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Payin' Dues: Sulfur City

A black and white picture of Sulfur City walking along some railway tracks in the countryside.
Sulfur City: loud and proud.

“I wanted an album that you’d fuck to, not make love to,” says Lori Paradis, the lead singer and electric washboard player with Sulfur City, about Talking Loud, her band’s first album for Alive Naturalsound. It captures a high-octane blues band and a vocalist with the power of Janis Joplin.

What were you aiming for with Talking Loud?

So much of what we hear and see on social media, television and in music is all aiming to portray life as perfect, pretty and sweet. There is an uncomfortable race towards superficial beauty. It was important that the songs reflect the dirt and struggle of life. It can be hard, cruel and unfair and yet there’s still laughter and joy. These stories should be told. I was aiming for an album that you would feel in your belly, one that captured our imperfections and vulnerabilities.

What made you want to sign to the Alive Naturalsound label?

The music they put out. The writing says something, and the bands put everything they have into performing. It’s rock’n’roll, it’s blues, it growls, it’s edgy, it’s political, it’s not afraid and does not conform.

Do you come from a musical family?

No, I come from a blue collar working family. My father worked two jobs, miner and insulator, and my mother worked full-time in retail. Though he worked 16-hour days, my father always found time to guide me on a drawing or sit and listen to my banging on a drum kit. Because my father had to quit school at 16 and work to help support his family, it was important to him that books, art and music surround my sisters and me. One wall in the living room was comprised of books and albums. I had the opportunity to listen to albums by Frank Sinatra, Bessie Smith, Gordon Lightfoot, Mozart and the drumming of Africa.

What attracted you to the washboard?

I was the drummer in a Delta blues band and the other two guys in the band insisted I play the washboard. They picked me up a Columbus washboard at an antique store and I taught myself to play. I got the chance to chat with drummer/washboard player Cody Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars. Cody and St Blues Guitar came out with The Woogie Board, a fully electric washboard with enclosed dual-Piezo pickups, with a three-way switch for pickup selection, volume control knob and a high quality output jack housed in a Tele control plate built into the leg. I play it using a wah-wah and reverb and I’m adding pedals.

Talking Loud is out now on Alive Naturalsound.