Big Head Blues Club, the spin-off blues project of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, recently released Way Down Inside, the second edition of its series of albums paying tribute to blues music and musicians. The first album by Big Head Blues Club was the 2011 record 100 Years of Robert Johnson, which was released during the year that would have marked Johnson’s 100th birthday.
Todd Park Mohr, the lead singer of the Big Head Blues Club and Big Head Todd and the Monsters, said that the band and its collaborators “put their heads together” and decided that blues legend Willie Dixon was the right person to pay tribute to this time around.
“First, for me, he’s a songwriter and a very underappreciated songwriter I might add. He’s one of the most important songwriters, I think, in American music. A lot of his songs have had an influence on rock n’ roll especially, in addition to blues,” Mohr said. “So as a writer I know when you have great songs you’re pretty much all the way there, so it was a very appealing idea to me for that reason.
“But also, I think he’s a really important blues figurehead because of the work that he did with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. His philosophy of writing that blues is a reflection of life, ‘the facts of life’ as he would say, make him a really compelling figure. And he has some songs that are really pertinent to today’s situation, so I think he’s a really relevant figure and it’s about time somebody did a tribute to him.”
Big Head Todd and the Monsters collaborate with blues musicians who are somehow connected to the musician they are paying tribute to for Big Head Blues Club. This time around they are joined by Mud Morganfield, Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Morganfield is the eldest son of blues legend Muddy Waters, Branch played in Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars band and Brooks is the son of Chicago blues master Lonnie Brooks.
Mohr said that Morganfield, Branch and Brooks are on the road with Big Head Todd and the Monsters for a tour that’s coming to The Music Center at Strathmore on Friday, Nov. 11. He said that it’s important for Big Head Blues Club to include musicians who have deep roots in blues music on the projects.
“I think that one of the most important features of blues music is celebrating the mentors of the tradition,” he said. “And, so, as opposed to pop music where you’re celebrating your originality or what a great writer or dancer somebody is, this is more of a communal thing. And recognizing where it comes from is almost as important as anything else.
“Being able to connect flesh and blood with somebody that was there or who grew up with the tradition is really an important part of it. So it’s been a really strong feature of these projects.”
Way Down Inside, which is currently available for digital download, took five days to record in what turned out to be an emotionally charged set of recording sessions. Mohr said that people were teary-eyed during the recording of “It Don’t Make Sense (You Can’t Make Peace).”
“That song lyrically it’s telling the country that if we have such great technology and achievement as human beings, that it doesn’t make sense that we can’t make peace,” Mohr said. “And what’s the point of all this if we just waste it on times like this. I think it’s an incredible question and if you want to look into that question deeply, you’ll understand a lot about human beings, a lot about life and it’s very timely.”
• For more information about Big Head Blues Club, visit bigheadtodd.com.