Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Friday, August 9, 2013

10 Questions: Luke Winslow-King

The rag time jazz and post war blues of Luke Winslow-King carry the feel of his transplant home of New Orleans.
Currently on the road in support of his latest album The Coming Tide on the Bloodshot Label, he'll be playing two free show here in the Portland area.

Friday, August 16th
McMenamins Edgefield
2126 SW Halsey St
Show: 7PM
21 & Over


Sunday, August 18th
Elizabeth Caruthers Park
3508 SW Moody Ave
Show: 3PM
All ages

With the new album and a busy touring schedule, we're very thankful he could take some time out of his busy life to talk to us at BLS.

BLS: Back in April you released your debut album The Coming Tide on the Bloodshot label. Though you have a long history in music, what was it like recording your first album?

LWK: I have self-released two other albums over the years, but it was very exciting to release The Coming Tide with Bloodshot last April. We put a lot into the songs and it was great to see them reach a wider audience. We recorded it at Piety Street Studios in New Orleans with a cast of great instrumentalists from the city.

BLS: The Coming Tide is ripe with a jazzy ragtime feel. As a transplant to New Orleans which came first the music or the city?

LWK: I had always been interested in jazz and blues music growing up, but I developed a specific interest in ragtime and traditional jazz after moving to New Orleans in 2002. The music appealed to me because it was improvisational yet danceable, complex yet still melodic enough to be ‘peoples music’. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to discover my own musical voice in New Orleans surrounded by these influences.

BLS: Your music is a sweet throw back to post war blues and dustbowl jazz. At what age were you introduced to this style of music? Is there a particular individual you have to thank for the introduction?

LWK: I started playing old time music in high school. I first was interested in Woody Guthrie, and then later discovered Charlie Patton and Jelly Roll Morton. There were a lot of great musicians that influenced me along the way; Seth Bernard, John Boutte, Roberto Luti, and Washboard Chaz, to name a few.

BLS: You have been studying music since a teenager. What are some of the benefits of having all that knowledge to draw on? Are there any drawbacks?

LWK: Yes, I’m glad to have started studying music from an early age. Having a understanding of music theory and composition has informed my writing and arranging along the way.
It makes it easier to create the sounds you are imagining in your head, and articulate them to others. Sometimes I do try to ignore certain elements of my training when writing though. It is refreshing for me a times to write clear and relatable melodies without involving too much sophistication.

BLS: In your schooling you spent time studying music in the Czech Republic’s Prauge. Did your time their influence your music in any way? Are there any other international influences you pull upon?

LWK: I do still find my self reminiscing about my time studying in the Czech Republic.
I spent time there analyzing scores from Dvorak, Martinu, Smetena, and Mozart. I was inspired to learn how these composers had transformed their regional music into classical forms, Taking simple folk themes and morphing them into symphonies.
This is not exactly what I am up to with my music today, but it’s definitely something to strive towards. I also enjoy Bela Bartok from Hungary.

BLS: On the album you are joined by the lovely vocals of Esther Rose who also plays wash board. Who else is on the record with you? Do they make up your touring band? How did you develop these collaborative relationships?

LWK: The Coming Tide features; Esther Rose on washboard and vocals, Cassidy Holden on bass, Ben Polcer on trumpet and piano, Rich Levinson on drums, and guest appearances by Rick Trolsen on trombone, Chris Johnson, Bruce Brackman, and Tom Saunders on saxes. On the road I’ve been performing as a trio with Cassidy and Esther a lot, but we add drums and a horn section at the bigger gigs. We have a really active music scene in New Orleans, and we are glad to have relationships with so many great players around town.

BLS: On the album your cover of George Harrison’s “I Got My Mind Set On You” is a truly unique treatment of the song. How did you arrive at this version? Do you have a specific approach you take when considering to cover a song?

LWK: I came up with my version of ‘ I’ve Got My Mind Set on You’ while strumming the guitar on the porch one day. I was inthralled by these repetitive droning pattens that I had learned listening to North Mississippi blues (Fred MacDowell, R.L. Burnside). I simplified the song by removing the bridge and major parts of the melody. I tried to approach the song like I imagined Jessie Mae Hemphill would have.

BLS: How does your style of music affect your instrument choices?

LWK: I gravitate towards older instruments that have a rich tone. It seems that some of the instruments I find along the way are just waiting to be played again.

BLS: Your music pulls on both jazz and blues. Though inarguably these styles are derivatives of the same root elements, they are still considered in many circles drastically separate genres. In your opinion, both musically and chronologically, when are/were these genres more similar than separate?

LWK: I think that jazz and blues were more closely related in the pre-war days.
Through the 1950‘s, as these genres became more urbanized, they started branching out into bebop, jump blues, and eventually rock and roll. It seems that in the teens and 20’s they were harder to decipher.

BLS: Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?

Karen Dalton,

Mance Lipscomb

Lil’ Bob & the Lollypops

Joseph Spence

Bukka White.