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Published: October 3rd 2016
Where else are you gonna go for da blues?
Sounds like the start of a good song
At times -- Time and distance makes being together challenging in our consulting line of work. We’ve been apart for 18 days….18 miserable days for us. In over 20+ years, nothing had separated us this long, until now. With MJ starting a new job out on the left coast in California and Dave finishing up a contract in Arkansas, the timing was off….but now that has been corrected. Only one thing to do once we get reunited……head to The Crossroads. The Mississippi Delta the birthplace of the blues music.
Our souls needed some nurturing and the blues is the cure.
Many a blues fan from around the world dream of the drive through Delta blues country from Memphis to New Orleans via Clarksdale and Vicksburg Mississippi. The tales of those famous bluesman from decades past who have traveled these roads—Muddy Watters, John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, B.B. King and Robert Johnson (he of the famous lore as he supposedly sold his soul to the devil at the Crossroads).
MJ arrived from LA late in the afternoon into Little Rock and no time is wasted as the course
Grain Bin A
Our domicile for two nights.....quaint and funky.
is set for Clarksdale, Mississippi, the heart of the blues. A seemingly sleepy little town that still allows the faithful to experience some of the blues magic each night at places like Ground Zero and Red’s Juke Joint. Fans of this musical genre come from Europe and Australia and the clubs often seem as a great international mix of blues fans.
Once again the anticipation grows as we roll into Clarksdale, Mississippi. We go in search of blues music in an off the beaten path location –that yet is internationally known. This time we were able to secure the last room available at The Shack Up Inn. We stayed in grain bin A, which is the smallest of the five grain bins. The Shack Up Inn is located on the old Hopson Plantation, well known for cotton in years gone by. If you decide to stay at the Shack Up Inn you’ll need to decide between restored sharecropper shacks, boutique hotel rooms and renovated cotton bins and grain bins. Each is unique in its character and decorations. The motto at the Inn is “the Ritz we ain’t.”
Upon arrival, we checked out the Rust restaurant/bar for a cold
Playing his guitar....oh my!
beer and a pulled pork barbeque sandwich. We learned that there was a musician’s workshop that week and about 15-20 people came together to learn how to hone their blues playing skills and jam together. We sat for a quick set as we finished our beers and then knew where we had to go……Red’s. If you only had one night in Clarksdale, this is where you should go for music and atmosphere. It’s the closest thing to a juke joint these days. You won’t be disappointed….. That night we were in for a real treat, as Kingfish was playing. This is a seventeen year-old blues savant who technically and style-wise is fantastic. This kid can really bring it home. He has already played at the White House and been on television. He has only cut an EP to date….hard to believe. Got to get this kid in a recording studio. His mother was at Red’s that night collecting the cover charge at the door and reminding the audience not to use video and if Red caught you….have mercy on your soul!
We’ve referred to this young man as a savant because he picked up the drums at 6 years
Go here for tamales and BBQ beef tips....the best sauce!
old, the bass guitar at 9 years old and the lead guitar at 11. He is accomplished on all three of those today. His voice is deep and full, he sounds much older than his 17 years. ChristoneIngram
In Red’s we sat next to a gentleman from Denmark making the blues trek from Chicago to Clarksdale. He was on to Memphis the next day and looking forward to all the trail has to offer him musically.
The next morning, we headed out for breakfast to a place we visited last time we were in town, The Bluesberry Café. On Saturday and Sunday morning (10am), you can get the blues and a reasonable breakfast. When we walked in, we saw that all the tables except one where empty, as it was occupied by this morning’s musicians, Mick Kolassa and David Dunavent. They finished up their breakfast and then proceeded to play…..just for us. We kicked back and enjoyed the tunes and stories for well over two hours as they played, including weaving in a couple of old rock standards into blues tunes. Who would have that that the old 3 Dog Night tune, “Momma Told Me
Saturday morning at Bluesberry's Cafe
Mick Kolassa and David Dunavent....a very pleasant breakfast full of blues....a private blues breakfast...thanks guys!
Not To Come” could be transformed into a blues song? We learned that both had been up until about 4 AM last night, but there they were, playing just for us and making sure that it was a good show. Today’s crowd was low at the café because Ole Miss was playing the Georgia Bulldogs and many were at the game.
After breakfast, we headed out to buy blues CDs from a couple of local merchants, then rested up for the evening’s entertainment, as we knew we were headed back to Red’s for more music. That evening had Lucious Spiller Blues Band on the bill, and he was not up to the standards of the previous night’s entertainment. He was not bad by any means, but perhaps he had too hard of an act to follow in our minds….but… as we left Red’s that night, we felt as though we had filled our musical souls up again with the nectar that is the blues. A quick stop back at the Hopson Plantation to listen to Gunsmoke, for a little more music and then we were peacefully dozing in our grain bin…..happy to once again be in Clarksdale.
Blowing the harp
Many of the folks at the workshop were not pros, but just loved the blues.....
times we’ve gone to Clarksdale we’ve had an initial impression that not much was going on in this town. Several storefronts are empty and signs showed a slumping local economy. As you walk around and scratch the surface you’ll find quaint shops, both music related and souvenir. There are a couple of museums well worth your time and a stop at the Cat Head Delta Blues and Art is well worth a visit. The proprietor is a wealth of knowledge and he can make some great recommendations on which CD’s you should buy and take home with you. Dancing Dave….that means some Delta Blues will be heading your way fairly soon!
This part of the world offers some great BBQ. We highly recommend Larry’s!! We also ate at Abe’s while we were there and they were ok but nothing to compare with Larry’s. We’d been told that Hick’s had good BBQ and on our two visits there they were closed so we assume they are out of business. We can’t say for sure. Our recommendation is to go to Larry’s as often as you can.
We left with our blues souls in good shape, not
Ready for picking...
Cotton in Mississippi
to mention our bellies full. Our next blog will find us enjoying the blues once again…..on the high seas.
Please check out our previous blog. "You know the blues had a baby, and they named that baby rock and roll". McKinley Morganfield
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