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Segal returns to musical roots

June 19, 2006|by KRISTIN WILSON

Emerging as a blues musician might seem an unlikely career move for a seasoned Hollywood action hero, but for Steven Seagal the transition couldn't be more natural.

Way before he filmed his first action movie and even before he learned martial arts, Seagal, 55, developed his skills as a guitarist and fell in love with the blues.

"It's the music that I love the most that's gotten into my blood," Seagal said. The blues "is what I really, really live for in terms of music."

His relationship with the guitar started when he was 10 years old. Seagal grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Detroit, and he learned to play the blues by watching his neighbors and later, by observing blues legends such as Albert King, Gatemouth Brown and Albert Collins.

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Seagal played guitar professionally before he emerged as an action star in the late 1980s. Now, he's refocusing on his music in a serious way.

In 2005 Seagal released in Europe, his first CD, "Songs from the Crystal Cave," and in May he released his debut American album, "Mojo Priest."

To promote the CD, Seagal and his high-energy blues band, Thunderbox, are in the midst of a U.S. tour that will also take them to Moscow and Japan. Seagal and Thunderbox will perform at The Maryland Theatre, Thursday, June 22.

Audiences can expect to see "just a simple blues band," Seagal said. "We don't do pyrotechnics and dress up with freaky masks. We love playing the blues. Some of the shows have been electrifying but it's not because we do anything special, we just do blues that we love."

Seagal is lead vocalist and guitarist both on stage and on his CD and he writes most of his own songs. His voice is deep and throaty, yet smooth and the music is straight-up blues. Seagal's European CD had more of a world music sound, combining Seagal's interests in Indian and Arabian music and music of the American South, as well as the blues.

A host of veteran blues musicians are featured on "Mojo Priest." The list of collaborators includes Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, James Cotton, Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Lockwood Jr., Louisiana Red, Bob Margolin, Willie Smith, Calvin Jones, Hubert Sumlin and Koko Taylor.

Another unique aspect of Seagal's musicianship surrounds his love of guitars. The movie star has collected "a few hundred guitars," Seagal said, many of which are part of modern music history. His collection includes rare vintage guitars, Albert King's 1959 Gibson Flying V guitar and guitars owned by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters.

Shippensburg, Pa., band, Ledbetter Heights, will open for Steven Seagal and Thunderbox in Hagerstown. Ledbetter Heights plays original rock, acoustic and funk music, as well as covers from groups such as Green Day, Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin.

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