Q&A with Texas-based Scott “Janky” Lindsey – music with lopsided, janky sound focused on having a good time
“I feel blues these days is really too broad. Most of what people refer to as the blues is nothing more than rock and roll. Contemporary blues for the most part has become too predictable. The important thing about the blues is to make it your own. This is very, very challenging.”
Janky: The Power of Texassippi Groove
Texas-based songwriter/singer/guitarist “Janky” or Scott Lindsey, digs deep into the roots of the blues while adding respectful touches that would hopefully appease the great blues legends like Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, John Lee Hooker, RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Reverend KM Williams. These days the blues genre is far from its roots and most people have never heard the real blues. Janky doesn’t intend on sounding just like his inspirations, be it impossible anyway. Janky, interprets and jumps off from the roots of blues music. Janky is originally from Shreveport, La. but mow resides in Austin, TX after a long stay in Dallas after college. Besides recording music in his studio, Janky, currently plays guitar and sings for The 1969s and Them Grackles. He also plays bass for the amazing Trainreck and is currently under the music tutelage of Reverend KM Williams.
Janky has released his second self-produced CD, “Holly Springs, TX” (2018). The title and music are drawn from Janky’s influences from the music of Holly Springs, MS — the juke joint blues styles of David “Junior” Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Janky leans more on the Hill Country Blues side (R.L. Burnside) than Cotton Patch Soul Blues (Junior Kimbrough) but both styles are represented on this release. Holly Springs, TX is so titled since Robert Kimbrough Sr., son of Junior Kimbrough and Holly Springs, MS resident, plays drums on all but three tracks played by Janky himself. Robert’s drum beats add a legitimacy and a certain level of “oomph” to Janky’s guitar riffs. Janky has his longtime blues traveler David “Hurricane” Hayden on harmonica, as well as old The 1969s bandmate, Landon Kirksey. Third Janky’s CD “Hill Country Foot Stomp” in the works. Also, Janky is honored to have Kinney Kimbrough, son, and drummer for the great Junior Kimbrough play drums on his 4th coming CD. 8 Songs were recorded focusing on Janky’s Hill Country feel with a heavy smattering of the Kimbrough cotton patch soul-blues of which Kinney is a founder with his dad.
What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?
My mentor Reverend KM Williams taught me a lot about the blues and myself. The main things I wanted to learn from the Rev was how to be simple and how gospel music fits into the blues. I have a tendency to complicate things and the best blues is not complicated. Some of the best songs revolve around one simple groove and never change keys or chord positions like many of R.L. Burnside’s songs. To me, the blues is innate to mankind. It is the music of our soul. Our internal systems and psyche are tuned to feel blues music. The pentatonic scale that is the foundation of the blues structure is a mathematical anomaly in music yet is so simple in the way it fits into the sound of the blues. There is nothing better than the sounds made from a tortured soul that manifests in the form of the BLUES. (See, I got a little complex there but it is simple at heart. Sorry.)
How do you describe your songbook and sound? Where does your creative drive come from?
I focus my songbook and sound on making people move. I rely on the power of a groove. Being a guitar player, all of my songs revolve around a guitar riff with the drums and beat being the glue that makes it sticky to a listener. I learned how to milk a groove from Reverend KM Williams. Don’t change it if the crowd is moving. My sound is closest to North Mississippi Hill Country Blues. I like to say that the drums are the most important thing in my music. I saw Terry “Harmonica” Bean once while in Clarksdale, MS and he told a childhood story of the Mississippi Delta musicians battling the North Mississippi Hill Country musicians, and the people in attendance were the judge on who was to win. He said the Hill Country musicians always won because they had a better groove and beat that just makes people move. I focus my music on those grooves that make people stomp a foot, bob a head and wiggle hips. Many of my guitar riffs are very percussive, almost as if I am playing drums on my guitar. This creates that danceable groove.
