“The gypsy woman told my mama
Before I was born,
`You gonna have a boy chile comin´
And he´ll be a son of a gun.
He´s gonna makes pretty woman
Jump and shout
And the world gonna know
What´s this all about…..”
From “Hoochie Coochie Man
As recorded by Muddy Waters
For Steven Seagal, life has come full circle. He had to reach the highest pinnacle of success in two separate careers (acting and Martial arts) before focusing on the career he has always envisioned for himself since being a young boy: that of a professional blues artist.
Comfortably cruising through his middle years, and still very much at the top of his game as an actor, film producer, and martial arts icon, Seagal is now back where he started: on the stages of smoke-filled nightclubs and other venues where that purely American art-form, the blues, can be heard night after night.
“This is not something new for me”, he says, “My first artistic endeavour was playing music, and that was blues. It is something that has always been natural to me”.
Thought best known as one of Hollywood´s most successful action film superstar, Seagal is finally putting a concentrated effort to developing his professional music career. Although still active in his writing, producing, and acting in feature films, Seagal has spent the last year assembling his touring blues band, (Thunderbox) ; writing, producing and recording Mojo Priest, a celebration of the legendary Delta blues genre.
Mojo Priest is a blistering 14-song set, that honours the last of the Delta Blues legends. From the gritty “My Time Is Numbered (which tells us “to stop self ignorance and wake up before we´re gone)” through the hauntingly “Dark Angel,” (which speaks of the inevitable closure that comes with death); Seagal wrote all but three songs on Mojo Priest. He was joined on the cord by such blues legends as Ruth Brown, Robert Lockwood Jr., Ko Ko Taylor, James Cotton, Bo Diddley, Willie “Pine Top” Perkins and Hubert Sumlin, (Who played with Muddy Waters, and for 25 years, with Howling Wolf).
Mojo Pries also has a handful of classic blues tracks (including Seagal´s distinct remake of “Little Red Rooster”; the Elmore James staple, “Dust My Broom;” and the Waters mainstay, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” originally written by Willie Dixon.
“It was a dream come true to work with these blues legends, many of whom I had played with before the making of this record,” says Seagal. “Ruth Brown knew about my love for the blues and Robert Lockwood Jr. knew of it, as well. They wanted to work with me on this project, because they were aware I was going to make an authentic blues album; not a rock album with a blues fee.”
The album is dedication to Muddy Waters (and the other blues legends) came about, in part, because Seagal used much of the legends own band on this record, most notably, Herbert Sumlin. Seagal believes Sumlin is possibly “the most important living blues guitar player, alive today.” Sumlin returned the compliment by saying, “Steven can play, man. If you watch his fingers, his fingers are just like mine. We not only got ways alike – we plays alike. That´s my son. He´s my brother.”
Mojo Priest is the follow-up to his World Music album “Songs From The Crystal Cave”, a #1 seller in France, and Seagal´s first attempt at releasing an international album.
“This is really the album I wanted to record and release, initially,” he says. “But everyone told me: “Don´t make a blues album because it won´t sell,” But, now, I made the record I wanted to make because blues is my real passion, and I´ve always wanted to do a blues record. That´s what I did first (making this music) is what I wanted to do with my life. So, here it is”
“It is what it is,” says Seagal, of his desire to spend his time improving his craft of making Blues music, rather than live in the very public spotlight that is the world of celebrity-dom “I love to be low key and stay out of the lime light,”
Born in Lansing, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, Seagal grew up in a mostly Black neighbourhood and was exposed to a plethora of blues music at a very young age.
Before his teens, his family came to LA. “I was playing drums and guitar as a young boy, which I picked up from friends. I finally got a guitar given to me at the age of 12.”
It was while growing up near Detroit that Seagal came to know and love the blues.
“The blues was kind of dead in the South at that time.” He remember. “But, in Detroit, the blues was very much alive. After World War II, many blues legends left coal mines an cotton fields in the south and came across Route 23 to work in the steel mills and in the auto factories. Across the street from where I grew up there lived this old blues player. He was not a famous guy, but he had hung around all those legendary players and he played as good as all of them.”
“You know, BB King once said “Greatest blues players of all time; many of them people never heard their names or knew of them. But, they were great, nonetheless” Many of the labels up North grabbed these poor black guys and victimized them. They didn´t care about getting rich and famous they just wanted to play the blues.”
By the time he was a young teen, Seagal was an accomplished player and through his friends and neighbours, he was able to see such legends as Freddy King, Albert King and Albert Collins perform. Later in life, while developing this film career, Seagal would hang out and jam with many of these greats, as well as BB King and John Lee Hooker.
