An Interview with 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs: The band that rocks your bones and soothe your soul

"I hope blues music stays in the hearts and minds of folks who love music for a long time. Music is a uniting and healing force and the blues speaks to everybody."

2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs

The band have been providing fans with their premium blend of blues, rock, funk, and gospel for years. Whether they are putting their original twists on Delta Blues when performing in an unplugged acoustic duo or trio, or bringing the funk in their electrified four- or five-piece configuration, 2BLU And The Lucky Stiffs create their own unique brew to rock your bones and soothe your soul. 2BLU's lyrical approach frequently reflects the band's Christian faith, usually in a non-traditional format, mixing secular and Faith themes in their tunes; exactly as life mixes the everyday grind with the divine. This combination represents the roots of the Blues.

 

2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs” are: Bruce Andrews has been playing harmonica and singing with bands for more than thirty years, and has performed in the International Blues Challenge as a semifinalist five times, and once as a finalist. He is also a published visual artist; painting Blues and Jazz greats as subject matter.  

Dave Gowens is a Southern, groovin' white guy with a dash of Africano influence (with the papers to prove it). Inspired by his brother and enlightened by many great hand percussionist, Dave knows how to add texture to any type of music and knows when to sit one out. 

George Dudley has been playing guitar for more than threedecades, bringing a unique approach to the instrument. For example, his Blues playing is true to the genre, but totally fresh. George has played with numerous club bands throughout the New England area, and his session work can be found on several fine local and regional releases. 

Jack Dudley is George's brother and he has been playing bass for more than two decades. Jack's style and tone is extremely unique, and must be heard to be appreciated; percussive by nature, it is smooth at the same time. Jack plays a combination of four-, five- and six-string custom-built fretless bass guitars -- as well as an occasional departure to an upright electric bass. Jack personally designs and builds all of his bass guitars. Also Dave Crenshaw and Steve Ramos drummers in rotation.

 

Interview to Michael Limnios

 

What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?  
Dave: With any music, one learns every time you play. With the history of Blues Roots Americana music, if you are not learning something, you are not paying attention. Example, one tune that we play week in and week out has always been a cool song, but for some reason I paid very close attention to the lyrics a few weeks ago, and was really laughing. Not only did it make perfect sense as a story, but it was really funny. Blues Americana Roots music is real…it tells a story, and with an extremely talented vocalist/front man, that story is occasionally adjusted to fit the room you are playing. That makes it even more real for the listeners…

Bruce: Well, I think it was Willie Brown that said “the blues ain’t nothing but a good man feeling bad”…I would agree.

For me, the blues reflect experiences that are common to all (rich, poor, black or white and everything in between) We all hurt, we all have experienced loss and love…and we all know our earthly bodies will meet the same fate in the dirt. The blues to me is like a sonic drug that eases the pain of passage through this life. When it is played right from the soul…you feel the healing!

 

 

How do you describe Dave Gowens’ sound and what characterize 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs music philosophy?
Dave: I make every attempt NOT to sound like other percussionists. Obviously, many of the licks are the same, but I always look for something different…not better or worse, just different. If I am not doing anything different by experimentation or using different instrumentation, what is the point? Other than it being a live show, if there is nothing different, then listeners can just as easily listen to a CD or radio. In addition, there are not a lot of HAND PERCUSSIONIST in the Blues world, so that in itself creates a difference.

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music and percussion?
Dave: I have learned the most about Blues, Roots, Americana music from my Pal and vocalist, Bruce Andrews. He is something of a historian of music, especially Blues. Participating in some Roots Music classes with school kids such as Alabama Blues Project have been very educational for me. As they say, the teacher sometimes learns more than the student.
As far as percussion, I learn from every percussionist that I see and hear, regardless of talent or experience level. I constantly look at what other percussionist do, and try to find something that either fits and adds to my style or find something that I can build on to create something different.

Bruce: Hard to say. I would have to say the creative process of covering classic blues tunes and innovating our own blues based music has been an education in itself…I would have to credit my band-mates with that. George and Jack Dudley, Dave Gowens… all great friends and strong musicians who put up with my preoccupation of blues and roots music. They would ALL tell you: I was the one originally obsessed with blues music. I was the one who “forced” them to listen to Blind Willie Johnson, Son House and Reverend Gary Davis. Having said that, now we all write and play with those roots in mind. As far as “secrets” go, we watch a lot of blues oriented performers play and try to be a “sponge” and soak it up. It’s been my experience; the best players cannot put into a few words what they do. It’s not really a secret; it’s the fruit of “10,000 hours “of playing and practicing!

 

 

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Dave: Every time I have the opportunity to play is the best, and every time someone else is playing and I am not is the worst.

Bruce: WOW. I loved recently playing for a hometown crowd of over 10,000 folks and being well received…that was a blessing (Alabaster City Fest 2012). I would say also when 2blu played the Orpheum in Memphis, Tn. as an IBC finalist to a standing room only crowd. Recently though, we set an attendance record at Gip’s Place (est. 1959). They counted 420 paying customers, the place is a glorified shack! The joint was ABSOLUTELY ROCKING. It seemed like EVERYBODY was one foot in front of our face and totally connected with the music…a powerful feeling indeed.

Worst moment… I was asked and hired by a couple who I met through playing in a certain nightclub to sing at their wedding...it was in a conservative Catholic Church and they paid me to sing “This Magic Moment” by the Drifters ..accapella. I felt really stupid. My pals had a big time with me for years after that.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
Dave: Forget about being better that other musicians, be yourself. Play within your ability, do it as well as you can and always strive to learn from others. Study other artists, other genres and styles. You never know what you will learn. Be yourself

Bruce: Pick your passion. Practice your fundamentals. Copy your favorite masters. Find your soulful center and develop your own style. In that order. Listen to critics you respect. Ignore random ass holes who think they know it all.

