Rev. Truman Goines
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Rev. Truman Goines

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"Sourland Blues"

There are stories to tell from those mountains, and Bliggins & Goines recount them with music.


Robert Liana Jr. and Seth Grossman, a.k.a. Bliggins and Goines, began playing their special blend of blues, folk and hillbilly songs as children. They will perform at the Sourlands Folk/Blues Festival at Joe's Mill Hill Saloon in Trenton.

Who is Seth Grossman today? Is he the take- charge consultant for Cooperative Professional Services or is he "Rev. Truman Madison Goines," the wild bluesman hooting and hollering his way through some lowdown tunes?
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Mr. Grossman, who also goes by Rev. Goines, says his mysterious persona is appropriate for playing blues and folk music, especially original songs that tell the story of the Sourlands region. This is the area tucked between Somerville, Hopewell and Lambertville, famous for its rock-strewn wilderness and the "you-leave-us-alone-we'll-leave-you-alone" philosophy of its inhabitants.
"There's a sense you can lose yourself there," says Mr. Grossman, speaking from his home in Lambertville. "It's still that way today, (inhabited) by people who respect privacy, nature and a simple kind of beauty."
Mr. Grossman will don his Rev. Goines hat and, joined by harmonica master Junior Bliggins, lay down some funky folk and blues at Joe's Mill Hill Saloon in Trenton Aug. 21 for the Sourlands Folk/Blues Festival. The festival also features Delta-style bluesmen Steve Guyger and Geoff Kline.
The Sourlands area has a long-standing tradition of diversity and tolerance, and may have had prominence in the Underground Railroad.
"It was a very important place because of its proximity to New York, Philadelphia and Princeton," says Mr. Grossman. "There have always been mixed cultures and different races in the Sourlands. The downside to the region is that there always seemed to be some nefarious people hiding out there, as well as questionable activities. It was the Atlantic City of its time, with liquor and illegal gambling."
Like the Pinelands, the Sourlands has its share of lore. One of Bliggins & Goines' songs tells the tale of John Ringo, a pirate who was rumored to have buried his gold in the Sourland Mountains and bestowed his name upon Ringoes.
"People have seriously tried to look for gold there (in the Sourlands)," Mr. Grossman says. "In our song we tell people where we think the gold is buried."
The Sourlands is also known for its fusion of musical styles. Mr. Grossman explains the roots of the duo's Sourlands-inspired music, dubbing it "New Piedmont Blues."
"New Jersey is part of the Piedmont area, the lowland hills that roll down to the ocean," he says. "You'll find Piedmont-style folk, blues and mountain music throughout New Jersey, and there's a distinctive style in the Pine Barrens as well as the mountains. There's a mixture of bluegrass, ragtime and blues and good old foot-tapping folk music. Bliggins & Goines has that mixture as well — all acoustic.
"As for the 'New Piedmont Style,' since we're caught between major metropolitan areas, we pick up traces of all that, too," he continues. "For example, from New York City you get the influence of jazz and (nightclub) music, but there also is the New York folk scene, Bob Dylan and John Prine, for example, which is even stronger. Then from Philly you get soul and R&B. Blend this with ragtime and hootenanny and it's a very interesting combination."
"Jr. Bliggins" is also a pseudonym. The harp player was born Robert Liana Jr. in 1955 in west Central Jersey. He loves his roots, but also is filled with wanderlust, criss-crossing the U.S. and Europe on a 10-speed bicycle in the mid-1970s.
It was about that time that Mr. Liana met master harmonica player Jordan Webber in North Carolina's hill country. Mr. Webber gave him the nickname "Bliggins" and taught him to whoop the blues and master a forgotten style of "thigh-slapping hootenanny country harmonica," according to the Bliggins & Goines bio.
Mr. Grossman also is an ordained minister who "doesn't have a flock" but can legally perform marriage ceremonies — that's where the "Rev." comes in. He started to call himself Truman Goines as a teenager, in order to evade the truant officers who might have objected to a minor playing in honky-tonks.
"Truman Madison Goines" and his family moved to Central Jersey in 1965 and grew up in the old 1843 Poor Farm, purchased from the Liana (Bliggins) family. That connection shows just how long Mr. Liana and Mr. Grossman have known each other.
"Jr. Bliggins" and "Rev. Goines" began playing their special blend of blues, folk and hillbilly songs as children.
"I grew up with Bliggins and we walked around those mountains barefoot," Mr. Grossman says. "We got to know the trees and rocks and streams. It was a magical area, a place that speaks to people."
Describing himself as a classically trained piano prodigy, Mr. Grossman says he was "always a musician. I played at a very young age because I was mature-looking. I was only 14 when I started playing, mostly piano, in bars and different places."
He later picked up gigs throughout the region playing piano as well as guitar, bass, tenor guitar and more recently, dobro. Influenced by Dr. John, Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Mose Allison as well as various bluesmen and folk singers, he merges the Piedmont style with urban folk, soul and jazz idioms of the Sourlands region.
"I say Randy Newman and Mose Allison (are influential) because they're pianists and that's my main instrument," Mr. Grossman says. "As for Tom Waits, I always say 'Thank God for Tom Waits.' I don't really imitate him, but when I first heard him sing — which wasn't until the 1980s — I realized I had the same kind of voice. He gave me permission to sing. We share the same birthday too."
Giving a little more background history on the Sourlands, Mr. Grossman notes again that the place was a good location for people who wanted to be left alone. In fact, John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, hid from the British there.
This bit of history inspired the Bliggins & Goines song "Lost John," rife with Mr. Bliggins' chugging harmonica and Rev. Goines' whooping — imitating the bloodhounds who searched for the fugitive patriot.
"That's what we do," Mr. Grossman says. "We sing about the legends of New Jersey and the people who made and built our country. You write about what you know and the Sourlands area is what I know. When you're writing and playing folk music, you have to write from the heart. Our music is an exploration about that kind of authenticity, about everyday life. There are no special frills, except maybe a little tongue-in-cheek humor. But that's our American tradition — telling tales."
- Princeton Packet


