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Blues duo Scissormen will be open to suggestions during its Saturday show in York.

"Anybody is welcome to bring things they want to see me play slide guitar with," said guitarist Ted Drozdowski.

He's played with credit cards, a pumpkin and a 9-mm pistol; it wasn't loaded.

"Soft fruits are very difficult," he said, as are meats and fish.

Crustaceans might work, he added.

"When I was a kid and went to shows, I loved it when guitar performers did outrageous things," Drozdowski said.

He watched Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band; Boston, Mass. bluesman Ronnie Earle; and a zealous Jimi Hendrix impersonator shred behind their backs, jump on tables and play slide guitar with shot glasses.

A teenage Drozdowski was in awe. He tinkered with an acoustic guitar that belonged to his girlfriend. (She's now his wife of 27 years.)

He joined rock bands, but his research of stage antics led him to the blues. He became a student of the genre and 40s-era showman like T-Bone Walker.

After a trip to Mississippi in 1991, Drozdowski found his comfort zone - delta blues.

He drifted away from more polished styles of Chicago and West Coast blues. He started to tune his guitar differently and abandoned his pick to play with his fingers.

"I never thought I'd play blues," Drozdowski admitted. "I thought I'd sneak it in to rock songs."

But under the tutelage of Sonny Sharrock and R. L. Burnside, Drozdowski began to master slide guitar.

The method is sometimes harder than strumming and picking since it requires a lot of precision on the guitar's fret board, he said. In other ways, sliding is easier.

"You don't have to worry about finger positions on the slide hand," Drozdowski said. "If you're playing whole chords, you can do it in pretty quick movements."

Traditional guitar notes step up or down by half or whole notes. Sliding helps the guitar sing.

"The (human) voice flows smoothly from note to note," Drozdowski said. "That is what slide sounds more like. I found it really liberating."

Depression-era musician Robert Johnson experimented with the method. Muddy Waters and Elmore James made it famous.

After forming his own act, Scissormen, with guitarist and drummer Matt Snow, Drozdowski took the slide a step farther.

Hopefully, he said, the local audience will help the duo try something new. York cigar box guitar guru Shane Speal helped bring the Nashville-based act to town. But it is no stranger to Central Pennsylvania; it frequently plays Farmers Hope Inn in Manheim.

Shows are a welcome relief from the road, Drozdowski said. The act performs about 100 shows a year around the States and in Europe. From Nashville, it can hit several cities within 10 hours. The duo does its own writing, producing, publicity, driving and unloading.

"There should be at least four more of us," Drozdowski said with a laugh.

But its mission is about more than putting on a good show. Drozdowski and Snow strive to be blues stewards. Their sets include originals and classic covers. They talk about music with crowds. While on the road, Drozdowski does lectures and writes articles on blues.

That is one reason Scissormen became the subject of Robert Mugge's documentary "Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues." The band and filmmaker met at a Mississippi concert.

Mugge took a post at Ball State University and offered to have his students film a short segment when Scissormen played in the area. It turned into a 90-miute film that followed the band's Midwest tour last winter. The CD/DVD package will be released this March.

It's fitting for the band's 10th anniversary, Drozdowski said.

"We're even oddballs in the realm of blues," he said. "The novelty . . . doesn't detract from (the) deeply rooted traditional music. Part of the music is that it's supposed to be fun."

- Erin McCracken,
FlipSide staff

Watch

The 90-minute documentary was shot during Scissormen's February 2010 tour of the Midwest. Part road movie, part concert film, part history lesson and part genre report, the documentary was filmed by Robert Mugge. It will be released in a CD/DVD set March 20. Mugge, who studied film at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, has worked on projects featuring Sonny Rollins, Robert Johnson, Gil Scott-Heron and Al Green. For details about Mugge, visit robertmugge.com. Check out the trailer: vimeo.com/26795729

Details

Touring juke blues band Scissormen will perform 9 p.m. Saturday at the First Capitol Dispensing Co., 57 N. Pershing Ave., York. For details, call 854-1714.

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