Smash Pages Q&A: John Arcudi on Country Blues

The other night I discovered that John Arcudi had a great love of country blues, dating back several years. As a result I decided to interview him about the topic. Please enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: What made you initially attracted to country blues as opposed to other musical genres?

J0hn Arcudi: Well, obviously I listen to all kinds of music, but my intro to the country blues was R. Crumb’s card set from the 80’s. I was working at a comic shop and it was difficult to ignore the amazing portraits. That led me to seek out the Yazoo CD’s and I fell in love with the music. It wasn’t until a few later that I really went nuts and sought out some of the more obscure artists (Sylvester Weaver, Blind Blake, Washington Phillips, etc) and really put together a collection.

Can you name some of your favorite musicians?

fff3Charley Patton, Barbecue Bob Hicks, Gus Cannon, Blind Willie McTell (anybody who reads Lobster Johnson may have already figured that out), Frank Stokes, and — while he’s not exactly a blues musician — Blind Willie Johnson is pretty incredible! Oh, and there’s something wrong with you if you don’t like Leadbelly. But that’s a just a few.

Do you listen to music as you write?

Nah. Can’t do it. When I listen to music, I listen to it, y’know?

What about Sylvester Weaver, Blind Blake, Washington Phillips, appeal to your musical sensibilities?

Well, Blind Blake and especially Sylvester Weaver were virtuoso musicians, so I’d like to think anybody would be helpless before them, but Washington Phillips is another story. Not to say he couldn’t play, because he could, but it’s his voice! That odd and almost sweetly haunting singing. And the songs he sang are equally magnetic. Phillips performed Sacred Music, which is frequently inspiring and uplifting, but Phillips wasn’t that exactly. It sounds almost like an injured angel singing.

Please enlighten us about the Lobster Johnson connection

I gave the “Harry” character (who previously had no last name) the surname “McTell.”

Do you ever go to venues to see music.

Not as much as I used to, which was all the time, but I get out when I can because there is NOTHING in the world like live music!

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