“I got to meet those guys and played with them. My strongest influence was Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. He taught me a lot about the blues. I got to play with these legendary people that I know, I was lucky I got to play the juke joints and the bars” (Brown, who became one of Seagal´s closest friends in the blues world, unfortunately did last year as a result of injuries suffered during Hurricane Katrina):
Seagal´s journey through the winding roads of the blues that lead him to Mono Preist is an odd one, to say the least.
As a young teen he tried to absorb any blues music he could. Living in mixed racial neighbourhoods, he says, indoctrinated him toward the musical life he is currently living. “I was colour blind,” says Seagal. “I always felt like I was part of that community and part of that family. But many of those people rally suffered. It was a rough life living on the blues circuit.”
In the 60s, while other kids his age were immersed in the psychedelic British blues-rock scene, Seagal remained true to his roots. “I never liked rock,” he recalls. “I wanted to hear the real blues. I could appreciate what those acts like Cream were doing because it did bring the blues to a wider mainstream market, but I had always been more excited about the blues in it´s original state.”
Conflicts at home forced Seagal to leave while still in his mind teens. By then, his love for the blues was only equalled in his love for martial arts, which he had begun to study. Says Seagl: “I went to Japan when I was still a teenager, because I needed to learn from the masters. I trained in martial arts and to sustain myself, I taught English.”
With exceptional skills in Aikido, Karate, Judo and Kendo, Seagal studied Zen in Japan and was the first American to have opened a martial arts studio in the Asian Country. He remains a regular visitor, even thought he now lives and works mostly in the U.S. “I am back in the orient 3 or 4 times per year, and I always love it “
Seagal came back to America to live in 1985 and opened a martial arts academy in Los Angles. Soon after he was asked to created the carefully choreographed scenes required for the action film some of his clients were making. Before long, his natural good looks and street-wise demeanor began getting noticed by film producers and directors. Soon, Seagal was, himself, acting in action films, beginning in 1986 with Above The Law.
“In 1985, I had a lot of offers to do movies and I got into doing them, bit it was not what I had intended on doing with my life. I thought it was strange.”
Eventually Seagal would be seen starring in and producing over 20 films, which earned him millions in box office receipts. He used much of that money to fund a number of charity causes, including his own “Save A Million Lives” organization, which has built villages and aided third world-country children who have been orphaned as a result AIDS.
Seagal´s success in Hollywood gave him the wherewithal to acquire one of the world´s greatest guitar collections. With hundreds rare and vintage guitars to his name, Seagal certainly had the tools he needed to perfect his blues artistry.
While he was working year after year developing his film career, he also took time to further explore his love for the blues. “ I think I have several hundred guitars now, including an incredible tobacco sunburst Gibson 345 from the late Freddy King. I have guitars that had belonged to Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix and BB King, among others.”
In May of 2006, Seagal and his band, Thunderbox, took to the road to promote Mojo Priest. He and the band did 42 shows in every show Seagal & Thunderbox brought the house down. Adds Seagal. “I plan to hit the road again as soon as I can. There is nothing like playing the blues live fro a willing audience.”
These days. Seagal spends half his time making films and the other half, committed to his blues music projects. “I try to be kind and considerate of the people involved in my life,” he says of his interest to continue making successful action film.
For the time begin, he plans to focus on playing the blues and getting Mojo Preist heard by as many music fans as possible.
“The blues is a feeling that comes from deep inside a person, “ He says. “For many people, just listening to the blues can be an emotional release, if not a life changing spiritual experience. That is why I love it so much”. STEVEN SEAGAL.
Steven Seagal’s „Mojo Priest,“ features blues classics („Hoochie Coochie Man,“ „Dust My Broom“) as well as Steven’s own compositions, including „Talk to My Ass“. The songs are performed by Seagal along with a line-up that includes blues luminaries of the Muddy Waters Band– Ruth Brown, James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Robert Lockwood Jr, Hubert Sumlin and “the one and only” Bo Diddley.
“Mojo Priest’s” – fast shuffles („BBQ“), funky R&B („Love Doctor“), slow blues („Slow Boat to China“) and New Orleans second-line rhythms („Talk to My Ass“) – is a great introduction to the well known Hollywood actor and musician STEVEN SEAGAL
“This guy can play a fine guitar! Seagal has a bunch of smokin‘ licks in his fingers. He also knows his blues. Mojo Priest is a hot chili pepper that’s a great CD to pump up at your next party or BBQ. Hot stuff!”— John A. Wilcox / ProgSheet.com