Despite widespread symptoms of depression, not everyone can sing the blues. Some of us just sound downright whiny when attempting those couplets of pain and regret that define the genre. But not Eric Noden; the Ohio-born musician has an appropriately "bluesy" voice that comes through even on a scratchy phone line. It's like he was born to be a blues singer, or at least bred for the career from an early age.
"My father was very into that type of music," says Noden in his trademark rasp. "There were always records lying around the house." Though he may have started out on the electric guitar, Noden soon gave in to the allure of the acoustic blues music from the 1920s and '30s that defined his most recent album, 2004's Midwest Blues. His songs are a cross between Big Bill Broonzy and John Hiatt, borrowing liberally from both blues and country to create something that sounds like it could not possibly have been recorded in this century. "It's more my style," he says.
It certainly is. When not recording or performing around the city on his own or with groups like Devil in a Woodpile, Noden brings these forgotten songs to the attention of anyone he can. "I'm definitely an advocate of this type of music, since I've been studying it for so long," he says. "It's not my own culture, but it's something I enjoy sharing with others." An occasional teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music, he also can be found imparting his wisdom to kids as part of the Blues in the Schools program, where in addition to his usual guitar and piano, he might be playing the harmonica or washboard.
It was the Old Town School that brought him to Chicago in 1994 from Ohio, for a regular gig leading guitar workshops. It was also here that he met harmonica-whiz Joe Filisko, with whom he will release a CD of "obscure" covers, called Filisko and Noden Live, due out in the next couple of months.
The two have been playing together for a couple of years in Chicago, and Noden says the collaboration brings a whole new bent to his approach. "When I'm doing stuff on my own, I have more control over the process. I don't have to make a setlist, I can be a little more spontaneous and play songs that other people might not know," he says. "But with Joe, there's more of a balance, which is kind of fun. It's nice to interact, to see what happens."
Apparently, it's true what they say; misery does love company.
In the beginning:
When I was 16, I played at a vegetarian restaurant called The Red Radish in Kent, Ohio. Sadly, it's no longer there.
I get live at:
I love playing outdoor festivals, like the Folk and Roots Fest and the Blues Festival. It's great to be outdoors here in the summer.
What I'm listening to now:
Lately I've been listening to a lot of Danny Barker, a New Orleans banjo and guitar player. I went down there not too long ago.
Fresh from the woodshop:
Filisko and Noden Live will be released in late summer 2006.