Fresh from world travels, award-winning South Bay blues man J.C. Smith appears in San Francisco this week to release his new CD “Love Mechanic.”
How many recordings have you made?
This is my fourth with my band.
What can you say about it?
The guys in the band are good friends. I’m not the greatest guitar player and they’re a really strong force. We transfer a lot of feeling into the CD _ that’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve used the same engineer I’ve known since I was 15, and we still get a great analog sound. It’s great to be working with these guys, and they’re old, so my time is limited to deliver!
How’s the CD doing?
It’s hot off the presses, getting a ton of airplay and great reviews from around the world.
Have you appeared overseas?
I’ve traveled to South America – Argentina, Chile, and four years ago, I started touring Russia. It’s been pretty crazy. I just finished my eighth tour there, to Siberia and Moscow. I didn’t get to go to B.B. King’s funeral; it was the same day as my tour’s last show, in the oldest blues club in Russia.
Why do you think the blues are popular in Russia?
It hasn’t been that long since the Soviet Union fell, they have a lot of blues there.
What kind of reception do you get there?
It’s like being a mini-Beatle. People get into it, they bring their kids. You see people with stone faces getting up and clapping and dancing. The most enthusiastic crowds are the young people, girls 20 to 30 years old.
So what’s Siberia like?
Really cool. I toured a lot in winter. It’s freezing cold. It’s beautiful … as far as you can see, there’s white. You’ll be on a train for 12 to 22 hours, and see nothing but little villages, then arrive in a huge, modern hip city.
Do you bring your band when you tour?
I can’t take the band, but through my fan base and Facebook I’ve met great musicians that play with me: Argentine guitarist Omar Itcovici, Spanish bassist Jose Luis Paro and Russian drummer Dmitry Shevetsoy. And my tour manager Eugene Kolbashev, he really takes care of me.
So what’s it like playing here?
It’s always good to play at home. I get to see my friends and band. The crowds here are a bit older; they need a little more permission to get crazy. But I haven’t been given 100 roses here. And here, the artist is devalued to a certain degree. Clubs want to pay what they paid in 1963.
What do you think of the current music scene in the U.S.?
Commercial radio has no emphasis on the blues, but when young people get exposed to it, they go crazy, like we did when we were young. Thank goodness for listener supported radio, college radio and the Internet. And the Grammys _ they’re a pop music fiasco.
What’s coming up for you?
My schedule is busy. In September, I’m going to Argentina and Chile, in October, Shanghai, China, in November, Portugal, Armenia and Latvia. And Canada, for the first time, in December.
So things are going well?
I have a good life and I have control. I’ll never retire. I’ll play as long as I can. I’m in a job that the older you get, the more money you make. At the end of my career, I’ll have a glorious future.
IF YOU GO
Where: Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason St., S.F.
When: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. July 2
Contact: (415) 292-2583, www.biscuitsandblues.com