Interview with guitarist Rich Russman of Shakin’ Woods, a Washington, DC based blues band with funk n’ rock feeling.
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you and your audience. As a band, Shakin’ Woods is just beginning, but as musicians each of us has been around-the-block. We see the cyclical nature of what can be popular at any given moment. Sometimes, Blues and Rock seems lower on that list, and sometimes it’s higher, but it never goes away. We all just press on, stay humble, and continue to do what we believe in. That seems to be a good way to deal with many things in this world.
How do you describe Shakin’ Woods sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
We try to be powerful, saturated, and energetic. Our philosophy is to experiment with the many variations of Blues music, and it has led to a working repertoire of originals and covers that span almost 100 years and many sub-genres. Our creative drive comes from loving our music, and trying to perform it better every time we get together.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Well, I remember our show in early March of 2020 at a small club in Middleburg, Virginia. The news of COVID had started to explode and I had this feeling that things were really about to get bad, so I thought maybe this was the last time we were going to be playing for a while. It was sad because it was only like our 3rd show and we had put a lot of work into building a good band. Every time we get together for jams, it is really an energetic, unique experience. Sometimes we sound great, and sometimes we recognize areas for improvement, but we always have fun. It’s all about the camaraderie.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss this — plug in, turn it up, and PLAY!! Today, there is so much that has to happen before plugging in, and a lot of times you have to be cautious about turning up. I don’t have much fear about the future, because I know that so many people are dying to get out and hear live music again on a regular basis.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would give every live music venue the ability to safely re-open, and give every musical act a full touring calendar.
What would you say characterizes Washington DC blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
We desire to tour Europe more than any other blues scene does in the US.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
I guess happiness does not always follow success; happiness leads to success… just do what you love. I also recognize the importance of everything outside the band that is required for success; sound and lighting engineers, producers, club owners, booking agents, PR and marketing people, and supportive friends and family…
What is the impact of Blues n’ Rock on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?
The cultural history of the Blues is a microcosm of American history. So many great things about this country have come about as a result of the voices and actions of the underprivileged or disenfranchised. But I try not to overthink these things, because I certainly didn’t start any of that. So, I just want to preserve it all, and the best way to do that for me is to just go out and play music that we love, and hope that people have a good time. The best memories in my life are from either attending or performing at live music events. It’s all about having fun for me.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Maybe if I could line up a night in Chicago, late 1950s or early 1960s, where I could bar-hop and see Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James. That’d be a good bang for my buck.
Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Arazo Media