Hoodoo Men to Conjure Up Some Music at Adelphia Music Hall Nov. 24< < Back to
Like so many in his generation, blues musician Bill Steber was first indoctrinated into the art form via the British Invasion of the ‘60s. Brits with sloppy (by ‘60s standards) mops of hair and guitar riffs rooted deep in the traditions of T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters brought a cultural awakening to the States – one that had actually hatched decades ago in the melting pot that is the United States thanks to a hodgepodge of West African, Creole, Native American, and European influences.
It’s been a number of decades since Steber was rooting around in the back of his parent’s record cabinet and discovering John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed albums that his father purchased at the Post Exchange at the Air Force base he was stationed at, but it is with that same enthusiasm that Steber presents the Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based Hoodoo Men, a two man juke joint music group that he formed a number of years ago with acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Baker.
“One of the reasons I love (the blues and juke joint music) is also one of the reasons that it is one of the oldest continuing forms of music in our country – and in the world, as well as one of the most influential. (…) It is very simple, structurally, so musically it’s easily accessible – it’s not jazz, it’s not complex. And in that simplicity there is room for a very intimate type of expression and creativity and variation,” said Steber in an interview with WOUB a few days before Hoodoo Men perform at the Adelphia Music Hall (203 Second Street, Marietta) on Saturday, November 24. “It’s an infinite, pliable form that takes a sort of genius from the performer to render it something personal to them. It’s that way because it’s such a universal artform, everybody has something within the blues that they love because it’s really about the human condition.”
The group’s upcoming Marietta performance is presented by the Blues, Jazz, and Folk Music Society of the Mid-Ohio Valley, a group that presents the annual River City Blues Festival in Marietta every March, which has historically drawn in a number of nationally and even internationally acclaimed blues acts into the Mid-Ohio Valley. It was at that festival that the Hoodoo Men first experienced performing in the region, which Steber said was very rewarding as a performer.
“It’s an infinite, pliable form that takes a sort of genius from the performer to render it something personal to them. It’s that way because it’s such a universal artform, everybody has something within the blues that they love because it’s really about the human condition.” – Hoodoo Men member Bill Steber
“This will be my third trip to Marietta. I have played around the world – in Europe, and this fall I’m returning to Japan to perform – but there really is no place I have ever been that I have experienced a deeper connection with a very appreciative audience than in Marietta at the Blues Festival,” said Steber. “In Ohio we have had some of the best audiences we have ever had, regardless of what type of music we are playing. Audiences in Ohio really know how to appreciate live music and give love back to the band. I am really excited about it – we will be bringing a lot of vintage amplifiers and instruments – and we will be decorating the stage with a lot of fun stuff, candles and skulls. Doing that is about creating a show, about making the music in a context that really brings out the authenticity of the music; it’s about conjuring.”
Steber said that this all relates to why he and Baker named their group “Hoodoo Men.”
“’Hoodoo’ is a form of folk magic – it’s a gumbo, it comes from a mélange of cultures. Just like the blues comes from musical traditions of West Africa, Hoodoo is a combination of animism – the belief that inanimate objects carry a spiritual power; and herbalism, and Native American folk healing. Hoodoo is a gumbo of West African and European and Native American cultures – which is what we like to do on a musical level,” said Steber. “(The Hoodoo Men) are the production of a combination of influences that could only happen in a country like ours, which is made up of immigrants and indigenous peoples. We take a similar approach to our music as the idea of conjuring in the context of animism – which is about finding the spiritual force within an inanimate object. Similarly, if you take music that is traditional music you have to breathe life into it, otherwise it is just a rote stereotype – unless you can bring something new to it and make it relevant to a contemporary audience; you have to do that animistic thing of breathing life into something that could be considered stale and inanimate.”
Hoodoo Men will perform at the Alelphia Music Hall in Marietta on Saturday, November 24. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the performance will start at 8:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $12, and tickets at the door will be $15. Hear WOUB’s entire interview with Steber, embedded above.