Jimmy Wolf (Mohawk) still possesses those tapes from 1982, when he began his blues career in his backyard, performing at Rome, New York’s Griffiss Air Force Base.
“I started out just thinkin’ I was gonna play just guitar,” the St. Regis Mohawk musician recalls.
But nearly a quarter-century later, Wolf fronts a band signed to perform Feb. 4 at one of the state’s big stages: The Bear’s Den at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino in Niagara Falls.
Those yet to experience his style of music should expect a high-energy, instrumental, soulful, rhythm and bluesy type of show.
“We just kind of do ‘em our own way,” he says of the songs they perform.
The venue, where he received “Best Male Artist” and “Best Blues Album” honors from the Native American Music Awards in November 2014, looks to provide an ideal setting for Wolf’s blend of music.
Courtesy Jimmy Wolf
Wolf received the contract on Nov. 15 for a concert showcasing work from the band’s 2012 album, “A Tribute to Little Johnny Taylor.”
The group composed the songs for that album “our own way,” he says. “I try to stay true to the music. I’m really happy how that came out.”
Although nearly four years have passed, Wolf says the album still finds new audiences.
“[The album] still has legs,” he says, noting some eastern U.S. radio stations continue to play it.
His tribal heritage plays very little into his music, Wolf says, noting people—upon hearing his music—commonly believe he sounds African-American.
“I just try to write what you feel,” he says. “If it comes out Native or sounds Native, then I’ll leave it at that.”
“But,” Wolf adds, “I think that if you are Native, it’s in your heart and everything else; certain things come out naturally.”
Wolf describes his sound as, “kind of a mixture of the real Delta Blues, like John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James.”
Touring with some notables over the years—including Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Bill Doggett and Larry “Texas Flood” Davis—helped Wolf come into his own.
“Taking your time,” “getting into the right feel of the song instead of rushing it,” and “just letting the song take its own course,” were a few of the lessons learned, he says.
“It’s been rough at different times, financially,” Wolf adds, “but I never thought about giving it up, ever … I won’t be satisfied until I do everything I want to do. Because I want to record some more original music, and just see how far we can take it.”