The inspiration behind Joey the Saint and the A-Men
came in early 2008. After helping aspiring bluesmen murder Cross Cut Saw
at a jam session for at least the thousandth time in my career -- and
then watching a fledgling guitarist guide the house band through a set
of "originals" consisting of three nearly-identical hookless two-chord
solofests -- I paid my tab and went home. When I turned on my car radio,
I heard Bonnie Raitt singing Blender
Blues on NPR. I got home, put on the TV and flipped channels, and a few
minutes later I was watching Chef doing his well-known Dirty Funk
schtick on South Park.
Thus, it began. I downloaded "Blender Blues," broke out my Victor Borge
DVD's, a book of limericks, and my vinyl collection, and stayed up all
The next week, at Doug McGrew's jam session at the Barrel, I threw a
couple of reworked verses to "Blender Blues" -- and a couple of entirely
new verses -- over a 16-bar shuffle and called it Cookin':
Let's get each other cookin'
Let's simmer and flambe
Gonna whip up some cookie dough and a sweet lil' love souffle
Grease up a cookie sheet, get the oven nice and hot
Hop up on the counter, honey, show me what you got
To say it went over well is an understatement.
I followed it up with what is still the most suggestive number in our
repertoire, based off a brilliant Mark Dufresne lyric, a song I called
At the end of Oh, Yeah I received a standing ovation. Probably the first
one in the history of The Barrel.
Joey the Saint and the A-Men were born.
I started doing some serious homework, finding scraps of songs I thought
were cleverly -- but not too overtly -- suggestive. Usually, I'd be in
my car or at a club when I'd hear something, and most often it would be
just a few lines that would make me think, "I could do very dirty things
with that." I'd go home and write the rest.
Many years ago, Delta bluesmen would do exactly what I have done with
this project: hear something they thought was clever, turn it around,
and then improvise the rest. Willie Dixon’s
Hoochie Coochie Man has the same melody as John Brim’s Tough Times.
Chuck Berry took the talking verse of
Bo Diddley’s I’m a Man and used it in No
Money Down. My song, Lemonade, is my take on Robert Plant's take on
Robert Johnson’s take on a tune that
was written by Son House, but was also written by Charley Patton and/or
Bumblebee Slim, depending on
which history books you read and where you were at the time. (When I
offered Mark Dufresne cowriting credit on Oh, Yeah, he told me he'd
gotten his idea from a TV appearance years ago by
Memphis Slim, and he was sure that the
idea was much older than that.) I could quote examples all day but if
you know the blues, you know all this, already. I try to give credit
where due throughout the night.
There are standards we play verbatim; they're obscure but they all were
scandalous hits in their day. They include Big Ten Inch, Mess Around,
Shake, Rattle, & Roll, and My Pencil Won't Write No More. We will not
play anything by Stevie Ray Vaughn,
so don't ask. We do not play Cross Cut Saw, Red House, or anything
popularized by Eric Clapton,
Jimi Hendrix, or the
Allman Brothers. If you request
"Gimme One Reason" by Tracy Chapman, the doorman has instructions to
show you out. Sit down, have a drink, and relax. This will be fun, I
Our album, Old Whiskey in New Bottles, is also a hat tip to a
better-sounding time. We recorded The Whole thing on 24-track 2" tape.
The vocal and horn effects were done with a reverb tank, and the mixing
was analog, as well: no Protools; just 4 of us sitting at positions
across the board with me giving orders as the songs rolled. The
resulting mp3's will sound warmer and clearer, and more present --
thanks to Chris Hanszek's mastering genius -- than what you're used to
hearing. We are not releasing CD's except for promotional purposes. We
will release a limited number of vinyl LP's, however; the LP will be
distinct in that it will be mastered specifically for vinyl on 1/4"
Ampex 499 and the plates will be cut in real-time for a completely
analog process. However, I appreciate that it is hard to listen to vinyl
while snowboarding, so we'll be doing mp3's through the usual
distribution sites. It should be up in March 2011, and the vinyl should
be out this fall.
The idea behind Joey the Saint and the A-Men was, and remains, to stick
our collective finger in the eye of an art form that often -- around
here, especially -- seems to take itself way too seriously, to deliver
it with the requisite musicianship to thread the needle of
respectability, and most of all to entertain the hell out of you.
Enjoy the show.