Danny Kroha is probably best known as a member of The Gories, the legendary Detroit-based blues-punk band. But his resume goes much deeper than that. For the past 30 years he has also co-founded The Demolition Doll Rods and recorded and produced stacks of other projects. A little more recent ground for Kroha is his adventure in the interpretation of traditional songs of gospel, blues and folk, played on a range of instruments, including the mouth harp, diddley bow and slide guitar. .
Kroha chatted with City Pulse about his latest LP on Third Man Records, “Detroit Blues”.
What was your goal with the new LP “Detroit Blues”?
I didn’t really have a goal. I had already made an album in the same vein, this album âAngels Watching Over Meâ which was released in 2015 on Third Man Records. I had just learned other songs since I made this album. I keep hearing songs that I love. I want to learn them and expand my repertoire. I just had a bunch of songs and thought it was time to record them.
Why did you decide to cut traditional songs? Are they all traditional?
Yes, but I would like to think that I am making unique arrangements. So why traditional? I do not know. I have never been a great songwriter. I’m not one of those guys who writes a bunch of songs. I do not do it.
How do you find your own arrangements on these old songs?
It comes naturally. Part of it comes from my inability to play properly (laughs), because I’m not a great old-fashioned guitar picker. I have to make do with my skills, so I end up finding my own way of doing it.
I love this kind of records, because I know some of them, but it also makes me discover songs that I have never heard. They are old, but new to me.
I’m happy to draw people to this stuff. When the Rolling Stones started, all they wanted to do was get people into the blues. That was their only goal when they started, which is a nice goal to have. But I really like these songs and finding my own way to play them is fun for me and it’s a bonus if other people like it too.
How do you find songs these days?
These are mostly records that I own. I will sometimes go through my records and rediscover things that I had neglected before. Sometimes I’ll just go browse YouTube and find something. There are a million channels. There are channels devoted exclusively to songs from the 1920s and 1930s. There is a wealth of material, literally, at your fingertips.
What about Michigan, in particular. Do any of them inspire you these days?
The thing with Michigan is that all the great music that has happened here, for the most part, has happened because people have come from the south to find work. To work in the automotive industry. Our music is so rich here, because we have people from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They all came here.
Doctor Ross “The Harmonica Boss” is one of them – moved to Flint for a job in an auto factory.
Dr. Ross was from Mississippi. John Lee Hooker was from Mississippi. James Jamerson was originally from South Carolina. We also had a bunch of great bluegrass and hillbilly stuff, because those people moved from Kentucky and Tennessee.
When did you get into early music, from the 1920s to the 1950s? Like a kid?
Well, not as a kid, but as a late teenager. I wanted to get into the roots of music. I have always been interested in “where does it come from”? I started to really like The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and the Animals and all that when I was in high school, so I wanted to know where it was coming from. Then I started reading record companies and saw the names of these songwriters there. From there I would find Howlin ‘Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Muddy Waters. I listened to them and really dug. Then I would say, âWellâ¦ where did that come from? These guys were from the 50’s, what happened before that?
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