Adam Gussow never had any intention of performing as a one-man band, but the blues singer and harmonica player recently became just that, releasing a solo modern blues album to critical and commercial accolades.
“I’ve always had a good strong sense of rhythm,” said Gussow, associate professor of English and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi. For more than two decades, Gussow has performed as half the acclaimed blues duo of Satan and Adam, but he recently had an opportunity to step out on his own and work with Oxford producer Bryan Ward for “Kick and Stomp.”
“What I’m trying to do is something that is done rarely, and that would be to be a one-man band without guitar,” Gussow said. Most bands rely on guitars to provide the rhythm, but Gussow uses his voice, an amplified blues harp and a drum to produce distinctive thump-and-metal rhythms.
Gussow is set to perform Friday night (Oct. 29) at Red House Burgers and Blues, 302 South 11th St., Suite 100, in Oxford, to spotlight the album’s release. The show is set for 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission is free.
Since its release Sept. 15, “Kick and Stomp” (Modern Blues Harmonica) has spent two weeks atop the rankings for MP3 downloads in Amazon.com’s “Hot New Releases in Acoustic Blues” category. This week, it is at No. 2.
Gussow, a New York native who spent many years playing on the streets of Harlem, mixes a variety of blues into his solo debut, including traditional old blues, hill country blues, urban blues, jazz blues and his own unique twist on the genre.
“The material I do covers my fairly wide interests,” he said.
The album includes 14 tracks, some of which are covers of Gussow’s favorites. A rendition of B.B. King’s “Everyday I Have the Blues” is one of Gussow’s favorites on the album.
“When I play it, I think you really forget that there’s no guitar,” he said. “Part of what I’m doing is trying to get people to forget about what’s not there and just say, ‘Hey, that sounds great!’”
Other favorites of Gussow’s include the original “Shaun’s Song,” named after his son, and “Crossroads Blues,” an emotional tune by blues legend Robert Johnson.
For his release party, Gussow plans to focus on numbers from “Kick and Stomp” for the first set. For the second set, he will be joined by guitarist Andrew “Shine” Turner for some lowdown Mississippi blues.
“People will have a chance to see what I do, but also to hear a duo,” said Gussow, adding that he plans to work with Turner on some future collaborations.
In 1991 Gussow and his musical partner, Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, received a W.C. Handy award nomination for the Satan and Adam album “Harlem Blues.” Their other albums include “Mother Mojo” (Flying Fish, 1993), “Living on the River” (Flying Fish, 1996) and “Word on the Street: Harlem Recordings, 1989″ (Modern Blues Harmonica, 2008). Living Blues magazine featured the duo as its cover story in September/October 1996.
As a professor, Gussow specializes in blues literature and culture. An award-winning scholar, he is the author of three blues-themed books: “Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir” (University of Minnesota Press, 1998), “Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition” (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and “Journeyman’s Road: Modern Blues Lives form Faulkner’s Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York” (University of Tennessee Press, 2007).