaver: Your enemies cannot harm you

4. Mr. Tater: A walk in the park

5. Kollaa Kestää: Kirjoituksia kellarista

JUKKA: I'd like to change the last song to another old Finnish "punk" song. (Yes these bands were called punk bands back in the day!)

5. SE - Ei asfaltti liiku. I been singing that song all day, that' s why the change.

RS:: I dig your first pick for number 5, too, so I'm keeping it.

HUDE: Delta Head: Don't move to Finland

Kaaos: kytät on natsi sikoja.

Terveet kädet: pissaa ja paskaa

The Exploited: Punks not dead.

Junior Kimbrough: Burn in Hell

(Funny we chose same song by Deltahead ....)

RS:: Thanks, guys! It was a pleasure to get to know you.

JUKKA: Thank You it was nice talking to you and it is an honour to be featured at the legendary Rick Saunders Deep Blues site!

RS:: You're too kind. Cheers!

//////////////// I contacted John Lowe (aka Johnny Lowebow - one-man band) to ask him about the guitars he's built for Jukka and others ///////////////

RS:: How many guitars have you made for Jukka? Are they custom...like to his specs? If so, did he just tell you what he wanted or he had a particular sound he wanted? How did that work?

John Lowe: I think four. His first was a Hill Harp. I mailed it to him. His necker. He saw it on
Facebook and picked it up at the Caboose Deep Blues. His Third was a Johnny Lowebow Double cresting wave personal Lyre. He got it when he was in Memphis . Last one was the Cat Head Gospel Hand he got at the Deep Blues in Clarksdale . Last Year Hude got a Hill Harp. Second was my First Double decker triple.

RS:: Jukka tells me you make you make your own guitar pickups?

John Lowe: I started making pickups for Jay Kirgus for his one strings.

RS:: Tell about your process of making pickups. Are they based on a particular sound or pick-up, or is it something you designed yourself? Do you make more than one kind? What did you do for artist/musician Jay Kirgus? And wasn't he one of the first guys to use a modern diddley-bow or cigar-box guitar?

John Lowe: I've been making custom lipstick
pickups for Danelectros with the stereo output like I need for my show. Pickups are wire magnets and bobbins nothing new really. Jay did his fine arts Doctorate making diddlys in Oxford.

It's the stereo output and big fat coils with a P90 vibe that makes the Lowebow powerful! My skills as a potter gave me a good hand for laminating wire on a bobbin!

RS:: When did you make your first cigar box guitar? Or did you start with the dowel diddleybow first? What inspired you to make one in the first place?

John Lowe: Dowel first. Made a strap on dowel cbg then RJ (Richard Johnston) ordered a three string dowel thru then the Purgatory Hill Harp
two neck stereo. Someone brought in my first Personal Lyre a few weeks ago. I am glad to sell by builds but missed that one when I saw it again > I regret fronting some to folks who never paid. LOL

RS:: What are you working on now? Any new designs?

John Lowe: My show with keyboards made me need a more stable instrument since I play bass Drums and guitar with my right hand. I make my solid wood hand carved ones for my show now. More stable in the lap. I always am looking for a new take . Never stay in the same mode for much more than a year. That is the fun building or playing.

RS:: Your show at the Deep Blues Fest this year was remarkable. I've seen you play a few times and this was often transcendent. How was that weekend for you? In other words, was it as good for you as it was for me? And before I forget, where/how can people buy your record album?
John Lowe: Deep Blues in Clarksdale was a lot of work but much fun. My second time there the year before I just Busked at Shacksdale on the Norwood porch. I will be back for the third in that slot.

My influences were always performers who were not regurgitators of set music. Hendrix, J Winter and J Joplin as a youth. I became a professional performer busking on Beale with RJ (Richard Johnston) and Robert Belfour doing Hill Country style stuff . Then at the Othar Turner Goat picnic.

"That form is like a prayer you never know if you will be blessed with what I call an Othar Moment when you do transend the mundane into the sublime. I aim for that but it is not up to me. Trance music comes thru you not from your ego." - John Lowe

I guess that's why some folks don't get it. I failed. LOL. Mostly it depends on the crowd. Mainstream blues folks don't want to go there. I guess that's why my "Blues" bookings are only
by the folks in Clarksdale like Roger Stole and Chris Johnson who has a broad vision for his tastes. I fear the new bookers are a bit more tourist practical nuts and bolts folks so I fear their vision. LOL I hope to be wrong on that.

You can get my records at Xanadu, Goner Records, GB Gitty CBG supply, and at my shows. My instruments are sold at Xanadu Music and Books , Sturgeon Bay Music Exchange, A few at Cat Head in Clarksdale or hit me up on Facebook .

RS:: Thanks, John! I look forward to seeing you and Jukka and Hude in October at the Deep Blues Festival, Oct 13-16, in Clarksdale!

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