"I'm white, I've always been white, and I grew up listening to heavy metal," says Southern bluesman Robert Paige, awkwardly beginning his personal musical timeline. He runs through a litany of early musical influences that include acid rock, "good groove music," the Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin, and afterward proclaims, "And then I became a blues snob for many, many years."
That particularly pretentious period was during Paige's long reign of Atlanta's "incestuous" blues scene as a founding member of popular band The Urban Shakedancers. After a long, successful run, he relocated to the coast two years ago along with Atlanta music scene compatriot, saxophonist Matt Kearney, and formed the Holy City Sinners -- a "powerhouse quartet" capable of playing authentic, traditional Delta and Chicago-style blues -- with drummer Josh Kohl and bassist Daniel Jones.
The blues pedigree snobbery has since left the room, replaced with a playful mix of dance floor rock 'n' blues, peppered with a hint of funk and soul. The Holy City Sinners have been a steady local anchor of blues-heavy gigs like the Bonterra Lowcountry Blues Bash and Piccolo Spoleto's "Blues in the Night" series, as well as a source of rowdy barroom fun. The band's moniker is a nod to Charleston's famous nickname, as well as Paige's own naughty past. "I used to be really bad," he says, without giving away too much.
A decade and a half of the blues has left its mark on Paige and his music, but he's on the hunt for a new angle. "I think blues comes and goes in popularity," he says. "But then, I only know three chords and I can only play songs with three chords," he jokes while explaining what has kept him in a long-lasting relationship with the music.
If anything, Paige is ready for a little experimentation after all those years of messin' around with the blues. "I like stuff with an edge and I'm starting to write again ... I'm having maybe an early midlife crisis or something," he laughs.
Robert Paige & The Holy City Sinners play on Fri. Nov. 11 at 10 p.m. at Cumberland's.