Over the years, Atlanta has been home to a plethora of music lovers who enjoy vintage sounds, and a pocket of the city’s music scene includes a number of acts specializing in rockabilly and old-school country. Blair Crimmins & the Hookers, however, go farther back, capturing fans with music influenced by the sounds of the early 20th century: ragtime and Dixieland.
Each performance by the band is filled with raucous energy that infectiously spreads throughout audiences. “I think it really kinda clicked with the rockabilly crowd that we have here in Atlanta and some of the people who are really into classic country and rockabilly,” Crimmins said. “They heard it and really dug it. There was nobody in Atlanta doing what we’re doing.”
Crimmins’ musical focus has not always been the sounds of the past. Even though he studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music, Crimmins returned to Atlanta with a desire to exchange jazz for rock ‘n’ roll. After spending time in the rock world, Crimmins became disillusioned; for him, being in a rock outfit meant looking for a record deal, which meant concentrating on more superficial aspects than the music itself.
Around that time, Crimmins also had a life-changing accident. One night, he was partying late with friends and decided to let his American bulldog pull him around a parking lot on his skateboard. Crimmins took a fall and woke up three days later in Grady Memorial Hospital. When he returned to the world of rock, he found himself unsatisfied with the nature of the scene.
“I just didn’t connect anymore with the music that I was making or the scene,” Crimmins explained. “I wanted to do something that really required everything that I had, instead of just going through the motions and being this rock thing. I wanted to really work hard and use every bit of inspiration that I could muster and just work harder than ever on music.”
In addition to his previous work, Crimmins will entertain his SouthSounds audience with cuts from his latest album, “You Gotta Sell Something.” While Crimmins’ latest release maintains its fun and energetic nod to ragtime and Dixieland, “You Gotta Sell Something” delves into more modern influences, which is mission accomplished for the frontman. Crimmins says he tries to avoid being “a total throwback band or a band that makes the sound retro.” To accomplish this feat on “You Gotta Sell Something,” Crimmins decided to concentrate more on music and lyrics than arrangements. He wanted each song to be able to “stand alone” if he was playing piano or guitar. In addition, Crimmins concentrated on other sonic aspects to nourish his musical evolution.
“On previous albums, I leaned a lot onto the band for the songs and instrumental hooks,” Crimmins said. “For this one, there’s horn parts and solos, but the horn parts are prearranged kind of stuff. There’s not as many shout choruses. I also wanted to showcase myself more as a songwriter. As an instrumentalist, there’s more guitar and banjo solos than other records.”
Those who venture into the world of Blair Crimmins & the Hookers should be ready to shed their cares. The band’s last robust performance in Mobile was filled with energy. Crimmins and his crew will mix and mingle Dixieland, bebop, ragtime and whatever else they have in their aural arsenal. Alchemy’s Old Mobile ambiance should mesh perfectly with Crimmins’ old-school sounds.