Mike and Mitch from Cowboy’s Juke Joint have been playing a few tracks from Black Cat Bone on their podcast on the interwebs lately. They play a pretty kick ass mix of “Gritty Blues Rock and Southern Rock bands from around the world; you’ve never heard before, and sharing them with passionate music lovers the world over . ”
It’s nice to get a little appreciation from people outside of my tiny little universe here in Grand Rapids, MI. It’s especially cool that they help spread the work to like-minded music fans I would never find on my own! Folks like these are keeping the independent music revolution going strong.
Facebook live video from Bemo’s Bar in Bay City MI. Black Cat Bone dida one man band set opening for Ernie CLark & the Magnificent Bastards and The Hellbound Drifters . Scott played on an amp borrowed from Ernie Clark, and used the house drum set.
In 2015 I was in Clarksdale, Mississippi with my wife (and Black Cat Bone’s original drummer) Jewly. I showed her the infamous crossroads (Highway 61 & Highway 49) where many people believe Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical prowess.
I also took her to see Ground Zero (the club owned by Morgan Freeman), but since it was closed we took a tour of the Delta Blues Museum. That is where we met Josh “Razorblade” Stewart.
He was really friendly and talkative. I could tell that he saw himself as an ambassador of the blues, making sure to let every soul he encountered his story. He was a Vietnam Vet, a former cop (I think he said he was the 1st black cop in Clarksdale), a truck driver, and of course a bluesman that has experienced a lifetime of struggle and sorrow during the relentless pursuit of happiness.
The video of Razorblade I posted above is one I found while deep in the Youtube rabbithole looking for stuff about the crossroads and Robert Johnson meeting the devil. I have seen another video or two of pretty much this exact conversation, and is pretty much the same conversation we had with him back in 2015.
In his ad-hoc role as Clarksdale’s Ambassador to the Blues, whenever he meets a new person he always gives a rundown on his theory that a man reaches a “crossroads” at 3 specific stages in his life. This is illustrated by a drawing of a Dollar Sign Snake to show the 3 crossroads.
The first crossroad a man comes to is in his 20’s as he becomes his own man, and has to decide what kind of man he will become. 2nd in his 40’s as he develops a stronger understanding of his own life, and his role in this world. Finally the 3rd crossroads in his 60’s as a man turns towards more important matters in his remaining years.
Unfortunately Razorblade has since passed away, but his lesson about the 3 Crossroads in a Man’s Life has stuck with us. RIP Razorblade!
The new album “The 4-track Tapes”has been released on our Bandcamp account today, June 13th. 2019. The album is also available on our site, as well as Spotify and other streaming services.
Featuring 11 tracks captured with a Tascam 4 track digital recorder and a Behringer cardiod microphone. All tracks were exported to Cakewalk and mixed down with a minimal amount of production in an effort to maintain that “analog tape recorder” vibe present on old school cassete tape porta-studios.
Those analog tape recorders were cheaply made. They didn’t have anything visual to inform you of what you were recording, except a few LED indicator lights to keep you from clipping the sound while recording. Mixing down was a matter of running an RCA cable into another tape deck to record what your recorder played while you manipulated a few volume or tone knobs in real-time. You physically had to adjust the knobs to bring down the bass while you raised the guitar up for a solo, or smoothly turn all four volume knobs at the same time to achieve a full band fade at the end of the track.
The primitive design of the machines left plenty of room for mistakes. But that was kind of what made everything so fun. Those mistakes made for some pretty interesting sounds.
“The 4-Treack Tapes” invokes the spirit of when I first started to learn open tunings and using the bottleneck slide. I was sitting in my tiny apartment with a broken Tascam tape recorder that I dug out of the trash and repaired. I started layering tracks to see what combinations of guitar riffs I could throw together to make sense of that brass slide bottle. Eventually I found my true voice on the guitar, and figured out how to write songs in the process. That crappy tape recorder was what allowed me to transition from just a guitar player to an actual songwriter.
Before I started Black Cat Bone, I had nobody to help me make the kind of music I make today. The 4-track tape recorder was my band.
A few years later I started the band with my wife Jewly, on cajon and djembe, using the material I created on that old 4-track Tascam as the starting point of what this band would eventually evolve into. The band I wanted had finally become a reality, transitioning from the tape deck to the stage (at Mulligan’s!). She was the first of a dozen friends/band members to come over the years. That is why I released this album today, June 13th, our anniversary.
