Posted On 09 Mar 2017
Last month, the Atlanta-based Ragtime/Dixieland/Gypsy jazz artist Blair Crimmins and his band The Hookers released their new album You Gotta Sell Something! via New Rag Records.
As the fourth studio record following 2013’s Sing-a-Longs, it delivers more of their signature sound of supercharged ragtime and swing while also reaching into some new territory with gospel and soul.
“You Gotta Sell Something! is the most focused record I’ve ever done. I had 10 songs that I thought were really strong so we didn’t need to develop the album in the studio,” Crimmins told Folk Alley. “There were a few improvised sections but for the most part the band knew exactly what to do when the mics were on. I also took more solos than on previous albums. I feel like I got to shine as a songwriter and an instrumentalist while also showcasing a damn tight band. For those reasons I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”
Blair Crimmins and The Hookers combine a unique blend of 1920’s Dixieland jazz, ragtime, swing, gypsy guitar, stride piano, and a New Orleans style horn section that keeps the joint jumping while Crimmins sings in a lyrical style both humorous and sincere. It’s a sound that is at once modern and deeply rooted in the past, yet influenced by Crimmins’ time as guitarist/front-man for alternative rockers Bishop Don. A multi-instrumentalist and a music academic, Crimmins has claimed in jest to be “possessed by a ghost who makes me play ragtime music.”
You Gotta Sell Something! has been embraced by Southern Living, Relix, Glide Magazine, and The Boot who raved “Fusing jazz, Dixieland and the blues, Crimmins and the Hookers are known for old-school tunes with a heavy sprinkling of snark.”
Starting with back-to-back shows at The Earl for their hometown album release celebration, Crimmins and his 7-piece band will hit the road for a series of tour dates including Knoxville, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and many more. To get a glimpse of their rowdy live performance, watch this clip of “Passed Around,” recorded this past December at Variety Playhouse featuring a full gospel choir.
Follow Blair Crimmins And The Hookers Here:
Learn more about Blair Crimmins in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016? What were some of the highlights for you and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017?
2016 was emotionally exhausting. So much that I’m tired of talking about it. It started off with the death of Bowie, a huge musical influence to me and then the year ended with an election so tumultuous that families and friends found themselves at war with each other. I’m glad it’s over. On the positive side, I produced and finished a solid record that I’m proud of. Everything I did last year was to prepare for 2017 to be the busiest this band has ever had and I’m so glad that the work has begun.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your first musical memory?
I started taking it very seriously when I was about 8 years old but even before that I was always drawn to music. My parents brought me back an acoustic guitar one year after a trip they took to Mexico. I was really young at the time but I remember writing what I called “a song”, which was just a series of strumming patterns on open strings. That’s a really foggy memory. Once I got old enough to really play, I knew that I wanted to be a musician. All the fantastical kid dreams of being an astronaut went out the window and I never thought twice about it.
Where did your love for Dixieland jazz, ragtime and swing first come from? Have you always enjoyed that kind of music?
I started getting into Jazz when I was in high school. I wasn’t really writing songs back then, just playing guitar. It seemed that learning Jazz was the next step to becoming a really good player. After years of digging into Jazz and even studying Jazz guitar in college, I became uninterested because it was mostly instrumental stuff that we studied i.e. bebop and straight ahead jazz. I directed my attention to songwriting in a rock band. After years of that, I still wasn’t satisfied and I found my way to Dixieland and Ragtime music. Working in those early 20th century genres allowed me to combine the craft of writing songs and lyrics with the musicianship of Jazz. I immediately felt I had found my niche, my voice as an artist.
Next month you are releasing your new album, “You Gotta Sell Something.” What was it like putting this collection together? What was the inspiration behind these songs?
My inspiration was to write songs that stand on their own. I started off as a songwriter without a band. Then I got a band together and wrote a lot of songs with them in mind. I began to focus on musical ideas and arrangement. For this album I wanted to get back to a more pure songwriting form. If I pull out the band and all the instruments, do you still have a song there? So I started there, then I had fun working everything else in.
You’ve done a lot of touring with your 7-piece band, The Hookers. What’s been a favorite show of yours with them? In your opinion, what do you think makes for an ideal concert experience?
We’ve played so many great shows together but the road has it’s ups and downs. One night you’re playing for literally thousands of people then the next night you’re playing for ten. What’s funny is that we usually talk about the bad shows more. The shows that were really awkward or had some weirdo club owner. Those are the shows we laugh about and I think those are the shows that bring us closer together as a band. We had one gig in Denver where we had a problem with the club owner. He wanted us to go on hours earlier than advertised so his girlfriends burlesque group could take our time slot. He was being a real jerk about it. Our fans would be showing up late for our show! Instead of having to apologize to 100 people, we walked down the street to various clubs asking if they wanted a band for the night. We finally found an Irish pub with a little stage and got the word out on social media that the show had moved. We had a great crowd, the room was packed. At the end of the night I invited everyone to join us in a picture to give the other club owner the bird. It ended up being a great show that we’ll never forget.
Do you plan on touring a lot this year in support of “You Gotta Sell Something”? If so, where are you excited to play at the most?
We have a lot of shows already confirmed and more on the way. We’re doing a big east coast tour (NYC, Philly, Boston etc.) in April, couple trips to the west coast, lots of touring the south and midwest and a Italian tour in the works. I’m most excited about returning to familiar places with a new CD in hand. Fans have been waiting a while for this to come out.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
For this album, Cab Calloway really influenced me. Especially vocally. I’d love to collaborate with Van Morrison or Tom Waits.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I just hope the music finds the people who are looking for it and I hope the songs bring joy to those who do. In this over saturated music market, you don’t have to just take what is forced on you. If you happen to find us through the wall of noise and dig what we do, then in my eyes you are a unique person and we need to celebrate together. See you at a show!