These riffs come out of nowhere. I have thousands of riffs saved that I pull from and create songs with. A lot of my content comes from my research into early life in America as well as things I overhear in our culture. God just hands a lot of this stuff to me.
“The Texas music scene is strong and diverse. I just moved to Austin, TX where the blues has a great legacy. I came from Dallas which also has a massive blues heritage. Robert Johnson recorded half his catalog in Dallas. I played on the location where Robert recorded which is now an empty, gutted building.” (Photo: Janky & Reverend KM Williams)
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Reverend KM Williams was a huge influence on me. He requested that my past band, The 1969s, open for him at a big gig. He said The 1969s had a great sound and feel. We became friends after that gig and I said, “I want to play bass for you in your band.” By doing so, I learned first-hand the simplest parts of the blues via a great blues musician. The bass lies behind the guitar and under the groove locked in with the drummer. I played with the Reverend for years on several CDs which I also produced and engineered. I also played all over Mississippi and Texas with the Rev. The first time he took me to Mississippi, I rode with him in his truck and we left Dallas at about 9pm. It was just the two of us. First he talked about scripture and schooled me on many aspects of the Word. Then around 1am he moved into the blues. It was a long, great ride. I will forever remember that drive and the feeling of my brain being plugged into such a flow of wisdom.
The first time he came to my house, I said, “I want you to teach me to play simple.”
He replied, “It’s all in your feet.”
I said, “Uhhh, what? My feet?”
We went into my studio and he grabbed a guitar and one of my foot stomp boxes. He then showed me how the beat and rhythm of your feet can guide the guitar. He said, “Go listen to the Hooker in Heat album. On some of the tracks you can hear John Lee Hooker tapping out the beat with his feet. You will hear the connection between your feet and hands.” I have since segued this into playing foot-drums at a lot of gigs when drummers aren’t available.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would love to see and hear more old school gospel music like Como Mamas and less rock and roll music that is referred to as the blues. I would also love to see more of the old guys that are still alive become more successful like RL Boyce. (He almost won a Grammy so we are on the right track.)
“These riffs come out of nowhere. I have thousands of riffs saved that I pull from and create songs with. A lot of my content comes from my research into early life in America as well as things I overhear in our culture. God just hands a lot of this stuff to me.”
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Another great association is my connection to the Kimbrough brothers (David, Kinney and Robert). Robert and I are very close friends. He played drums on my 2nd CD, Holly Springs, TX. We also just won 2019 AMG Album of the Year on his last CD that I produced, engineered and played lead guitar on. Every year there is a festival in Holly Springs, MS called the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Blues Fest. This is my favorite festival ever year. It is a three day event with all the live performances happening on Sunday. Friday and Saturday evenings are 100% juke. On these nights you will have a smattering of the best blues musicians in the world all playing music together. Real-deal Mississippi royalty like the Kimbrough brothers, Duwayne Burnside, Garry Burnside, Cameron Kimbrough, Trenton Ayers and many more. On one of these nights, I was leading the jam and Kinney Kimbrough walked into the room. I asked him to come play drums for me. It was sort of a bucket list item for me to play Junior Kimbrough songs with the drummer that played on most of those classic recordings. He did so and a highlight was the song “Lord, Have Mercy On Me,” which sounds like a simple song but is not. There are late accents all over that song. It is one of the hardest songs for drummers to get. I am also pleased to announce Kinney played drums on my fourth, yet to be released CD that is already in the can called Kudzu, Cotton & Corn Liquor. In that session I would ask Kinney, “What would Junior do here?” He helped me form the songs’ flow and riffs.
I also played Club 2000 in Clarksdale, MS and the energy was so explosive in the band, crowd and staff of the bar. The staff was so busy dancing you would have a hard time getting a beer.
What would you say characterizes Texas blues scene in comparison to other US local scenes?
