By Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter Published Sep 17, 2012 at 3:03 PM

I had been warned that Eric Sardinas, blues-rock slide guitarist, has been known set a resonator or two on fire. 

He laughed when I told him that, and then paused. "Don’t believe it," he said, and repeated himself: "Don’t believe it ... are you coming to the show?" 

"I will if there’s going to be a flaming guitar," I said. 

"That sounds like an invitation, then," he replied. 

Sorry, pyros. The stage at Shank Hall is covered in carpet, so Sardinas will have to restrain himself when he performs there on Sept. 19. But he promised that the sound will be hot, even if his guitar isn't.

Sardinas is an interesting musical paradox. His soul is retro blues, but he plays with the electricity – literally – of a modern rock star. He and his band, Big Motor, are touring the world promoting his latest record, "Sticks and Stones." 

He was kind enough to grant me a phone interview a few weeks ago while he was heading out of New York City. As the sounds of sirens and car horns blared in the background, this musician-in-transit explained the emotion behind his art. 

Music needs to be honest, he said. Honest and natural.

"To be moved by music is the most important thing," he said. "If you like blues, if you like rock, if you like to have a good time – that’s when the stage line gets blurred and everyone connects. It’s about being electrified and having a good time." 

After seeing Elvis Presley at the age of 6, the Fort Lauderdale native was inspired to "dig back" and explore the gritty roots of blues. 

 "Who’s John Lee Hooker? Who’s Fred McDowell? Who’s Bukka White?" he said, describing his childish enthusiasm for Delta icons. "My appreciation for the primal, earliest beginnings of blues was pretty much discovered quick when I connected to that. What I loved about it was the acoustic energy and the primal connection with the simplicity of just the single player and their instrument.  

"It didn’t matter if it was Texas blues, Chicago blues, Delta or anything else. Everything just made sense to me. And that was where I started playing acoustic guitar."  

He never had a lesson. "I just listened to records. I fell in love with it. I didn’t know what I was doing but I created that sound organically using pickups with my guitar  when I was a kid." 

The sound caught on. For almost 20 years Sardinas has made a career of his bold, bluesy slide guitar playing. The sound is an electrifying marriage of old and new, an homage and an innovation all at once. It's the Mississippi Delta sound doused in gasoline and set on fire.

"My love and respect and connection to traditional blues and rock and roll are two different threads," he said. "The side of rock and roll is really just from respect and connection to anyone who moved blues forward, '60s and '70s and onward, anybody who had anything to say and moved that electrical sound."

On "Sticks and Stones," he teams up once again with producer Matt Gruber, who also produced his 2009 album "Eric Sardinas and Big Motor." It's these kind of collaborations, he said, that push him as a performer, and keep the music as raw as it will be at Shank Hall.

"It's very, very important to have someone that you connect with when you step into a studio because to encapsulate and harness the honesty and energy for your music – it's something you can lose very quickly, if you're not inspired and you're not natural and you're not feeling the moment," he said.

"We never play the same song the same way twice. I want to project the honesty and encompass that sound."

Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter

Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.