The Robert Johnson Business Model for becoming a career blues musician:*
- Meet the devil at crossroads near midnight
- Have him tune and play your guitar
- Return home, much improved, albeit without your soul
*according to legend
Business Model for becoming a career blues musician:**
- Practice six hours a day and then play as many as five shows a week
- Secure an investor
- Promote yourself on Twitter, MySpace, and your website, and look for sponsorship and licensing opportunities
You probably have a few questions:
- Is Twittering equivalent to selling your soul? Possibly.
- Is the Hambone Model less cool than the Robert Johnson one? Not if you saw the cute blonde nursing student who interrupted my conversation with Hambone to say how much she enjoyed one of his shows. (Plus, Johnson suffered a painful death, possibly the result of drinking poisoned whiskey.)
- Who the hell is Hambone?
Nick Hamstra was living in Bloomington, Ind., when Curtis Crawford, an accomplished blues musician who's played with the likes of David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Homesick James, came into town. "He taught me how to play blues basically, in a roundabout way, by hanging around with him," Hambone said. "He called me 'Hambone.'"
Before then? "I was still playing blues, but I didn't know where I was going with it," said Hambone, who first started teaching himself to play the guitar at 17.
While a lanky, middle-class, white blues musician from Indianapolis who looks even younger than he really is (25) might seem derivative by definition, Hambone has a unique sound. While most of his music is rightfully categorized as blues, he's not forcing it onto that shelf.
"If you don't steal nothing, you don't create nothing," Hambone said. "It's got to come from somewhere. It doesn't just come out of the darkness."
And as his latest release, Gasoline
, demonstrates, he has range.
I downloaded the 15 tracks after seeing him play live twice. Expecting a steady stream of blues like his shows, I got an album that started off that way but later included rock, acoustic, country and folk as well. While that variety wasn't what I was expecting, the tracks lived up to my high expectations. Even in a city deep with musical talent, Hambone deserves your attention.
Hambone will be mixing it up this weekend too. Usually it's just him and drummer/backup singer John Hays on stage. This Saturday at 10 p.m., however, Hambone is "bringing the full experience, the full band, the band of gypsies" to Gerstle's
(3801 Frankfort Ave.).
In addition to Louisville, the Germantown resident plays regularly in Southern Indiana, Iowa and Mississippi.
Fittingly for a musician whose main genre originated as work songs, Hambone takes a blue-collar approach to his job. He plays as many as five shows a week -- he's got four scheduled this weekend -- and spends his days on his laptop in coffee shops throughout town rather than sleeping it off.
Recently his efforts have focused on his posting video blogs on his Web site
, as well as trying to keep up with Twitter
"I'm trying to make the business work," he said. "I want to be inside it every day."
"I have the best job in the world," Hambone said.
I couldn't disagree -- the blonde nursing student had kept looking over at our table throughout the hour we were talking.