Currently, Black Cat Bone is operating as a one man band. Our work schedules weren’t lining up, and I was ready to take a step back from the routine we had been maintaining as a band for the last few years. So while I figure things out, I decided to just focus on writing new songs, and playing shows whenever the mood hits me. I am just taking the time to enjoy going back to the woodshed and getting ready for whatever the next step in the evolution of Black Cat Bone brings my way. I hope you enjoy the new music.
Local Rigs is a bad ass project that focuses on local musicians and the gear that they utilize in making their music.
Recently they had Scott come out and do an episode, which is shot at River City Studios in Grand Rapids, MI. Scott took 4 guitars and his trusty Marshal amp and spent an afternoon talking shop with the crew
We are on most of those sites under the moniker “Black Cat Bone 616”, using the Grand Rapids area code to separate us from the other artists out there using the name Black Cat Bone. There’s at least one in every country…. The oldest seems to be from the 70’s in Canada, the current big deal is out of the UK… but the best Black Cat Bone is from the heart of the Rust Belt…. dirty ol’ Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA!
We have added our 2013 recording by Micheal Cook to our Bandcamp page for listening and downloading. Variously titled “Mercurial” or “the Micheal Cook Sessions” the album has been posted with the “Mid-West Coast Blues” artwork by former band mate Matt Popovich-Judge (bass, guitar). Judge also designed our cat head logo, carved into a lino-block that he stamped out prints from.
The lineup back then was Scott Warren on vox/guitar/percussion, Chris Van Hoven on harmonica, Matt Popovich-Judge on bass (guitar in live shows), and Sarah Popvich-Judge on percussion. Jewly Warren also played percussion in the live shows.Mark Van Hoven played bass in live shows While many of these songs have made it onto “Jealous is Poison” in 2017, it is an interesting recording in that we were a much more stripped down band in 2013,…. our percussion on the album in 2013 was limited to a shallow plywood box holding a handful of antique silverware and a cajon. Both were simply 4/4 beats to emulate the” bottles and cans rattling on the porch” sound we were trying to harness with our front porch blues. Sarah Popovich-Judge was simply tagging along at the recording session when we drafted her into our band as percussionist. She literally had no band experience…. but we told her “sit on that box and count to 4…. when Scott plays, you play;when Scott stops, you stop”
We did a dry run of a verse and chorus thru each song, then hit record. Every track was captured in one or two takes. We ended up doing 3 or 4 sessions, since about half way through Mike discovered a better recording set up to fit our sound, and wanted to get everything we had recorded in the new arrangement.
The end result was a success; Raw and imperfect. Honest and simple. Dirty and beautiful.
We ran into Farmer John who helps out with a lot of the shows at the Tip Top Deluxe. Farmer John is also the founder of the Cowpie Music Festival in Alaska, Michigan. They host some of the best live music to be found around yonder parts and are something you should check out.
He asked us to do a short interview, which he then posted on his Facebook account. Farmer John also captured our first song in the set in a separate video.
Black Cat Bone has just released our new recording on Bandcamp for immediate streaming and download. CD’s are in the plans for the near future.
Jealous Is Poison was recorded live at a local screen print shop, Bad Mojo Design, in Grand Rapids, MI.
The album consists of 9 tracks. The album was recorded by our drummer David Schofield. Every track was captured in less than 3 takes to maintain the intregity of Black Cat Bone’s rough cut style, with minimal overdubbing, and minor post-production editing to clean up the tracks
Eric Engblade is a fabulous singer/songwriter from the Grand Rapids MI area. Known for his insightful lyrics, topnotch banjo plucking, and furious guitar rhythms. I first met Eric in 2009 at an Earth Day Festival in West Michigan that I was helping produce. We have shared a bill three other times after that, and I have seen him perform on a few other occasions around the Grand Rapids area. I have always been appreciative of his abilities and style. He is definitely one of the more capable, and accomplished musicians in this town. Also, he is probably one of the most genuinely decent human beings I have ever met.
So when he asked me to guest on his semi- impromptu Sunday Songwriter series on Facebook Live, I jumped at the chance immediately. We discussed the mechanics of resonator guitars, my favorite open tunings for slide bottle guitar, and how we approached our different songwriting styles. We touched upon the origins of the black cat bone in voodoo/hoodoo magic, and discussed the infamous deal that Robert Johnson conducted at the crossroads many years ago. We also played a few songs and were visited by his baby daughter Naomi, who was not so impressed with our racket as we had hoped. Below is the video for your enjoyment