Jukka ´Black River Bluesman´Juhola and ‘Andy’ BAd Mood Hudson destroyed the woods and the mountains around their tiny hometown of Mustio Finland by carving their guitars, drums and harmonicas from whole ironwood trees with their bare hands and by using John Henry's twelve pound hammer (with four foot handle) they beat down those mountains for brass, silver and iron (and coal to fire this thing) to fashion the rest of the parts they needed. When they were finished they stomped their thirst with a bottle of RL Burnside's Bloody mthrfckr and sat down in the full moon light at that muddy crossroads between Holly Springs Mississippi, Mustio (Black River) and County Pohja (Bottom) to play Their raw dirty beautiful Blues................." Rick Saunders, Deep Blues (USA), August 2006.
BLUES MATTERS magazine (UK) 2014:
Jukka “Black River Bluesman” Juhola & Andy Bad Mood Hudson play their Blues in the deep woods and frozen swamps of the muddy Black River Delta way up North in cold Finland. Their unrefined, electric Blues have been compared to the rough sounds of the Mississippi Hill Country artists as well as to anything between Tom Waits and Black Keys or psychoblues and garage. Whatever the influences may be, they play their animal Blues with no compromises - just the way they feel. Jukka and Andy got their stage names like the bluesmen of old: Jukka was named after the place he's from (Svartå=Black River) and Andy - not after the place he's from (Pohja=Bottom!) - but after his cheerful disposition. Jukka plays Johnny Lowebow’s genuine handmade custom cigar-box guitars, the most special of which is the doubleneck stereo baritone which allows him to play bass and lead at the same time. Andy the multi-instrumentalist functions in this line-up as a drummer-percussionist and a back-up singer. ”The flag-bearer of Finnish alt.blues” Black River Bluesman has always walked his own path, producing his uncompromising and original alt.blues with little regard for the mainstream. The line-ups have changed, but the group has now tightened into a working duo with Andy, who joined the band in the days of the Croaking Lizard, retaining nothing but the most vital elements of the music. Andy himself has spent years singing and playing in and writing for various bands, mostly in the field of heavier rock.
-Moonshine Medicine (2016) Black River Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson
-Candy Box Blues/Bucket Hot Water single (2013)with Bad Mood Hudson
-Double Headed Trouble (2011) with BAd Mood Hudson
-Watcha Do single/video (2010)with Bad Mood Hudson and Andres Roots
-Rat Bone (2008) with the Croaking Lizard
-Cardboard and Plastic EP (2006) with the Croaking Lizard
-Ants in my Kitchen (2005) with the Cockroach Combo
-Not a Dog-gone Thing (2003) with the Cockroach Combo
-Blues from the Tower (1998) The Black River Blues Band
Festivals played include :
- Boxstock Festival (UK) 2018
- Deep Blues Festival (Clarksdale, Mississippi) 2016, 2015, 2014, 2009
- Sumperk Blues Alive (Czech Republic) 2014
- Finnish Blues Awards 2017
- Floating Cockroach Festival 2017, 2015, 2009, 2008, 2007
- Augustibluus (Estonia) 2018, 2011, 2007
- Tirmo Blues 2016
- International Cigar Box Banditorama (USA) 2014
- International Blues Challenge (USA) 2014
- Sziget Festival (Hungary) 2013
- Pori Blues Festival 2013
- Maryport Blues Festival (UK) 2012
- Lowebow Fest (USA) 2012
- Boxstock Festival (UK) 2012
- ScorciaCrapi Festival (Italy) 2012
- Ugriblues Festival (Estonia) 2012
- Eslöv Bluesfestival (Sweden) 2012
- Grand Blues Festival 2012
- Puistoblues Festival 2017, 2015, 2012
- Klubiblues Festival 2012
- Puukkoblues Festival 2012
- Stompin' at the Savoy 2012
- Pärnu Bluusipäevad (Estonia) 2018, 2012, 2011
- KesäkissaBlues 2017, 2011
- Bari Jazz Festival (Italia) 2010
- Molinara Crossroads Festival (Italia) 2010
- Le Blues Autour du Zinc (France) 2010, 2009
- Helsinki Blues Festival 2010
- Black River Music Festival 2011, 2010
- Deep Blues Festival (USA) 2009
- Faces Etnofestival 2014, 2009, 2003
- Shetland Blues Festival (UK) 2008
- Summertime Blues 2008
- Kaavi Blues 2008
- Dundee Blues Bonanza (UK) 2008, 2007
- Savonsolmu Blues Festival 2008
- Blues News 40 years – cavalcade 2008
- Sun7 Festival (Brazil) 2007
- Himalayan Blues Festival(Nepal) 2007
- Halloween Blues 2007
- Jämsession Festival 2007, 2006
- Lindalevi Festival (Estonia) 2007
- Aulanko Blues 2007, 2004
- Carelian Faces Festival (Russia) 2006
- Scandinavian Blues Party 2006
- Billnäs Revival 2006
- Elo Jazz & Blues 2005
- Torun Blues Meeting (Poland) 2004
- Amnesty International charity concert 2003
- Rawa Blues (Poland) 2003
Gigs in France, USA, Germany, Italy, Czech Rep, Brazil, Nepal, UK, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Sweden, Bangkok…
Reviews, articles and interviews in dozens of international magazines and newspapers.
