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 night writing.
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 Oh, Yeah.
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 Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, or the fucking 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 promise.
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.
"Batting it out of the park with nasty juke joint saxophone."-- Blue Suede News
Honkin', growlin', screamin', and wailin', Joey the Saint’s hallmark tenor style has become a fixture around the Pacific Northwest from roadside bars and juke joints to the Gorge Amphitheatre. His aggressive sound, electric stage presence, and showmanship hail back to the 40's and 50's honkers and shouters.
Joey cut his teeth in the Seattle Blues and R&B scene as a saxophonist and vocalist with the internationally acclaimed jump blues combo Tim Casey & the Bluescats. He has performed with such legends as Frankie Lee, Charlie Musselwhite, Rusty Zinn, John Nemeth, Mitch Woods, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and the JB’s, and has been nominated for Best Horn by the Washington Blues Society for his work with local heroes including Polly O'Keary, Nick Vigarino, and The Fabulous Wailers.