Handcrafted blues

When the five guys of 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs strolled on stage with handcrafted guitars, the other bands at the Magic City Blues Festival should have known they were in trouble.

“I think there was a great visual aspect there,” said lead singer Bruce Andrews of Alabaster. “The other bands, they were all great, but when you see the same electric guitars over and over and then a bunch of guys walk in with instruments made from trees, I think people take notice.”

Bassist Jack Dudley of crafted the instruments himself. He also built Dave Gowen’s Kajon, or Peruvian drum box, and George Dudley’s lap steel guitar, made from Cyprus knees. James Dudley played a Samsonite suitcase drum kit.

Percussionist Dave Gowens said he thinks the band’s authenticity put them above their competitors.

“From what we understand the judges felt what we did was authentic,” said Gowens. “It was the blues, but it was original. According to the judges we also really looked the part.”

2Blu and The Lucky Stiffs took away the win at the Magic City Blues Festival at Rogue Tavern July 25. They will now head to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis Jan. 20-23, 2010.

For Andrews, this is his third year to compete in the IBC. Last year, he took an eight-piece band with horns, another year he and George Dudley of Columbiana competed as a duo group. Andrews has been playing music for 30 years. He said he loves playing with The Lucky Stiffs because they truly love the music.

“There are people who worry about what other people think to the point where no personality comes through,” Andrews said. “Music isn’t a competition — it’s an art form. When the first downbeat is heard we’re having a great time.”

He said the three Dudleys in particular have amazing chemistry. He said he and Dave just let them go off in their own musical world.

“You almost have to hold them back so they don’t go off in a direction you can’t follow,” Andrews said. “Dave and I, meanwhile, we stay up front trying to get the crowd into it.”

Gowens said the music keeps him into it.

“The music itself is all fresh,” he said. “It’s not the same old tired blues. The lyrics — there’s usually a story there.”

Andrews and George Dudley write a majority of the songs. Andrews said the lyrics they put on paper come from their life experiences.

“We’re all Christian so some of that bleeds through,” he said. “If you are going to write honestly that’s going to show.”

They also have a song simply titled “Goin’ Fishin.’” And that’s what it is — a song about a bunch of guys going fishing. They have more than a dozen original songs they play on a regular basis.

“I think there is some music you listen to on a CD and can say, ‘I don’t need to see that live,’” Andrews said. “Our music isn’t like that, it always changes based on the venue or our moods.”

The band will play in a variety of venues this fall. They are set to play a benefit for the Homeless Veterans of America at Workplay Aug. 28. They will then travel to Hot Springs, Ark., to play at a festival Sept. 4 and finally set up to play with Bo Bice at Function at the Junction Sept. 26 at the Helena Amphitheater.

For more information about 2BLU and The Lucky Stiffs, visit 2blumusic.com.