Name: BOXCAR JOE STROUZER
Mission: PLAY BLUES, SEE WORLD
Joe and I met through another musician called John Fairhurst with whom I ended up getting a lift to Glastonbury Festival in 2013. Since I met them both Joe has moved to London and is busy pursuing his solo career as a blues musician.
Originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, Joe started playing harmonica aged 17, “A friend of mine returned from Hong Kong playing one and I wanted one too.” He carried it around in his pocket everywhere and taught himself how to play “and how to annoy my friends by playing it constantly!” Joe had trained as an actor but his passion for music overshadowed his acting career. He learnt a lot about blues from Gypsy Dave Smith, an Australian guitarist who had a residency in Newcastle on Pink Lane. “Gypsy Dave had two guitars he would play, a 1930’s Dobro, and an original Washburn parlour guitar from the turn of the 20th century. He would expertly play the songs of Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson and many more.” Joe has truly followed in his footsteps as he also plays on a parlour guitar or Dobro, although they’re not quite as rare as Dave’s.
Joe’s solo blues career started about 4 years ago after taking over a night from Dakota Jim at The George Tavern in Whitechapel. However, he was “also very busy playing harmonica in bands, for instance with The Goodtime Family and later with John Fairhurst who I toured with a hell of a lot.”
He moved to New Orleans last spring and needed to busk while living there. “I learnt from my friend Al how to catch a crawfish with a hotdog and a nail. You stick the nail in the hotdog and attach it to a piece of string, then put it in the bayou and the crawfish, drawn to the unbridled deliciousness of the hotdog, will grab on with their claws, at which point you just pull the string and whisk them up into a bucket. I loved the simplicity of it and so I wrote the song ‘Hotdog And A Nail’.”
A lot of Joe’s musical inspiration comes from blues artists such as RL Burnside and Blind Willie McTell. He was also hugely inspired by people he met travelling last year; “All the musicians down in New Orleans are incredibly talented, but they also have a wonderful embracing attitude towards other musicians, and are always keen to play together and share a stage with you.” He also had an opportunity to see Watermelon Slim and meet Deak Harp in Clarksdale, Mississippi. “Deak shared some harmonica tips with me on the bench outside his Mississippi Saxaphone And Blues Emporium. This gave me a whole new dimension to my playing and inspired me to build my electric harmonica rack for amplified playing hands-free.”
On harmonica, Joe was picked as London’s best busker by Vice Magazine and then did a collaboration with them, X Ambassadors and Jamie N Commons in their Made Underground series. He has also supported blues guitar legend Johnny Winter and performed all over the UK, Europe and America including Glastonbury Festival, Divan Du Monde in Paris, Made In America Festival in Los Angeles and The Bluesberry Cafe in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Since coming back to the UK Joe has been gigging solidly, “I perform because I want to share my music with people. That’s the most important side of it, I like a show to be an insight into my head.” He includes some old blues numbers in his sets “but they are all songs that are important to me. I like to tell people the stories behind them as I’m very interested in the history of music and the role music plays in our wider history.”
Joe has a lot of gigs coming up, so check out his website for a full listing! He also has plans to record and release an EP later on in the year, which will be his first studio solo recording. “I’m launching a new project on 6th February at London Remixed Festival. I’m doing a live Electro Blues show with my old partner in crime John Fairhurst and Reverend Rockwell (RebelTek founder and techno DJ Sterling Moss). It’s the first time we are doing a show that combines electronic beats with harmonica and electric guitar.” Check out Joe’s awesome latest video for ‘Hard Times, Rough Track’ below.