May 26, 2017
by Robert Feuer
The Funky Fridays concerts on the lawn of the Sonoma Valley’s historic Hood Mansion have raised money for that area’s parks since 2013. They’re back for another round of shows this summer, having added a new 600 square-foot dance floor. One of the summer’s high points promises to be the June 16 appearance of the Volker Strifler Band.
Strifler has played an important role in the Santa Rosa music scene for a long time.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, he began his musical career in the late 1970s, playing mostly rock ‘n roll, at American military bases, which every German town had at the time.
That circuit didn’t support the blues music he was listening to, creating a motivation to later move closer to its roots in the U.S. In his early 20’s in Germany, Strifler met and married an American girl from Sonoma County, and has spent most of his time here since.
In the late ‘90s, he backed classic bluesman Lowell Fulson at two or three European festivals, and joined the popular Ford Blues Band as their frontman when they needed a vocalist/guitarist. He played with them at the 2003 San Francisco Blues Festival, doing a Butterfield Blues Band tribute that included Nick Gravenites and Al Kooper. The Ford Blues Band is still intact, performing occasionally, says Strifler.
Strifler exudes a vibrant and effervescent personality that’s reflected in the music on his most recent CD release, 2011’s “Let the Music Rise.” His focal point is blues, but he likes to explore, with an emphasis on rhythm leading him into different styles. “Blues is the most important thing I do,” he says, “but jazz comes into my music.” Sometimes a honky tonk or calypso sound appears, creating a sense of jubilation. “I can be more genuine when I play what really comes out,” he says. “Sometimes the magic works.”
Lately, he’s returning to more of a blues vein. “I hope we continue to keep the tradition alive, but also try to push the envelope, just to keep it vital.”
Strifler has released four albums. Ninety-percent of his songs are originals. “I try to make the lyrics mean something, without sounding preachy. I just stick to what I know and what feels right, but sometimes, when I first bring these things out to the band, I get these blank stares.”
Discussing the effect of technology on recording, he appreciates the fact that parts can be recorded in different locations and mixed together, allowing him to record with guys he knows in Germany, but says, “There’s no better feel than recording the whole band at the same time. Technology makes stuff possible, but you lose that interplay.”
Strifler works hard at his music and takes it very seriously. “As an artist you have to be true to yourself,” he says. “If you intellectualize about it, you’re sterilizing your music. There’s some blood, sweat, and tears involved when you do it right.”
Full lineup at funkyfridays.info/
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