ALEXANDRIA, VA – Living on Music Host Steve Houk returned to his “ soul roots” in an interview with revered local musician Sol Roots that was taped on October 9th and released this past week. Houk counts an interview with Buddy Guy as one of his favorite journalistic moments ever and is an avid blues fan, so the pair had much to talk about.
Hailing from North Carolina, Sol Roots is a pre-eminent blues rocker who has opened for BB King among many other legends. Through his involvement in the Music Maker Relief Foundation, his record productions and his performances, his mantra is to bring ancient melodies to the present
Surviving the Pandemic
Locally, Sol Roots has been playing on Thursday nights since JV’s re-opened in Falls Church this past summer since Virginia went into Phase III. While he has been doing a lot of live streams, he has helped open up a lot of venues including Downtown Martin’s in Roanoke and he also is slated to play a sold out gig (with limited attendance) when the Hamilton (in D.C.) reopens on October 23rd. He is also doing the State Theater in Falls Church towards the end of the month.
“You seem to be doing well with your ability to convey music on your own terms,” Houk observed.
He’s also doing a few outdoor events in Northern Virginia but couldn’t name them for contract reasons.
“I’m a full-time musician and have been a full-time musician for a long time and just to have all the gigs evaporate in like a week has been brutal to the whole music industry. But a lot of us musicians we’re fighters, we’re scrappers,” said Roots.
A Childhood Education Steeped in the Roots
Sol Roots spoke of his origins in music. His mother, a Brazilian, and father were both musicians, and he over time he learned guitar (which became his staple), bass, and drums.
His father toured with local bluesman Tim Duffy who opened a lot of doors for Sol Roots. Duffy studied folklore at the University of North Carolina and came upon his eureka moment when he came across blues legend Guitar Gabriel.
Upon meeting Gabriel, Duffy founded the Music Maker Relief Foundation which preserves the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it.
When Sol Roots went to school at Middle Tennessee State University for music recording, Duffy tapped him as part of the project. Houk couldn’t help but gasp in admiration of the kind of experiences his guests had as he would sit on the porch with legends like Robert “Wolfman” Belfour and Eugene Powell.
“All those people are my roots and I give honor and respect to them,” said Sol Roots.
Among the eccentric artists Sol Roots got to meet was a woman known as “The Snake Lady.” She would tour the country in a burlesque circus act surrounded by pythons.
As the pair discussed the influence of the Blues on the Rolling Stones (who took their name from a Muddy Waters song), The Beatles and James Brown, Houk noted that blues musicians rarely get the credit they deserve.
“They were of course, people loving that music, but they didn’t always get [that appreciation] back,” said Houk .
When Hurricane Katrina happened, for example, the Music Maker Relief foundation was there to help step in.
“It’s not just recording music, it’s not putting out CDs, it’s paying medical bills, it’s paying gas pills, hospital stuff, it’s any kind of emergency, Music Maker is there not just music-wise but life-wise,” said Sol Roots.
Finding his Own Style
Sol Roots’s first major musical endeavor came when he was assigned to remaster Tim Duffy’s library and convert it from one format to the next. As a result he saw his entire back catalogue.
“I had the idea to sample some of his stuff and make an album. Mixing a lot of these guys, mixing in their stuff with blues, hip-hop and an experimental type of vibe to try to get these messages that these guys and ladies were doing and present it to the next generation,”
“I don’t think I would expect things it was just the natural flow of being involved and as some opportunity came up, they would need a musician,” he said.
He also credits being versatile to different genres.
“I also love funk and soul and reggae and hip-hop and because I enjoy everything I’ve gotten to play with a huge variety of people,” said Sol Roots. “Any person of any genre that’s doing something from the heart. Those are the type of people I gravitate towards.”
In Other Music News
The band The Sidleys recently launched their new CD “Breathless.” Their original plans for their launch party at a big venue fell victim to COVID. Instead, the launch party out of their driveway but they still managed to attain number 12 on the charts at the local PBS station and number one on the Reverbnation rock chart.
“It digs down to me, a guy who loves 70s soul and pop rock,” said Houk who has sung alongside the band.
The interview precedes the Save Our Stages Fest this weekend (October 16th to 18th) with guests like Jason Mraz, Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews and host Reggie Watts. The proceeds from the virtual festival go to helping independent music venues weather the financial turmoil of the pandemic. #saveourstages