Backstory to If I Die Today:
“Someone once noted that human beings aren’t generally aware of graveyards until they are half way there. The song postures that there is something we fear more than rotting in the cold earth, and that is to not have mattered. We can’t all be Lincoln, Ghandi, or M. L. King, but we at the very least, hope to be loved by those we loved.
There is a nadir in everyone’s life, usually connected to losses, disillusionments, betrayals. Here the songster sits alone, divorced, disillusioned, confused, estranged, and very sad. He carries the weight of shame and crushing guilt. His great dreams in shambles, he stares in minds eye at his tombstone.
It is from such despair that a honed and better man arises. The song is penned to that inspiration.” —Carl Gustafson 12/June/2015
*The song was first conceived in 1986
*The song was written in its entirety in 2012 at the New Orleans home of Donny Markowitz at the same song writing session where BDS song, Bayou Lady, was born.
*Lyrics writer Carl Gustafson sang the words while Markowitz and Shane Theriot strummed guitars and came up with a form and melody.
*Unlike most of the songs on the High Steppin’ Album, this one was recorded wholly in Los Angeles and not New Orleans or Denver. Gustafson struggled with the vocals and asked band mate, Mo Beeks, to help him phrase it. The first attempt by Beeks was so emotionally engaging that Gustafson turned the song over to him. The recording was finished within the half hour.
*Within the same window of inspiration, Chicago harp master, Billy Branch ripped the passionate solo heard on the record in his first attempt.
*The haunting background vocals were added in the end to create a context of drama and a connection to human compassion.
Be sure to catch Blinddog Smokin’ at Martyr’s on Monday, June 29th!
BLINDDOG SMOKIN’ TOUR DATES
Wed., June 24 PHOENIX, AZ The Rhythm Room
Thurs., June 25 NEW ORLEANS, LA Old U.S. Mint
Mon., June 29 CHICAGO, IL Martyr’s
Fri., July 3 OKLAHOMA CITY, OK Bourbon Street
Sat., July 4 MCPHERSON, KS
Fri., July 10 LARAMIE, WY Jubilee Days
Sat., July 11 LARAMEE, WY Jubilee Days
Tues., July 14 OVERLAND PARK, KS Kanza Hall
Thurs., July 16 JACKSON, MS Underground 119
Sat., July 18 MEMPHIS, TN Hard Rock Café
Thurs., July 23 TORONTO, ON Hard Rock Café
Thurs., July 30 RAWLINS, WY Rawlins in the Park
Fri., July 31 LARAMIE, WY Alibi
Sat., Aug. 8 LARAMIE, WY Alibi
Thurs., Aug. 13 THEMOPOLIS, WY
Fri., Aug. 14 CASPER, WY The Attic
Sat., Aug. 15 SINCLAIR, WY Platte River Festival
Sun., Aug. 16 CENTINNIAL, WY Bear Tree
Sun., Sept. 6 LARAMIE, WY Snowy Range Music Festival
Sat., Nov. 15 HIGH POINT, NC High Point Theatre
Fatback funk, blistering blues, uptown horns and low-down grooves: Grammy nominated Blinddog Smokin’ renders millions of miles and thousands of gigs into a deep American repertoire of profound authenticity.
In 2014 the band garnered a Grammy nomination for the 57th Grammy Awards for a CD/DVD with the bands longtime soulmate, legendary R&B/Soul/Bluesman Bobby Rush and featuring Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer Dr. John. The album is up for Song of the Year and Best Soul Blues Album in the Blues Music Awards and won an award for Best Soul Blues Album in the Blues Blast Music Awards. The album debuted at #6 on the Blues radio chart and charted on Americana radio, its received glowing press from The Wall Street Journal to USA Today to Living Blues, radio play on Sirius XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville, and a music video in rotation on MTV, VH1, and Dish.
