When I was about ten years old, my father taught me my first blues scale on the piano. Since then, I’ve loved playing the blues, no matter what rhythm section instrument you hand me. But I have always convinced myself that I’m a good but not great blues player only because I’m a Jewish kid from the upper Midwest, my middle class suburban upbringing preventing me from feeling the music fully.
My worldview was turned upside down this week when I started listening to Misha Siegfried and his band. One soulful slow blues, and I realized it is in fact a lack of talent or practice, and not demographics, that has been holding me back all these years.
Nothing is holding Misha Siegfried back. He plays the blues with the soul of someone… not from an upper Midwest Jewish upbringing. Except that is exactly who he is. Minnesotan born and proud member of the tribe, this cat can throw it down.
And fortunate for all of us, he is bringing his brand of guitar-driven blues to the Wild Tymes Palace Stage in St. Paul this Saturday evening, August 4. He is bring the kind of blues where you want to just sit in a corner, sip a little whiskey, close your eyes, and nod your head (although there will be plenty of up tempo pieces for the groovers in the crowd).
I asked Misha, who who grew up in St. Paul before moving to Milwaukee ten years ago, where his love of the blues came from. He told me about being 16 years old and going down to blues jams hosted by local blues legend Moses Oakland. “Moses ended up having a pretty profound impact on my musical education, and in a lot of ways is one of the reasons I ended up becoming a professional musician. He opened my eyes to the idea that Blues is a large and vastly faceted thing.”
That education led to a career that has included touring all over the country with various bands. As the leader of his own band, he has released his first album, “A Blues For Joy”, is the house band for a well-known Milwaukee club, and continues touring.
Which brings us back to his Wild Tymes gig this weekend.
Misha and his band will be taking the stage for two sets beginning at 11:45, after three other bands, featuring everything from folk to reggae, warm up the crowd. Need some incentive to go, take a listen to a few of his cuts on reverbnation.com and Facebook. If you have the same love of slow blues as me, then you definitely need to check out Chill Me To The Bone on MySpace. Need more incentive… no cover charge.
But while I plan to go to the show and thoroughly enjoyed the above track, I still needed help understanding how nice Jewish boys from Minnesota could really play the blues. Misha only needed to point me to a quote from the great Ray Charles… “If someone besides a black ever sings the real gut bucket blues, it’ll be a Jew. We both know what it’s like to be someone else’s footstool.” And Misha added, “Blues is the music of displaced people. The Blues is a feeling, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The blues is alive, and not just in the south side of Chicago or the Mississippi Delta. Head down to the Wild Tymes this Saturday, and hear how good a Jew can play the blues.