Our 'Turbulent Times' Inform the Songs on Bluesman Popa Chubby's New Album

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click to enlarge Our 'Turbulent Times' Inform the Songs on Bluesman Popa Chubby's New Album
Courtesy of Glass Onyon PR
Blues singer-guitarist Ted Horowitz (aka Popa Chubby) wasn’t looking for a major label deal when he signed with Sony Records in the ‘90s. He'd heard horror stories of bands being signed and then getting lost in the shuffle.

But the record deal somehow managed to find him.

“At the time, I had started to play regularly in the New York clubs,” he says via phone. He performs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, at the Music Box Supper Club. “All of a sudden, I was at the top of the heap in the New York club scene. I started to get interest from the major labels. The blues was happening with Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. I had a bunch of offers.”

Initially, he says, he wasn’t interested. But when one label rep promised that he could get Tom Dowd (Ray Charles, the Drifters, the Coasters, the Spinners, Ruth Brown and Bobby Darin) to produce the album, he changed his mind.

“It was too good to pass up — Tom Dowd produced the record, and we had a big hit,” says Horowitz. “I got to know Tom really well. It was one of the greatest things that happened in my life. Sure enough, I got dropped from the label soon after that because I was indeed just the sheep led to slaughter.”

Undeterred, Horowitz went back to work and continued to tour while releasing independent albums. On his latest effort, last year’s Two Dogs, he writes about how the nation has become divided in the wake of the last presidential election. On the evocative title track, he practically raps over a funky guitar riff and rattling percussion. The song comes off as a strong statement.

“I’m a very topical writer and artist,” Horowitz says. “My music reflects what is going on around me. I like to think of myself as an intelligent, thinking man. We live in turbulent, polarized times. The record reflects that.”

With some swinging horns behind it, “Preexisting Conditions” adopts a soulful vibe as Horowitz sings, “I’m gonna die from preexisting conditions.”

“It’s about living in the good old U.S.A., trying to get health insurance and then trying to use it if you’re sick,” says Horowitz when asked about the track. “We’re being terrorized. It’s terror in its purest form. It’s the threat of no care. I’m a big Frank Zappa fan, and I love his satire. I wanted to bring some of that into the music.”

All the songs don’t necessarily address our “turbulent times.” The swaggering roadhouse rocker “Rescue Me” serves as a celebration of romantic love.

“I was in love when I wrote that song,” says Horowitz. “Love is still the greatest force in the world. When you experience its true definition, it can be life-changing.”

The elegant ballad “Wound Up Getting High” features a somber piano melody, and Horowitz tweaks his guitar to make it sound like there’s a string section on the tune.

“The beauty of having my own studio is that sometimes I come down in the morning, and I wind up making coffee, and sometimes I wind up getting high,” he says. “That morning both happened at the same time. I was in the studio playing guitar, and my dog heard me and thought I was crying. I wound up with this beautiful song.”

A veteran performer, Horowitz says he regularly plays about 150 dates a year. The new album has provided him with yet another good selection of songs to add to his setlists.

“The shows have been awesome,” he says. The band is really good. We just came back from a sold out European tour. We just had a great show in New York City and we’re heading to San Francisco this weekend. We can’t wait to play Cleveland.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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