Napoleon Washington

Washington launches his musical career at age eight under the limelight of his bedroom, with a cardboard guitar.

 

Quite happy with the result, he releases «Mud & Grace» a good thirty years later.

 

Between these noticeable milestones, he starts learning his craft by touring with a New-York combo named the Roustabouts, while founding several bands among which the Crawlin’Kingsnake Blues Band. He’ll record his first album with the latter, and the band scores two tours in the US after having served in Europe as the backing band for Tampa Bay’s harmonicist Rock Bottom.

 

Upon hearing him play on an acoustic instrument, Rock encourages him to pursue his efforts in this direction, which ultimately lead to the first two Napoleon Washington’s album, «Hotel Bravo» and «Homegrown», being published respectively in 2003 and 2006.

Napoleon Washington offers a treat of Mississippi Delta Blues, carried by a “Fine Resophonic” metal body guitar (the same type of single-cone instrument manufactured by the National or Dobro companies).

 

« Originally, Delta Blues was to be played in juke-joints, in barrelhouse country places where people would dance all night long on a music bound mostly to tell the many little stories of everyday life, with a strong accent on groove and emotion. »
 

Washington’s style owes a huge deal of musical inspiration to Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton or John Jackson to mention just a few, but is also fed from the music of John Mooney, Keb’ Mo’ or Doug McLeod and generally speaking, from all those who have brought the Blues to be a genuine contemporary style.

 
« The intention is simply to bring up a sincere, straight-to-the-heart and honest music, addressing everybody with simplicity (and often humour, for good measure): since Blues is only the mirror of life, they only need everyday words and one’s uncompromising dedication to cut through and reach the very soul.
 
For that matter, trying to find a “looking back”, “juke-box”, “old fashion” or “lecturing” intention in Napoleon Washington’s music is pointless.

Style is the symptom of the love one puts into his work.

 
Christophe Gallaz
The idea here is not to sing the crossroads, the cottonfields or chaingang, but to pay respect to the tradition: and the tradition consists, before anything, in singing only about what one lives, what one knows.
 
Such things as love, pain, being lonely or broke are timeless and belong to all of us mortals… any song of joy or sorrow, any chronicled little story makes sense in Blues, as long as it is breathing with first-hand sincerity. »

And that’s exactly the idea here, along with throwing buckets of gasoline on the Blues’s flame. 

The name of Napoleon Washington is of course a reference to the French-American history of Louisiana, which had been sold in 1803 by Bonaparte to the United States for 80 million dollars.

 

« Louisiana is meant here not only as the “motherland” of the Blues, but also for the notion of its mixture of different cultures forced to adapt themselves to a new land that was not always chosen (African people, French-Acadian people, Spanish people, etc): considering that the actual idea of being disconnected from one’s roots is nested somewhere in “playing the Blues in Europe”.
 
Plus, “Napoleon Washington” is also a respectfull tribute to those emancipated slaves who, finally given freedom, realized they needed “two names” and gave themselves grandiloquent ones (King, Lincoln, Moses, Washington, Freeman, etc.). »