A few years ago, in a dressing room at Smith’s Olde Bar In Atlanta, Col. Bruce Hampton told me about the time when, as a teenager, he met Muddy Waters.
“Mr. Waters,” he said, “you’re my favorite guitar player. You’re my favorite singer, too.”
Muddy Waters said, “I’m not a singer. I’m not a guitar player. What I do is put the devil in the room.”
And that’s it right there, the musician’s job –- not to be a tool of Satan of course (we try for a more positive spirit), but to connect human souls together through a feeling in the room. Music is not just about the notes any more than literature is about the words or painting is about the paint. Technique is important, but with a weak or false heart even the best technique accomplishes nothing.
In Germany this tour we’re playing all sorts of venues: community centers, cellar nightclubs, a music festival, a converted train station, a former dynamite factory and a thousand-year-old inn in the Bavarian woods. The other night we got so hot on stage that salt lines formed on my shirt cuffs. My head was splitting. My guitar wouldn’t stay in tune. Mark was struggling with his amp. We couldn’t hear ourselves sing. “Everyone told me they enjoyed the concert,” the promoter said later. “They said the music made them feel good.”
We did our job. And, dammit, we felt good too.