Radio stations in 25 different countries have played the CDs.
Live TV or radio performances and interviews: Finland, Italy, Brazil, Nepal, Poland, USA, Estonia, UK…
14 January 2012 Black River Bluesman: If Black Sabbath Were Blues Artists...
Whether solo, with a band or with his current duo partner Bad Mood Hudson, Finland’s alt.blues hero Black River Bluesman has literally played all over the world:
from Brazil to Nepal, from Thailand to Russia. He’s travelled the American South and jammed with the late great Mr. Tater The Music Maker, he’s started the Floating Cockroach alt.blues festivals in Finland, he’s had a Top 3 hit in Estonia with ”Watcha Do”, a track we recorded together last year... There’s even a documentary being made about the man and his way of life. So who is this Black River Bluesman?
Well, his real name is Jukka Juhola, he was born in 1958 and he has been playing music all his life. His mother taught him to play the piano when he was nuthin’ but a child, and he went on to pick up the bass, the guitar, and the baritone. Over the years, he has lived in many countries but has settled in the Finnish countryside, in a place called Mustio in Finnish and Svartå in Swedish: The Black River.
”The Black River Bluesman project really started in earnest in 2002 when I felt I had collected enough original material to make a record,” Juhola says. ”Now I’ve made four, and I can honestly say that my original idea for the sort of blues I want to play hasn’t changed one bit. It just takes time for things to develop, you can’t change everything at once – little by little, things become what they need to be. At the moment, the new album and the current line-up seem to be the best – it’s just like with single malt, really: the stuff immediately in front of you is always the finest!”
The Most Talked About Song In Minneapolis
Indeed, a youth spent in Scotland has left Black River Bluesman a lifelong member of the Mustio whisky club, whereas the months in Cuba have made him partial to riding a bicycle to gigs. With Finnish winters, though, that’s something you talk about rather than do – you know what they say: there’s no summer in that part of the world, it’s just poor skiing weather.
”Jukka tells a little about were he come from in ”There is No Relief”. He sings ”16 hours of sunlight in 37 days”. Could this be were Jukka draws his inspiration from for his music?” writes Rev.Nix in his Cigarboxguitar.com review of Black River Bluesman’s latest album. ”[It’s] the song I kept hearing about from The Deep Blues Festival III... The most talked about song performed [in Minneapolis] that weekend.”
Still, Jukka Juhola has kept on travelling and drawing inspiration from lands stranger than Finland. For example, the title track of his 2005 album “Ants In My Kitchen” may relate to downhome household issues, but the sleevenotes are signed “Sen Monorom, Cambodia” and lead off with: “Behind the jungle, somewhere in Indochina, I sit on a rice bag and drown in a blind old man’s performance. On his knees, he’s holding a dobro-like instrument that he plays with a bottleneck…”
Deep Blues and Garage
Among his influences, Black River Bluesman cites Mississippi Fred McDowell, RL Burnside, John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor and Tom Waits. The things he values most in music are credibility, honesty and unpretentiousness; what he hopes for first and foremost is that his own music would sound like him.
“I’ve been a blues fanatic since the 1970’s and from the start, I’ve been listening to Mississippi Delta and Hill Country Blues – but there are also rock influences like punk and garage,” Juhola admits. “The final encouragement for me came with the world wide alt.blues movement, known in the States as Deep Blues: suddenly in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, there were many uncompromising blues-based acts like Ten Foot Polecats, Deltahead, Dirty Trainload, Purgatory Hill, Gravelroad, Honkeyfinger, Left Lane Cruiser, Johnny Lowebow…”
Right – after many years of playing expensive-looking hollow-body Gibsons, it’s the Lowebow cigar-box guitars that Black River Bluesman is mainly associated with these days. From a standard-issue Lowebow acquired on a whim a couple of years ago he soon graduated to a double-neck baritone model, still the only one of its kind.
