Several years ago, my husband and I stopped for the night in Nashville on our first trip to the Memphis in May Music festival and a blues-focused week-long vacation. After dinner and drinks we headed over to the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar down historic Printer’s Alley in the heart of the downtown area. We had been told by a server that there was a really good band there, so we ponied up the cover charge and settled in not far from the stage. The band starts and someone announces the arrival of Stacy Mitchhart to the stage. I think he was wearing either a purple or gold Zoot suit, along with a stylish hat (of course). And then he started playing. Whoa. I was impressed by his guitar skills and raw voice. But let me tell you, once he pulled out a resonator guitar and proceeded to play with a slide (as well as with a bottle of Bud Lite he proudly drained before utilizing its slide capabilities) I was hooked. He is one hell of an entertainer—with a pimp-daddy swagger and a handsome, coy smile. And he knows how to play the crowd.
I was supposed to have an interview with Stacy a few weeks ago, and we went back and forth a bit trying to set it up. But our schedules just didn’t cooperate. He came out with his latest CD a few months ago, Live My Life (which is a real departure from the R&B/blues sound that I saw that first night in Nashville), and he’s been busy promoting it.
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, music has always played a big part in his life…particularly soul, jazz and blues. He’s lived and worked from Los Angeles to New York City and toured all over the country and abroad. Almost 20 years ago he settled in Nashville and is quoted as saying, “I’m a Yankee in Nashville doing the most non-country thing I can do.”
So what can I tell you about him, besides the fact he’s a dynamic performer (guitarist, singer, songwriter)?
- Many endorsements, including Epiphone guitars and amps, AKG microphones…even Los Altos Boots
- 2012 Induction into the Canadian Blues Hall of Fame
- First-round Grammy Nomination in 2007 for Gotta Get the Feelin’ Back Again album
- Albert King award from the Blues Foundation
- “Blues Entertainer of the Year,” “Blues Male Vocalist of the Year,” “Blues Guitarist of the Year,” “Electric Blues Act of the Year,” “Acoustic Blues Act of the Year” and “#1 Blues Recording of 2004” from Music City Blues Society
- Played to sold-out shows of more than 50,000 people in arenas and festivals
- House band/headliner at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar for more than 18 years (garnering an international fan base due to Nashville’s tourists)
One thing I’ve noticed with much of Mitchhart’s material is a theme of male empowerment, often with humor: “Homewrecker” (I’ve seen it live a few times…talk about audience participation), “Things Have Changed,” “I’m the Reason (She Walks that Way)” and “Legend in His Own Mind” are more examples…. And the title track on Live My Life is definitely a testament to mid-life attitude, taking his 2008 title track “Grown Ass Man” to the next level. I love his music for this reason. He doesn’t take things too seriously and I feel good after listening to him.
Live My Life
Stacy Mitchhart has released 12 albums thus far. The latest one, Live My Life, came out in October 2014 and is my absolute favorite. I’ve developed a passion for the gritty sound and variation in tones between cigar box guitars (CBGs), so when I read that Stacy played a few different CBGs on the new album I was intrigued. This disk has a back-to-blues-basics vibe, which is quite a departure from the polished arrangements on previous albums. Mitchhart said he wanted something more rootsy and raw, hearkening back to blues roots. He has accomplished just that. It was recorded in Nashville using 2″ analog tape, old microphones and a variety of instruments (CBGs, guitars, banjos, ukelele, harp, horns…), and was released via his own label, Dr. Sam Records.
The grittiness is one of the most appealing things for me on this album and the title track is fantastic—there is such a Mississippi hill country sound to this song and I dare you to listen to this and not move your foot…or head…or tap a finger. And the video (below) shows how he incorporates humor into his music as well.
Another song that’s been also getting air play on SiriusXM’s Bluesville as well as on my playlist is “I Drink Whiskey.” This is something Mitchhart has been playing live for a few years now and I really like the guitar riff. But the hook of the chorus is great: “I’m not drinking to forget…I’m drinking…tryin’ right…to remember you.”
A surprise on the new disk is his cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” as a stripped-down, CBG arrangement; apparently the band had messed around with it off the cuff one night on stage and it evolved into something so natural they decided to record it. “Soul Stroll”is a track that incorporates a sound that goes back to his musical roots in soul—Its instrumental groove is reminiscent of Stax house band Booker T and the M.G.s, yet it sounds fresh.
The track “Boogie Bar & BBQ” is a bit of a honky tonk 2-step tune, and the energy is great. Mitchhart plays a lap steel guitar on this one. “Cat Bowl Blues” is another jammin’ kind of song that is played on a guitar made from a metal cat food bowl. It’s an instrumental with strong percussive support from Darin James.
The last track, “Worried Man Blues,” is one of my favorites. Its stripped-down, front-porch noodlin’ sound really highlights the emotion he effortlessly puts into his vocals. And from what I’ve read, he wrote that tune in 20 minutes, played on a ukelele and recorded in three takes.
The raw musical direction Mitchhart takes on Live My Life seems to be a good fit for him. According to Mitchhart, “I feel like the stripped down approach of this new album lets other people get inside my music almost as deep as I do every night when I’m on stage.” He is one hell of a performer and in my book one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen.
While I really want to enjoy this album, I am curious to see where his music takes us next. In the mean time, if he gets a Washington, DC gig I’ve got a standing invitation to buy him a whiskey.
Check him out
“Live My Life”