Starting in the early 20th century with Maimie Smith, blues musicians have recorded and booked shows themselves, no agents, no big shot managers, just a guitar and their message to whoever would listen. The early blues musicians were some of the hardest working, well-traveled people of their times and we can learn a lot from them. Lou Shields is one musician that believes the past can educate the future. This is evident through his homemade guitars, self-released albums and soulful songs.
Lou Shields started to take notice of this grassroots way of living life through punk rock and skateboarding. He found that he liked the pureness of punk rock’s DIY philosophy and just making things happen attitude.
His early years of writing music started out with a heavy influence of My Bloody Valentine style of music but as the years went on, he started to discover more about the blues and roots music and began branching out. For years he studied the blues, its history, where it started and who it started with. During this time, the foundation was set for what he writes now, songs that take more influence from Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson than from his earlier punk background.
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When you listen to Lou Shields’ songs, you’ll feel like you are getting a history lesson on the blues. The wide array of styles that he plays can be heard in songs such as the somber ‘Hobo Tired’ to the quirky ‘Coffee Song’. Each song that he writes seems to tell the story of a man enjoying his journey while trying to teach us where it all started.
The live shows that Lou Shields plays have a grassroots feel to them, from his instrument of choice, The Callahan Shitar, to the homemade stompers made of old skateboards (used originally to get people’s attention), the DIY aesthetic is there and thriving. Even the way he travels the country to play shows goes back to the roots. He’ll pack up his guitar, play a couple of shows and head back home, no real tour schedule, just playing where he can and doing it for the love and passion.
In this day and age, of auto tune and dub step, a musician like Lou Shields is a refreshing step back to the way music was meant to be; raw, passionate, and with purpose. Lou Shields is a student of the past and is here to educate us all on how it was done.