FAME Review: The Scissormen - Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues (DVD + CD)
The Scissormen - Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues (DVD + CD)

Big Shoes:
Walking and Talking the Blues

The Scissormen

Vizztone Label Group - DSW001 (DVD + CD)

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The Scissormen are Ted Drozdowski (guitars, vocals) and Matt Snow (drums, percussion), and though they may start deep in genuine back catalogue blues, you can never be sure quite where they'll end up. On the first cut, Big Shoes, things start out simply and grittily, then build and mutate until eventually heading into the Brit capture of Chicago blues, hitting the kind of work Mick Abrahams and T.S. McPhee churned out so well. Drozdowski cuts in a huge slide sound when he's of a mind to, jumping off from the Fred McDowell and Elmore James sounds he digs so thoroughly. Interestingly, the guy is also a big fan and student (literally) of the late great Sonny Sharrock, a challenging but spectacularly angular jazz-noise fretbender. If you can't quite determine what Ted's doing, check Sonny out.

Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues is a full 66 minutes and entirely of concert materials while the film is a feature length 90-minute affair that combines history, road trip, concert, and state of the genre report, so you're going to have your hands full with this one. Film maker Robert Mugge previously made the noted Deep Blues but also The Gospel According to Al Green, Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus, and a hell of a lot more besides, including explorations of George Crumb (!) and Sun Ra. Like the blues itself, Mugge favors a ground-level hard-tack approach that detracts nothing from realism, adding luster to the wonders lurking within the everyday. The opening to Big Shoes features the band playing one-horse bar in Redkey, Indiana, a joint that was bought by a gent who'd seen Elmore James and Jimmy Rogers back in the day in Chicago and found himself immediately stunned by and hooked on the blues, an experience common to Ted & Matt as well as many of us. Though the dive barely earns its keep, the guy kept the place open for 18 years in order to provide a haven for the music he loves, a place for those not favored by Columbia and Atlantic to lay down the groove.

The film is also unique in that it signatures one of the few genuine touring duets I've ever seen. Drozdowski and Snow hold their own well, and I can't say as I've witnessed such a configuration since catching Lee Michaels and Bartholomew Smith-Frost ("Frosty") at the Hollywood Bowl in the 70s. Had The Scissormen appeared at the Whiskey in the era, they would've met with wild enthusiasm, blowing the doors out with thundering slide in 12-bar format, hippies (me among them) welcoming the lads with open arms, as they had Back Door, John Mayall, and many others. The film captures what may well be the last gasp of the hallowed world of blues bars as the country gentrifies from East coast to West, Canada to Gulf. If you're getting a mite weary of yuppie watering holes and cellophane disco repackaged muzak, then Big Shoes is precisely the mojo ya need whether you hail from a post-punk generation already tiring of the bourgeois crap littering the airwaves or are among Baby Boomers wishing a few more trips back to the era before Madison Avenue bit into the jugular of rogue dawgz, turning them into cash cows ruining the airwaves.

CD Tracks:

  • Big Shoes (Drozdowski / Hulsman)
  • Mattie Sweet Mattie Intro (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Mattie Sweet Mattie (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Jumper on the Line (R.L. Burnside)
  • Tupelo (Ted Drozdowski)
  • The Devil is Laughing (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Move Baby Move (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Jessie Mae Intro (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Jessie Mae (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Delta Train (Drozdowski / Snow)
  • R.L. Burnside Intro (Ted Drozdowski)
  • R.L. Burnside (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Whisdkey and Maryjane (Ted Drozdowski)
  • When the Devil Calls (Ted Drozdowski)
  • Big Shoes (Slight Return) (Ted Drozdowski)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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