Chattanooga Now Blair Crimmins puts a fresh spin on ragtime

Chattanooga Now Blair Crimmins puts a fresh spin on ragtime

May 18th, 2017 by Susan Pierce in Chattnow Music

Blair Crimmins and The Hookers stop at JJ's Bohemia tonight.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

It's not unusual for a musician to claim a life-changing moment affected his music — but few mean a traumatic brain injury like Atlanta musician Blair Crimmins sustained.

Crimmins is a Gen-Xer who tested a variety of genres while growing up — classical, blues, rock, jazz, even studied jazz — and found success in all of them.

"While playing on a local level with a successful rock group, I got into an accident. After drinking a case of beer, I let my dog pull me on a skateboard and woke up three days later in Grady Memorial Hospital wondering why everyone was standing around looking at me," recalls Crimmins.

While recuperating, he realized he was tired of the music he'd been playing and needed a change.

If you go

› What: Blair Crimmins and The Hookers

› Where: JJ’s Bohemia, 231 E. M.L. King Blvd.

› When: 10 p.m. today, May 18

› Admission: $10 cover

› For more information: 423-266-1400

Coming up at JJ’s

› May 19: BTB, Creature Comfort

› May 20: Elkmilk

› May 21: Mudsex album release party with Genki Genki Panic

› May 23: Adventure Fight

› May 24: Open Mic Comedy

Note: All shows for ages 21 and older.

"I started listening to older jazz records that I hadn't dug into before — early Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, back when jazz was pop music. I started writing in that genre, and it felt perfect to me," he says.

That was 10 years ago, when Crimmins was 27. He started playing coffee shops and singer-songwriter venues while looking for musicians to build a full band.

Within two years, Blair Crimmins and The Hookers had a demo out. He started returning to some of those original haunts he had played as a solo act, this time bringing his band.

Tonight, they'll be at JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd., for a 10 p.m. performance.

What makes Crimmins' music different is 1) he writes clever, interesting lyrics that have a message, 2) he pairs those lyrics with ragtime/Dixieland music and 3) he ups the ante with a New Orleans-style horn section.

With him at JJ's will be Colin Agnew, drums; Justin Roberts, bass; Darren English, trumpet; Taylor Kennedy, sax; and Daniel Wytanis, trombone.

The band's fourth album, "You Gotta Sell Something," came out in February. The title track has a distinct vaudevillian sound, but the music is paired with commentary on commercialism and product placement.

"I'm not singing about hanging out in riverboats or jumping on freight cars. I just like the sound of that music. It's a sound that still has a lot of energy and connects with people today."

Blair Crimmins and The Hookers have opened for Mumford and Sons and for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In 2013, Crimmins was named Best Song Writer in Creative Loafing's Best of ATL issue. But he still won't claim he's made it.

"You have fans ... but there's always the next night, when you try someplace new and nobody knows you, and you realize how much work there still is to be done. You're somebody one minute, nobody the next."

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.