Daddy Long Legs: Going Back to the Roots of the Blues
The Brooklyn trio gets “Lowdown” on new album
Lowdown Ways, the third album from the mostly acoustic blues/rock trio Daddy Long Legs, is a deep dive into the sounds that gave birth to the blues. The band takes it’s cue from lo-fi, back porch music, imagining the blues as they might have been played in the days before recording technology became available.
“I think it takes a certain amount of guts to take the blues a step further back than traditional rock n roll,” says the band’s front man, guitarist and harmonica ace, Brian Hurd. “It’s not easy to pull off. There are only few out there that can do it well, but for us, there’s nothing more powerful.”
The band – songwriter, lead vocalist Hurd, Murat Akturk on slide guitar and Josh Styles, drums and percussion – is based in Brooklyn. They have two previous albums to their credit, but Lowdown Ways sees them coming into their own as writers, performers and recording artists. “We wrote most of the tunes over the course of two years,” Hurd says. “A lot of them were road tested, but my favorite songs on the album are the ones that were written in the studio at the time of the recording. I like the spontaneity of that stuff, rather than laboring over songs for too long.”
The songs on Lowdown Ways are primal, foot-stomping rave-ups. “Pink Lemonade” channels the growling sound of Howlin’ Wolf; “Ding Dong Dang” proves you can play acoustic music that rocks as hard as any electric band and “Célaphine” takes the blues to Cajun country with its swampy, supersonic groove. Hurd spoke to the Globe about the album, and his musical journey, between stops on the band’s current European tour.
VIDEO: “Lowdown Ways” by Daddy Long Legs
How did you get the nickname of Daddy Long Legs? Why did you use it for the name of the band?
Cuz I’m tall and I’m a creep? (Laughs) Actually, my friends used to call me that in high school. Later on, when I started to play the blues, I was looking for a name that fit the vibe of what we were doing. I always dug old bluesmen like Papa Lightfoot, Peg Leg Sam and Slim Harpo, so it seemed like the natchul choice.
You’re often tagged as punk blues. Do you have any thoughts about that label being applied to your music?
I don’t consider what we do to be punk blues, or blues thrash, or some other sub genre. We do our own thing. We’re Daddy Long Legs. Accept no substitutes. I’d say a lot of what we do resembles Rhythm & Blues. It’s a hip, up-tempo, minimal sound. There’s a fine line there, but for me, there’s a more desperate and dangerous feeling to that music and that’s what blows my hair back.
The band looks like it just stepped out of Carnaby Street in 1962. How did you develop your look?
My look is purely an American thing. I suppose the other guys take after some of their British influences, but all of our favorite artists always had the total look. The other guys have always been stylish and I wanted to emulate my razor sharp blues heroes. There’s no half steppin’ with us. It’s an assault on the senses!
Why did you record in Chicago, instead of your home base of Brooklyn?
Jimmy Sutton, our producer, built Hi Style Studios in the attic of his Chicago home. A lot of what we consider to be the top modern rock’n’roll records have been coming out of there. We knew if we were gonna work with Jimmy, we would want to do it at his place, rather than another studio in New York. Jimmy challenged us and made us come at things from a different angle. He led us out of our comfort zone and the collective juices began to flow, so to speak.
The album was made from tubes to tape, using old ribbon mics. The advantage for us was that it made the session more about a getting a good performance. There’s not a lot of room for mistakes or fixing stuff in post-production, so it just feels more real overall. We did all the basic tracks live and then added whatever instrumentation suited the song later. We basically lived in the studio and would begin work everyday at 9:00 am and go late into the night. We didn’t see much of Chicago because we were fully immersed in the process.
How did you decide to stay semi-acoustic and minimal?
There’s nothing heavier. Everyone’s searching for what’s been there all along. Look no further than Lightnin’ Hopkins or Mance Lipscomb. It’s all there.
Is there anything unique or different about your background?
I dropped out of high school, never went to college. I’ve never had a driver’s license. I’ve never been married and don’t have children. I don’t own a house, rent an apartment or have anything of value besides my guitars and record collection. I missed out on a lot of things in life that most people see as being important, but I chose this path and it’s been good to me.
VIDEO: “Pink Lemonade” by Daddy Long Legs
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