^
Keep New Times Free
4
| Blues |

Lonesome Shack's Blues Rooted in the Desert

You could easily be forgiven for mistaking More Primitive, the new LP by Seattle-based blues trio Lonesome Shack, for a mid-'70s recording from the North Mississippi hill country, the fertile blues scene that gave listeners artists like R.L. Burnside, Fred McDowell, Jesse Mae Hemphill, and more. But no, singer/guitarist Ben Todd's lineage isn't southern in origin. Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, he departed for the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, where he built a shack next to his travel trailer. For four years he dedicated his time to the blues, a passion that continued when he moved to Phoenix.

Todd says his stop at the Lost Leaf in downtown Phoenix feels like something of a homecoming. He attended the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, playing solo blues at spots like Carly's Bistro, Trunk Space, Yucca Tap Room and Rhythm Room. "I played solo," he explains, which changed when he moved to Seattle. There he hooked up with drummer Kristian Garrard and bassist Luke Bergman. The power trio format changed the way Todd approached his songs. The interplay with the rhythm section made his songs "more dance-focused," Todd explains. "Just playing off a drummer made me change my approach."

While bombastic indie blues is in vogue right now thanks to the Black Keys' chart-topping status -- and indeed Lonesome Shack is signed to the Black Key's first home, the venerable Alive Naturalsound Records -- Lonesome Shack favors a nimbler approach. Todd's droning blues figures display the influence of guitarists like Junior Kimbrough and John Lee Hooker, players whose playing could be described as raw, but display a powerful elegance. Not exactly "primitive," Todd says, but that's not what he was going for with the album title.

"I wasn't thinking of [the word primitive] as a descriptor of the whole style," Todd says. "It's more about a desire to get to a really basic practice. Working with my hands, and simplifying things. I think that reflects in my songwriting."

Lonesome Shack's music clearly has roots in the South, but Todd experienced it in the Southwest. Hanging out in his shack in New Mexico, listening to collections like Georgia Blues Today and "Texas stuff, like Lightning Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and...Blind Lemon Jefferson," Todd says the music seemed to resonate with the landscape.

"I built a little shack on the side of my travel trailer and called that the 'lonesome shack,'" Todd says. "It was a pretty isolated situation. That's where I started getting into blues and boogie music heavily, and learning how to play it. I had a lot of time to focus. I think just being in a rural area, where it was pretty quiet most of the time. Just being out on the land, the music felt right out there."

Lonesome Shack is scheduled to perform Wednesday, June 11, at Lost Leaf.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show Here's How Not to Approach a Journalist on Facebook The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time


Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.