The Texas music scene is strong and diverse. I just moved to Austin, TX where the blues has a great legacy. I came from Dallas which also has a massive blues heritage. Robert Johnson recorded half his catalog in Dallas. I played on the location where Robert recorded which is now an empty, gutted building. I also created the Dallas Blues Scene Facebook group which now has over 1000 musicians and fans. I love the close family feel among the musicians. Social media has done a great job of connecting like-minded musicians. We all play different music but love to connect over the blues.
“It is unmistakable that blues music is a creation of the early African Americans in the south. It is 100% an American creation coming out of the cotton fields and derived from the rhythms of Africa. I grew up in the south in Louisiana and have seen racism firsthand. I feel racism is a tool of the weak minded. I feel that many early blues musicians were ripped off.”
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Great question. I think the old days of jukes are mostly gone. There are a few places that still understand the importance of musicians just setting up and playing for people (Juke Joint Fest). In the old days, a guitarist would just set up in the corner and play using the wood floor as a beat. No big production. No stage. No P/A. Maybe singing through an amp. Drinking moonshine and just playing the blues. This is why I like to busk on the street. People just flat out enjoy the music. There is no pressure or cover charge. I love this. It is just making music. I have a great memory of this type of juking. At the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Festival one year, we were all hanging out in the daytime in the shade outside the venue called The Hut in Holly Springs, MS. The Hut is located in a neighborhood so a lot of Holly Springs locals were hanging out with us drinking beer and ‘shine. I started playing Po Black Maddie on an acoustic that One Hand Dan had and all the musicians joined in trading off singing. Then the locals who were not musicians started singing verses and choruses. I loved that because they sang it in a way, I had never heard but they most likely grew up hearing it that way. It was epic. These were people that spent a lot of time in real juke joints.
I feel blues these days is really too broad. Most of what people refer to as the blues is nothing more than rock and roll. Contemporary blues for the most part has become too predictable. The important thing about the blues is to make it your own. This is very, very challenging. It is easy to play a Muddy Waters’0 song but to think you sound like Muddy is a dive into musical delusion. (Photo: Janky & Robert Kimbrough)
“I would go to Holly Springs, MS and hang out at Junior’s Juke Joint in its hay day, it has since burned down. I would hang out with Junior and RL Burnside. A few years back the Kimbrough brothers told me that I am a Kimbrough brother. That was such an honor. I would love to play bass for Junior and RL on a few songs but mostly just dance to the best blues on the planet with the locals and drink cheap beer.”
What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?
It is unmistakable that blues music is a creation of the early African Americans in the south. It is 100% an American creation coming out of the cotton fields and derived from the rhythms of Africa. I grew up in the south in Louisiana and have seen racism firsthand. I feel racism is a tool of the weak minded. I feel that many early blues musicians were ripped off. I know the Willie Dixon estate sued Led Zeppelin and won – rightly so. I feel that the blues pulls the races together these days. As a white person, I have been accepted into blues communities with many that I admire and hold with high respect. When I play gigs, I sing the praises of the old musicians that created this. I try and promote these musicians and explain that I am merely playing the music of other that I love. I am blessed that my love for the blues has allowed me to become friends with musicians that I admire. I also started my record label as a non-profit. I record those great musicians that I like at no cost. So the album that won AMG Album of the Year cost Robert Kimbrough $0 and I take no royalties. I even paid the drummer out of my pocket. God blessed me with a studio, I love to spread what he gave me. I have produced 5 of Reverend KM Williams CDs costing him $0. I produced EJ Mathews breakout CD costing him $0. I am working on setting my studio up in a building in Clarksdale during a festival and recording the old blues guys there who do not have the means to get music out. I will charge nothing for this and partner with someone like CD Baby so these musicians can get products they can sell and make royalties on.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Oh that’s easy. I would go to Holly Springs, MS and hang out at Junior’s Juke Joint in its hay day, it has since burned down. I would hang out with Junior and RL Burnside. A few years back the Kimbrough brothers told me that I am a Kimbrough brother. That was such an honor. I would love to play bass for Junior and RL on a few songs but mostly just dance to the best blues on the planet with the locals and drink cheap beer.