The music emanates from the rotating community of players and echoes across the legions of folks who have communed with the band at 200 – 320 gigs per year for well over two decades. Blinddog Smokin’ has played every conceivable venue, from Mississippi juke joints to high mountain roadhouses; across Europe and the Mediterranean all the way to the main stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, an event that attracts upwards of 100,000 attendees. Traveling by bus to 42 of the continental United States – plus international tours – they have been rightfully crowned “Ultimate Road Warriors,” by Southland Blues Magazine.
The lead dog in this hard traveling show band is the band’s founder and charismatic front man Carl Gustafson; an adventurer, world traveler and philosopher whose gravel road of a voice is paved with the power of his convictions and the revelations in his songs. First chronicling the band’s adventures in an online column, “Tales Well Told,” he authored the book Ain’t Just The Blues, It’s Showtime: Hard Times, Heartache and Glory Along Blue Highway, an enthralling diary of the band’s journeys. Whether in song, performance or prose, he is a masterful raconteur.
New from the studio in 2014 is the CD Decisions, pairing Blinddog Smokin’ with the King of the Chitlin’ Circuit Bobby Rush, a three-time Grammy-nominated veteran featured in the “Road to Memphis” segment in the Martin Scorcese documentary The Blues. Joining the band on “Another Murder in New Orleans” is the great Dr. John, the legendary six-time Grammy-winning Crescent City kingpin. The song has been licensed by the national non-profit organization Crimestoppers for their New Orleans chapter and premiered with a music video on The Wall Street Journal, directed by Jennifer DeLia and produced by Julie Pacino, daughter of Oscar-winner Al Pacino. Donny Markowitz, a roots auteur extraordinaire and the songwriter of the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” is behind the board for the recordings, as he was for the band’s recent CD/DVD Up From the Tracks. The band is gearing up to get back on the road in 2015 behind their Grammy nominated record, with plans to release a new album later in the year.
Blinddog Smokin’ is flexible. They might showcase illustrious guest members like Bobby Rush, Chicago guitar master Carl Weathersby or the brilliant blues harpist Billy Branch. Regular compadres include the original drummer “Chicago” Chuck Gullens, and 13-year bassist Roland Pritzker a.k.a., Junior Bacon, whose respective pistol hot snare shots and subsonic timbres anchor the rhythm section.
The cast is expandable: as the house band at the Snowy Range Music Festival in Wyoming, they brought a 30-piece orchestra to join them for their feature set. Highlighted performers could include regulars like Mo Beeks (keys and vocals), Chris White and Linda Gustafson (backing vocals), Chalo Ortiz (guitar), as well as their regular New Orleans based horn section.
The songs of Blinddog Smokin’ animate a vivid cast of motley characters. They sport “Pimp Shoes,” see visions of “Angels at the Crossroads,” chase young girls like a “Funky Old Man,” ruminate on “Skinny Little Ladies” arrive on “Bobby Rush’s Bus,” and accompany the ancient bluesman who has “Just Come Home to Die.” We meet a disillusioned preacher in a old West saloon on “Church of Fools,” and Miss Peggy, proprietress of the Pic-a-Rib Café, where a teenage runaway Gustafson was first entranced by the rhythm and blues helped shape his destiny.
Rejuvenation, reinvention and forward motion: With Decisions – plus an additional collection of new tracks featuring Bobby Rush ready for release in 2015 and beyond –at their home base in Southern California, Blinddog Smokin’ is loading up the bus. “Why don’t you help us make the right decision,” implores Bobby Rush on the Decisions title track. As they bear witness to their legacy of rocking roadhouse revelations, the band’s decisions are manifest. While there may be millions of miles in their bus’s rear view mirror, loyal fans and new converts alike will witness Blinddog Smokin’ burning up stages at destinations further on up the road.
— Dan Kimpel
Carl Gustafson – vocals/harmonica,
Chicago Chuck Gullens – drums/vocals,
Roland Pritzker – bass,
Morris “Mo” Beeks – keys/vocals,
Chris White – backup vocals,
Chalo Ortiz – guitar,
Linda Gustafson – backup vocals
Nathan Linegar – BiCoastal Productions – firstname.lastname@example.org – (212) 268-6969