Legendary blues artist John Lee Hooker once said, “The blues is a feeling, you can’t get it out of no book.” If that’s true then “Big” Earl Matthews, singer and songwriter for Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame and the Poorhouse Millionaires, definitely has them.
“The blues is always happening for me, but my taste goes throughout all American music,” he says.
That expansive taste is potent in the Poorhouse Millionaires. Saturated in the blues, the five-piece rock band also blasts through a variety of American flavors like rock, funk, folk and early rockabilly. They draw inspiration from Buck Owens and Tommy Castro, the Woods Brothers and even Frank Zappa, who Matthews played on his pirate radio show while living in Arcata years ago.
“Every artist and musician is just trying to find sincerity, and I find it more in the rootsy Americana,” Matthews says. “I want to make people dance and feel.”
Started in 2011, the Poorhouse Millionaires began as a duo featuring Matthews’ baritone vocals and Ray Vasira on ukulele. They cut their first album, Prevention Intervention, the following year, and continued to play until a hiatus in 2014. However, last year Matthews and Vasira reunited the band, adding Josh Lounsberry on bass, Charles Tyler Rogers on keys, Noah Wilson on guitar and Vasira on drums.
Although they’re technically from Modesto, the Poorhouse Millionaires have been making themselves honorary locals with regular gigs at the upstairs Catalyst bar as part of the club’s weekly Lone Star Lounge, where they will be playing Sept. 30 and Oct. 21. Each Saturday, the Lounge features free shows from different bands playing the blues, country and everything in between.
“Every once in awhile, mainstream bands play traditional music and then people become enamored with this ‘new sound,’” he says. “Once they realize it’s not new, they begin to look into who influenced their favorite artists and find the roots. It’s how art has always worked.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Free. 429-4135.