Double Headed Trouble
“There’s only one like his – the second one has the necks reversed. It's both Johnny Lowebow models in one, the Bass/Baritone and the Personal Lyre with Underslide,” says the American luthier and musician Johnny Lowebow. “I drove Jukka down the Mississippi from St. Paul to Memphis. We stopped at Sturgeon Bay to stay at The Holiday Motel with Pat MacDonald and recorded at Makin’ Sausage Music [studios]. I think we're lost brothers. Must be related through Viking raiders on Scottish shores!” Be that as it may, Black River Bluesman’s new weapon of choice can be heard on his latest and greatest album “Double Headed Trouble”, recorded as a duo with multi-instrumentalist Andy “Bad Mood” Hudson on drums and backing vocals and released on December 17th, 2010 on Jukka’s own Gecko Yell label. Incidentally, Mr. Bad Mood hails from a place just slightly down the road from Jukka’s called Pohja – The Bottom.
“I’d done three albums with a traditional quartet line-up and had come to the end of that road. I got my first Lowebow at exactly the right moment and started using it for solo gigs, but when [former Black River Bluesman & The Croaking Lizard drummer] Andy rejoined me, a duo seemed like the perfect solution,” Juhola muses. “Then Johnny Lowebow, the Mad Scientist of Memphis, built a double-neck stereo baritone to my specifications – on that, I can play guitar and bass simultaneously and run it through two different amps. And as usual, we recorded the new album in a single day with none of that post-production fiddling.”
Bangkok To Haapsalu
For the album sleeve, the duo decided to use their stageplot which the International Conspiracy of Sound Engineers is in the habit of losing. Of the nine tracks, two had appeared previously on Jukka’s earlier CD’s and only ended up being re-arranged and re-recorded at the very last moment, when two of the tracks originally meant for “Double Headed Trouble” were dumped in the studio. One of these recycled “oldies”, “Out In The Woods”, had never been attempted by the duo, but once Black River Bluesman managed to come up with yet another weird tuning, it was nailed in a single take.
“If Black Sabbath were blues artists, this is probably what they would sound like, especially if you throw a little Jim Morrison and Tom Waits into the mixture and stir occasionally with a little bit of Punk,” opines John Vermilyea of the Canadian Blues Underground Network webzine. “With "Double Headed Trouble", Juhola and Hudson have managed to take the blues right to the edge and in doing so they have managed to also bring us a lot closer to it's raw origin. They managed to do this by taking the old style Mississippi Delta Blues and basically tearing it a new one, giving us something fresh and new, with the essence and respect for the old and pure.”
The album was launched with a string of gigs in Bangkok in early 2011 and the band’s August tour of Estonia included appearances at the country’s two blues festivals, Pärnu Bluusipäevad in Pärnu and Augustibluus in Haapsalu. At the latter, the duo spent hours signing autographs after the show, having just broken all sales records in the 18-year history of the festival advertised as “the biggest bluesfest in the Baltics.”
Nicest Mean Man I Know
On November 14th, the Italian online label Lepers ProduTcions celebrated their 50th release with “50 Lepers” – a free 50-track compilation that saw Black River Bluesman & Bad Mood Hudson covering Superfreak’s “Careless Love”. A trip to Italy has already been confirmed for August 2012, and in March, the duo will embark on a two-week tour of the American South, including an appearance at the Lowebow Festival in Florida. September will find the duo at the Boxstock festival in Manchester, England. Says Juhola: “I think we have played more abroad than we have in Finland, and we mean to keep it that way.”
Before “Double Headed Trouble” (2010), Black River Bluesman has released three albums, all available on Gecko Yell: “Rat Bone” (2008) with The Croaking Lizard and “Ants In My Kitchen” (2005) and “Not A Dog-Gone Thing” (2003) with The Cockroach Combo. I’d also recommend tracking down the super-rare 2006 EP “Cardboard and Plastic” that features an earlier line-up of The Croaking Lizard with the celebrated singer-songwriter and fellow Black River resident Sami Kukka on drums.
What else? Among other things, Jukka Juhola runs a successful business growing plants of the non-smokable variety. His wife Katja Juhola is an acclaimed artist, who has also done a series of paintings of the blues stars of yore. Jukka’s English-born brother-in-law L.R.Phoenix is another fixture on the Finnish blues scene, playing his hypnotic North Karelian Lake Country Blues with a pen knife for a slide on a four-string electric. Over to Johnny Lowebow: ”That Black River Bluesman is the nicest mean man I know! He will not go to strangers’ dinner parties or share hotel rooms. Mean man. Really, he's not mean at all, just plays mean blues!”
Amen to that.
Link: Black River Bluesman website
Andres Roots is a musician/writer from Estonia. This interview has been published in English on ReviewTheBlues.com, in Swedish in the Jefferson Blues Magazine and in Finnish on Jazzrytmit.com.