Slide guitarist Ted Drozdowski is on a kind of musical crusade to save the blues from itself, so perhaps it's only appropriate the story of his band, The Scissormen, should begin with a pilgrimage.
Originally from Boston, Drozdowski spent years playing in rock, jazz and textural music bands before he began traveling to North Mississippi in 1990. There, he befriended and reveled in the music of (now-deceased) Delta and Hill Country blues stalwarts R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Jessie Mae Hemphill, among others.
Although he is a lifelong guitarist, Drozdowski said he held off playing with these artists for years out of a fear of soiling the blues on the holy ground of its birthplace.
"[R.L.] didn't even know I was a guitar player until I knew him for five years," he said. "A lot of people will run down there and immediately want to play with those guys.
"I didn't, because I didn't want to mess up their music. I respected them and respected their sound too much."
Although its roots stretch back further, Drozdowski said he formed The Scissormen in Boston in 2003 with drummer Rob Hulsman. Months after the band was founded, however, Hulsman joined another band, leaving Drozdowski to face the prospect of several years working with a rotating cast of sit-in drummers.
Drozdowski moved to Nashville four years ago, and in January, he found a permanent replacement for the kit when fellow Bostonian transplant Matt Snow joined him in Music City. Saturday, they will make their Chattanooga debut at JJ's Bohemia.
Drozdowski said his goal every night is to infuse his performances with vitality and verve while avoiding the all-too-common pitfall of phoning in a copycat performance.
"Too many blues artists play the blues in a rote fashion," he said. "To my thinking, that's really incorrect because anyone who is a real artist invests themselves in the music.
"I don't think I'm a genius, but I do think that when I play, it's me, and it sounds like me. That's what it should be."
What: The Scissormen (Ted Drozdowski and Matt Snow) with Peewee Moore and Mark "Porkchop" Holder.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday.
Where: JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd.
Venue website: www.myspace.com/jjsbohemia.