On a Thursday night at Aptos St. BBQ, families and couples sit eating cornbread and pulled pork while Preacher Boy’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.
He’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 he’s got Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James, and Bukka White covered, too. Preacher Boy’s fiendish and quirky take on the genre is a testament to his many influences. “I don’t like shuffle-y, weedily guitar, Chicago blues stuff. That’s not my bag … what I really like about the Delta country blues tradition is its weirdness. It’s not codified,” he says. “It’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.”
Preacher considers his weekly gig at Aptos St. BBQ a “direct enactment and reminder of where [blues] music comes from. Roots, Americana, folk, bluegrass, country, all of that stuff. It’s not theater music. It’s music for people to enjoy when they get together, eat and hang out.”
The early, communal blues performances were traditionally an inclusive, democratic and cathartic experience: “The musician wasn’t put on a pedestal, but nor were they denigrated as the irresponsible drop-out,” he says.
Since the early ’90s Preacher Boy has been touring overseas; he’s co-written gold albums and played with everyone from Robert Lowry to the Pogues. He’s seen his name in fancy lights, but doesn’t require an audience’s undivided attention to deliver. That backyard fish-fry aspect—the Delta blues demand it.
INFO: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, Aptos St. BBQ, 8059 Aptos St., Aptos. Free. 662-1721.