On a Thursday night at Aptos St. BBQ, families and couples sit eating cornbread and pulled pork while Preacher Boyâ€™s raw and raspy growl assaults their ears. As he beats his long leather boot, four to the floor, his National steel guitar slides and spits a devious storm of gothic Americana and gritty country blues.
Heâ€™s a tall, lean, grisly white guy who sings theatrical Delta blues, so the typical comparisons have been made: Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Nick Cave. But heâ€™s got Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James, and Bukka White covered, too. Preacher Boyâ€™s fiendish and quirky take on the genre is a testament to his many influences. â€œI donâ€™t like shuffle-y, weedily guitar, Chicago blues stuff. Thatâ€™s not my bag â€¦ what I really like about the Delta country blues tradition is its weirdness. Itâ€™s not codified,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s individualized music created by people who produced, against all odds and for no discernible reason, really odd music. Strange, colloquial poetry with a lack of structure.â€
Preacher considers his weekly gig at Aptos St. BBQ a â€œdirect enactment and reminder of where [blues] music comes from. Roots, Americana, folk, bluegrass, country, all of that stuff. Itâ€™s not theater music. Itâ€™s music for people to enjoy when they get together, eat and hang out.â€
The early, communal blues performances were traditionally an inclusive, democratic and cathartic experience: â€œThe musician wasnâ€™t put on a pedestal, but nor were they denigrated as the irresponsible drop-out,â€ he says.
Since the early â€™90s Preacher Boy has been touring overseas; heâ€™s co-written gold albums and played with everyone from Robert Lowry to the Pogues. Heâ€™s seen his name in fancy lights, but doesnâ€™t require an audienceâ€™s undivided attention to deliver. That backyard fish-fry aspectâ€”the Delta blues demand it.
INFO: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, Aptos St. BBQ, 8059 Aptos St., Aptos. Free. 662-1721.