Atlanta-based songwriter and bandleader Blair Crimmins shows up to gigs resembling a dapper musician in the 1940s. He looks cool, but he'd rather attract attention with his jazzy and melodic songs than with his stylish appearance. His band, the Hookers, sport fancy neckties, dress shirts, and vests on stage, but their fiery performances bounce with unjaded hillbilly fervor.
"We're definitely not an elegant group," laughs Crimmins. "When we have to play a ballroom setting, we feel a tad out of place because most of us come from a rock background. This is my rock music now: jazz with a rock approach."
Crimmins and his troupe have stayed busy this year playing around the Southeast in support of a new EP titled State Hotel. The disc's "Old Man Cabbage," a steamy number with an exotic melody, demonstrates the balanced mix of styles Crimmins prefers these days.
"I think I have defined the sound I've been looking for," he says. "Playing out live and getting experience by working with other musicians has brought a lot more tools and skills to me."
It's fortunate for Crimmins to be headquartered in the middle of Atlanta's thriving music scene, which has its bohemian side.
"People here are not tentative about picking up a brand-new instrument and taking it directly to the stage," says Crimmins. "There's really no fear of failure in the idea of bringing new sounds. You don't have to be the most proficient person. Someone could step up on stage with an accordion, make a nice melody and some nice music."
The Hookers include drummer Adam Hopkinson, bassist Justin Roberts, trombonist Travis Cottle, and clarinetist Ryan Whitehead.
"People have been in and out and all over the place," Crimmins says of the ever-changing lineup of Hookers. "The rhythm section is very solid, so when a new player comes in, they have to get up to speed real fast."
Fans can expect to see Crimmins switching from banjo to piano on an antique throne at the front of the stage. He and the band will jump from jazzy blues and ragtime to rowdy bar rock.
"I don't expect to be anybody's wallpaper music when I come to play," says Crimmins. "I play loud and try to have a great time. It's party music to me."