Discography

CD - Rev. Truman Goines - Livin' & Lovin' in the Sourlands (2007)

CDs - The Legend of Bliggins and Goines, Vol. 1 (2005) & Vol. 2 (2006). Songs regularly played on WPRBFM & WDVR

CD - Rumble, Rattle & Roar (1997) - intimate piano urban folk/blues as Seth Andrews AKA Rev. Truman Goines.

For more info. cdbaby.com/bligginsandgoines

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Bio

Rev. Truman Goines performs the original accoustic folk-roots music depicting life in the New Jersey piedmont region called the Sourland Mountain. Wonderfully entertaining and deeply moving, Rev. Goines brings us back to straight forward and fun music mixing rural and urban idioms in a way only New Jersey can.

Winner 2005 New Jersey Folk Festival Songwriters Contest & 2006 Independent Music Awards - Americana

Finalist "2006 Independent Music Awards" Music Resource Group

Born, Seth A. Grossman, in 1955, the Reverend Truman M. Goines played music as a child in the Sourland Region Mountain of New Jersey. According to Goines, he is the son of a martial arts teacher and Celtic royalty, his mother being the first of four children from the Nagual clan. His father, once a renowned Jin Shin Jitsu instructor, turned to venture capital late in life using his psychic prowess to initiate electronic transfers. He amassed a small fortune and took a job as Aikido instructor on a cruise ship before disappearing somewhere in the Aleutian Island chain in 1986. In 1999, Goines became a minister of the Heart River Healing School in NYC. Playing a shiny zoftig steel dobro, Rev. Goines style is reminiscent of traditional Chinese zither with a backbeat of Philadelphia soul. He has developed one of the more distinct and original vocal styles to appear from this rugged area, utilizing his epiglottal coitis-bar throatsong to mimic birdcalls, dust storms and diesel engines heard on his various travels across the Piedmont.

A voracious singer/songwriter, Goines writes and performs songs about escaped scoundrels, solipsist nugatory, loss and love, and other unpublished sagas of the New Jersey Sourlands. Growing up in the Sourlands amid the largest and last tract of old growth forest in New Jersey, Goines recalls the sound of the wind as it blew through the tall pines in late autumn, “It was like your mama murmuring a lullaby.” By the age of 21, he was playing at "Hill Billy Hall" in Hopewell, New Jersey where he took the stage name, Truman Goines to avoid being discovered by a bevy of old girlfriends who claimed him to be the father of their children. Says Truman of this phenomenon, “It jus’ could be… I really don’t know…” He later picked up gigs throughout the region playing dobro, er-hu, tenor guitar, washboard, and piano. Influenced by Dr. John, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Josh White, Brownie McGhee, Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, William Moore, Jr. Walker, Jr. “Shakey Legs” Bliggins, Willie Walker, Curley Weaver, Blind Willie McTell, Granpa Jones, Sha Na Na, One-String Frank, George “electric ðheezcho” Petrillo, Eldridge Cleaver, the Blues Magoos, Sally Fields, Totie Fields, Paul Lowe, Jack Kerouac, Tootsie, Twiggy, Charlie “Phi Lemön Pie” McCracken, Jimmy Durante, Jack Daniels, Chögyam Tungpa, Fess Parker, Oprah, Toots Simmons, Captain Nemo, Vic Morrow, Mr. Ed, Joel “Reecho” Proper, Meriwether Lewis, Edie Gorme, P.G. Wodehouse, James Madison, and Leonard Nimoy, he merges the Piedmont style with urban folk, soul and jazz idioms of the region. In the late 1970’s, Twiggy was overheard to say, “He remains an enigma, a national treasure and someone with soul and wisdom to just about make your day.” In response, Totie Fields confessed, “he made my day...”

Reverend Goines describes his music as a combination of New York/New Jersey exurban folk and Fu Shang epiglottal coitis-bar country/mountain blues. His eponymous CDs, “Rumble, Rattle & Roar” as Seth Andrew on piano; “The Legend of Bliggins & Goines, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2”, which features Jr. Bliggins on harmonica; and this CD, “Livin’ & Lovin’ in the Sourlands” can be obtained at Amazon.com and cdbaby.com/bligginsandgoines. You can learn more about Rev. Goines at www.revtrumangoines.com.