Peter May

Peter May

BandAmericanaBlues

A mixture of blues, rock and gospel that spans from the 1920's to the present. There are original songs along with old blues standards and gems.

Biography

PETER MAY: THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT

Peter May has become a fixture in the blues scene, the equivalent of a Mississippi Delta bluesman, with all the baggage that accompanies that description.
- Ed Bumgardner

“It felt like the roof was going to blow off - it made you feel like you were floating - it took you somewhere else,” blues artist Peter May explained recently about his earliest musical experiences at Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem. “I still look for that…to hide in, or to let it wash over you,” he continued during a conversation about his music at his home recording studio near Clemmons. May—who gave up majoring in music for English, when he had trouble with ear training at UNCG-is passionately spiritual about the blues. He has been exploring the complex emotional terrain of human existence, stretched between the dirt of the earth and the purity of the heavens, in live and recorded music for the majority of his 38 years.
As a boy he sang in the Moravian choir and played French horn in the Moravian band on street corners for Easter. His father, the Rev. Henry E. May, Jr. played some guitar-as did May’s brothers. May took up guitar in his teens, and soon he was admiring Led Zeppelin and playing rock ‘n’ roll. In college, he played blues with The Creeping Gizroids, and after graduation he and a bunch of talented Winston-Salem musicians started the rock band Worried Sick, playing around the Piedmont and making CD’s. In 1996 Worried Sick, with May among others on vocals and guitar, came out with its last CD, “It Rained Fire Today,” was an accomplished, Stonesy array of thoughtful songs.
By early 1998 May had transitioned away from the band into an independent career in blues. He had read a biography of the Mississippi legend Skip James and had seen himself-like James the musical son of a minister—in the hard-living religious bluesman’s image. May realized he had to try the blues on his own. He dove in with vigor. “For a while, If it wasn’t blues guitar, it felt like it wasn’t worth listening to,” said May of his transformation, leaning back in the studio control room, sporting a red and white “Worried Sick” T-shirt. He got deeply into the music, playing the guitar the classic way with his fingers, and studying the moving, complex lyrics of Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton. Soon, for May, it was all about blues-and gospel music. “I think that the blues is a way of speaking to God,” explains May. For him, gospel music expresses the human aspiration for a better life—while the blues expresses life here and now, with its imperfections and struggles and prayers. After some serious wood-shedding—and lessons with Boston’s folk blues guru Paul Rishell, courtesy of a Forsyth County Arts council Emerging Artist grant—May started playing solo in clubs and restaurants. These exclusively solo shows continued for two years. May and a band of acoustic blues purists including: Jim McCollum, Ira DeCoven, and Allin Cottrell played at every opportunity in songwriter type circles.
Eventually, May became interested in his electric guitar again. He soon found musicians from Winston-Salem’s upper class interested The Rough Band, including guitarist Sam Moss, bassist Henry Heidtmann, pedal-steel guitarist Rick Nathy and drummer Jay Johnson was formed. The Rough Band began playing locally and focusing on original May and Darrell Blackburn blues songs. May’s 2000 CD “Black Coffee Blues”-an earthy, rocking electric blues romp seasoned with a moving gospel song—used the Rough Band extensively.
The band Peter May & Terraplane-the name alludes to a Robert Johnson song-arose with Winston-Salem’s Mike Wesolowski on harmonica and Greensboro’s Bobby Kelly on upright bass. The focus of Peter May & Terraplane is traditional acoustic blues and gospel, from Charley Patton and Sleepy John Estes to the Reverend Gary Davis, as the newly released CD “Straight Drive” reveals. “Straight Drive”-recorded mostly live in May’s paneled living room late at night, before he built the home studio in his garage with a State of North Carolina Artist Fellowship grant-is a feast of varied tones and emotions, featuring May’s rough, sincere vocals and powerful ‘34 National resonator guitar, along with Wesolowski’s wailing harp and Kelly’s solid bass thump.
May has been reading up on his spiritual southern roots in “The Christ Haunted Landscape: Faith and Doubt in Southern Fiction”-but under the tissue box in the bathroom, near the kitchen in his house, is another book, “The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues.”
- Bill Moore

Lyrics

Trap Hill, NC

Written By: Peter May

She's going up to Trap Hill,
Just to wash some sinner's feet.
She's going up to Trap Hill,
Hoping for her savior to meet.

Sometimes up there,
They really open up the sky.
The clouds break back,
And the white doves fly.

She don't ask for any payment,
Maybe just a little grace.
She don't hand out any judgement,
She just wants to look upon his face.

Sometimes up there,
They really open up the sky.
The clouds break back,
And the white doves fly.

I'm going up to Trap Hill,
Just to wash some sinner's feet.
I'm going up to Trap Hill,
Hoping for my savior to meet.

Sometimes up there,
They really open up the sky.
The clouds break back,
And the white doves fly.

I Use t'Could

Written By: Peter May

Honey, I use t'could.
Honey, I use t'could.
Honey, I use t'could,
Make you feel so good,
Baby, what went wrong?

Honey, you know I use t'be.
Honey, you know I use t'be.
Honey, you know I use t'be.
The man you thought I ought to be,
Baby, what went wrong ?

Honey here it is baby,
you know it's three a.m.,
I'm laying here in bed,
Wonderin' where you are again,
I know you must be out,
with all your low-rent friends.
Baby what's it gonna take,
To get you back in my arms again?

Honey, I wish you would.
Honey, I wish you would.
Honey, I wish you would.
Let me make you feel so good,
One more time.

It's The Women That Rule The World

Written By: Darrell Blackburn / Peter May

If you took away all the money,
And you took away all the strings,
If you stopped the cars from running,
Well, It sure wouldn't mean a thing.

Chorus
'Cause you'd still love your momma,
You'd still love to watch those little girls,
If you took away what the man said,
It's the women that rule the world.

Now you real men don't need to panic,
I tell you it could be a whole lot worse,
If we was on the great Titantic,
It'd be women and children first.

Chorus

Well I know some of you women,
You is bound to raise a fuss,
If you weren't tryin' to get even,
Well, you'd be all over us.

Chorus

Discography

Black Coffee Blues CD - Peter May w/the Rough Band and Terraplane.
Straight Drive CD - Peter May and Terraplane
RootWork - Peter May, Mike Wesolowski & BWO. Sountrack from The Root Doctor movie.

Set List

Sets are anywhere from 45 mins. - 2 hrs. long.
We cover obscure blues and gospel songs from the 20's and 30's. We mix in our own rock and roll.

Bullfrog Blues (Harris)
Everyday In The Week (Anderson)
Keep It To Yourself (Williamson)
Green River Blues (Patton)
Depot Blues (House)
Black Coffee Blues (May)
Call Me (May)
Big Road Blues (Johnson)
Can’t You Hear Your Savior Calling? (Hurt)
Divin’ Duck Blues (Estes)
I Am The Light (Davis)
24-7 (May)
A Few Seconds (May)
I Use t’ Could (May)
New Coat Of Paint (Waits)
Mr. President (Newman)
It’ll Be Me (Lewis)
...Calvin... (Blackburn, May)
Backdoor Man (Dixon)
Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Davis)