Genre blending. Ragtime. Dixieland jazz. Rock. Swing. 1920s blues. Hot jazz. Preservationist. Time traveler. Vaudevillian glamor. Theatrical. Intoxicating.
Whatever you want to label it as, Blair Crimmins and The Hookers are just plain fun. It’s the kind of music that instantly puts a smile on your face. It’s the kind of music that makes your foot start to tap. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to get out of your seat, take your partner’s hand, and lead that person to the dance floor.
On Friday, Aug. 10, Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant will host Blair Crimmins and The Hookers, a national touring act featuring a modern twist on ragtime and 1920s Dixieland jazz. The band has toured the eastern United States, and has opened for Mumford & Sons and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Their current tour has taken The Hookers through Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York states.
“Jazz creates a musical challenge. In this genre, you also have the songwriting where I can write lyrics that have meaning and tell a story," Blair Crimmins stated over the phone before heading out on tour the other day. “The style of songwriting from that era I really connect with and I feel like I’m able to do this sincerely and authentically.”
As a multi-instrumentalist and Berklee College of Music graduate, Crimmins makes sure that every move and piece of this sound and image is intentional. He writes each song with a classic New Orleans horn section of trumpet, clarinet and trombone. Citing American greats such as Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter as inspirations, Blair Crimmins and The Hookers are a unique blend of that classic American jazz sound with a 1970s Harry Nilsson-like twist, rounded out with the newer, edgier songwriting of Tom Waits.
Based out of Atlanta, Blair Crimmins has been hookin’ since 2009. In 2010, The Hookers were the most requested band on the air for WRAS Atlanta. Crimmins was Creative Loafing’s critics pick for Best Songwriter of 2013, and the “Sing-a-longs!” album went to #21 on the EuroAmerican radio chart and earned him a nomination at The Georgia Music Awards for Best Jazz Artist.
Despite all the accolades and awards, Crimmins remains level-headed and grounded. “There will always be a show that brings you back down to earth,” Crimmins stated. “Getting out and touring and doing the legwork and seeing how difficult it is to survive out there will keep you pretty grounded. ... You gotta have a thick skin when on tour. You’ll have a Monday night in some town that you’ve never been to and you can’t expect a whole lot, but what else are you gonna do? Sit in a hotel room?”
“The most important thing in a new town is to find the right place, the right venue. When you find the right venue that people will trust, then you can count on the crowd being there. Basically, they’re just offering you a stage and you gotta do the rest.”
The style of music is fun with a capital F. Whether you are a little kid or an elder statesman, the mixture of horns, guitar, drums and banjo make you want to get up and dance. Or at least tap your toes. You can’t help it. It just seems natural.
Blair Crimmins and The Hookers also have a few music videos online: “You Gotta Sell Something,” “Top of the Class,” “It’s All Over Now,” and “State Hotel” are some of the videos that are available at the push of a button. They are all highly creative outlets for Crimmins to add to his songwriting in order to tell the story of each song.
“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Crimmins stated. “I utilize the people closest to me that have the talent to make something like that work. The videos are storyboarded - I write them myself - and then it goes through the all of the scheduling of shoots, costuming. You need people who can do all that to make it work.”
Next on the horizon for Crimmins is a children’s album. Teaming up with All Hands Productions founder and puppeteer David Stephens, Crimmins is putting together music for that project. “I’ve heard a lot of parents tell me that they have a kid that lights up whenever they play our songs or show them our videos,” Crimmins stated. “Writing songs with a children’s audience in mind presents a new set of challenges in songwriting and makes me think about my lyrical approach from a different perspective. It’s a little bit more about connecting with somebody in that age group, which is a fun thing to do.
“It’s not difficult to find your inner child and then have fun doing that. I don’t think there’s enough clever music for kids.” Crimmins said. “Ever since I can remember I wanted to play music.”
The second installment of the Live at Webb’s series is set for Friday, Aug. 10. Tickets are available online or by phone (716.753.3960). Cost for dinner and a concert is $49.95 per ticket, which includes a full dinner menu, including dessert, as well as the ticket for admission to see the performance. A cash bar will be available throughout the show.