Perched across from Dick's liquor store, the J. Dorsey Blues Band wiles away inside an ancient Masonic Temple, now known as the Covington Lodge. Their searing callback to the days of the Delta invokes images of beat-up kicks and empty pockets, perfect fodder for a few dejected torch songs.
Named after guitarist and front man Josh Dorsey, the J. Dorsey Blues Band beefs things up with drummer Adam Soxxx Shelton and keyboardist/singer Kristen Kreft. Together, the trio infuses traditional 12-bar Blues standards with modern melancholy, taken from a collection of fresh troubles.
"The Blues is something that I live and I feel and I believe," Dorsey says. "I feel it in my gut and in my heart. That's why I love to play and that's the bottom line."
Music runs through his veins. Ever since he was a little boy, Dorsey's been surrounded by Blues players. His father was a Blues man, no doubt, and owned a music shop in State College, a small town located in central Pennsylvania. The store was called George's House of Music.
It provided a wealth of knowledge and influence from some of the greatest Blues players that ever lived; legends like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker quickly became Dorsey-household names.
Kreft also studied her craft from a young age. With the support of her father, who was a producer at the local Pop, Country and R&B label, Fraternity Records, she cut her first single at the tender age of 6, dubbing it "Head Over Heels." She's still got the 7-inch, displayed like a trophy, framed and mounted on the wall. Kreft continued to pursue music through high school, attending the School for Creative and Performing Arts and going on to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She says she did a lot of Grease before striking out solo and starring in her cabaret act, Toulouse Fleausaise.
She left Broadway after becoming disillusioned with the seeming lack of emotion in musical theater productions. Perhaps the tackiness was getting to her. Everything felt too staged on the stage.
"I don't want to sing it how it's written; I want to sing it how I feel," she says. "It's going to sound better that way because it's coming from me and that's what's real," Kreft explains. "I want to relate to people. I want people to feel me."
Shelton snickers at her play on words. She smiles and slams her fists on the table to get our minds out of the gutter: "I'm not talking physically, you pervs."
The Blues have always been about passing on your troubles. Ever since the days of Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, contemporary musicians took what they wanted from these traditional songs and made them their own.
But the J. Dorsey Blues Band takes it a step further than Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes. Dorsey says he's trying to educate people a bit. He wants people to know there's more out there than just Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.
"We're all young cats and kittens," he says. "We never picked cotton. We don't claim to be the original link.
"We try to play Blues songs that other people don't play," Dorsey says. "We try to separate ourselves by not being Blues Hammers."
Although their musical foundation was built while standing on the shoulders of giants like Chuck Berry and Fred McDowell, their sound grew into an amalgamation, taking leads from Nick Cave's creepy Birthday Party all the way to The Beatles. Shelton's chops round everything out with a touch of Funkadelia and Heavy Metal.
To throw a little Rock & Roll into the mix, Shelton tries to decide what's more important, blood or whiskey. He eventually settles on his bike.
But then again -- "let's say blood. Because I give my blood for bikes and because I don't drink whiskey too much," he says from his seat across the table, slyly sipping a glass of Maker's.
Kreft catches on to the irony and defies him with her giggles.
"I said too much," he reminds her.
THE J. DORSEY BLUES BAND (myspace.com/jdorseybluesband) performs for free Saturday at the Southgate House's Junie's Lounge.