 

 

Why did you think that the blues in Deep South continues to generate such a devoted following?
Dave: I think some of it is due to marketing and publicity, but mostly because so much of the world’s music is based on, in some way, Blues Roots music, hence the term “ROOTS”. Again, Blues is real, it is not manufactured, it is not created electronically and it is played, performed and recorded by real people that tell a story.

 

Are there any memories from 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs, which you’d like to share with us?
Dave: Far too many to list. Maybe one day we will write a book. Virtually every show has strong memories, but the most important part is the fact that we are all best friends, and really like to be around each other. I don’t think that I am going out on a limb here, but I personally think that ALL of us make EACH of us better…Humans and musicians.

 

Tell me a few things about the beginning of 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs. Cool band name, how did come up with it?
Dave: Bruce Andrews and George Dudley have been playing music together for a lot of years. As a duo, they were 2BLU. As a band, we were known s The Lucky Stiffs. Since there was a following for both, we simply combined the two. As for how we developed the name Lucky Stiffs, I am going to leave that to Bruce to explain as he is much more eloquent in the description that I am.

 

Which memory from the road makes you smile?
Dave: Far too many to list. There are magical moments during every show, in the GREEN ROOM, on the way to a show etc. Gas seems to be a central theme.

Bruce: Too many to name and most would get somebody in trouble. Suffice it to say, we have a band trailer we call the “green room”. I can’t count the hours of laughing I have experienced in that trailer with my bandmates.

 

 

What is the current state of the live music scene in west Alabama Swamp where you live?
Dave: Live music is alive and well in this area. It can be challenging from a financial perspective at times, but that is the world we live in.

 

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?
Dave: Do what you love, love what you do, keep it real and have a blast doing it. THEN, act like you have been here before and like you own the place.

Bruce: As for advice: Our buddy Gip (85 year old bluesman who owns a juke joint in Bessemer, AL) always says to me something like this “Bruce, the peoples jus’ don’t know...they don’t know...you gotta tell ’em”

 

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?
Dave: I have had the opportunity to play with a lot of great musicians in my 40+ years of playing. I can honestly say without a shadow of doubt that the best has been with this group of guys. Much of that is because we make every song our own, weather it is an original or a cover. We read each other without even thinking about it. It is so much fun to see or feel George going somewhere and being able to go there with him, or Jack deciding that this tune needs to be funky for a while and just going there automatically. Bruce sometimes decides to morph a song into a completely different song, and does it on the fly… We all follow and it comes off like it was planned and well rehearsed. That is chemistry, and chemistry is something we have plenty of.

Bruce: I would not name one. I mentioned a juke joint we frequent called Gip’s Place. I have been in too many to good jams to put my finger on one.

I did get to sing Mick Jagger’s Part in 4 sold out shows of the Black Jacket Symphony’s Let it Bleed. The band was awesome, the crowd was electric. I had to audition for the part and put in a ton of homework; the outcome was very rewarding.

 

 

Do you know why the percussions are connected to the Afro music? What are the secrets of percussion?
Dave: Hand percussion is connected to African music because that is the origination of what we know as percussion. Africans used drums to communicate.  I will not go into the history too deeply, but one instrument I play is a cajon (ca-hone). If you are familiar with the cajon, it is a wooden box that you sit on and play. It is a Peruvian drum box that originated with Peruvian slaves using the boxes they were packing fruit in to beat on/play to make music. They had no instruments, so they used what they had to create a rhythm. Somewhere along the line, someone picked up on this piece of history and made it into a professional instrument. The cajons hat I play are slightly different in that they are custom build by my bassist, Jack Dudley (Don’t Fret Instruments) and they have a couple of distinct sonic effects to them.

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
Dave: Blues music is ROOTS music. Many other genres were offspring of Blues/Roots music, so it is a central part of many genres. With that being said, if the other genres point back to Blues/Roots, how can it go away? It is self perpetuating to some extent.

Bruce: Well, I think I already answered this one, except to say, I hope blues music stays in the hearts and minds of folks who love music for a long time. Music is a uniting and healing force and the blues speaks to everybody.

 

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage and what compliment do you appreciate the most after a gig?
Dave: My contact with audience is a critical part of what I do. People want to be entertained. If it was only about the “sonic” value of what we do, they could stay home and listen to a CD or the radio. I believe it is also visual as well. Every show should be A SHOW. I know I make every effort to provide that by what I wear, by my expression and by truly enjoying what I do, every time I do it.

I always get comments on my attire, and many times on my playing, but frankly, that would not happen without all of us doing what we do best. Without other band members doing what they do, hand percussion would be pretty boring to the audience.

 

 

Do you know why the sound of harmonica is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of blues harmonica?

Bruce: I really couldn’t answer except o say “right place”, “right time”. The harmonica was cheap and relatively available, especially post world war two. You don’t have to know much theory initially; you just develop your technique. Sonny Terry was a great example; a masterful player who was blind, played the harmonica upside down, almost completely self-taught.

Blues Harmonica secrets… wow… tell me some. I am still trying to figure out the living masters like Sugar Blue, Jason Ricci and Charlie Musselwhite.

I do what I do largely as a byproduct of copying Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter in my early years and hopefully developing my own style. Thousands of hours of trial, error and jamming.

If anyone wants to play, Youtube has tremendous resources like Adam Gussow and Jason Ricci…mostly free!

 

Which things do you prefer to do in your free time? What is your “secret” DREAM? Happiness is……
Dave: Playing music. I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming… On the days that we have a show, almost without fail, I call or text Bruce, and ask the following… “Do you know what we get to do today?” And the response is, “We get to play music”
I think that sums things up pretty well

 

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