Crossroad Blues

USA Music Tour 2015 Day 22

Clarksdale Mississippi 11 September

It’s going to be a music-soaked, full today here in Clarksdale.

Breakfast at Yazoo Pass cafe – triple-egg omelette and a coffee was just the start required.  Browsing the downtown streets, full of colours and images and a journal of the city’s busier past and the long decay.  But there’s considerable signs of renewal.  Since my first visit in 2008, there’s been a significant change, more businesses open, more accommodation options –  the city is showing signs of flourish, new growth among an inactive past.  It’s fascinating to look around at this time.  Music and it’s heritage is leading the renewal.

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

We found Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art centre on Delta Avenue and fortunately award-winning blues promoter, educator, festival organiser and creative force Roger Stolle was in the store.  A must visit here, CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and a mass of memorabilia, a veritable treasure trove – you can check it out on-line here.

photo Jim Jacob

photo Jim Jacob

As good as the store is, the highlight of the day undoubtedly relates to Robert ‘Wolfman’ Belfour.  Some of you may know him, a traditional blues man who passed away in the last twelve months.  Now I last saw him perform on his 74th birthday, at Red’s here in Clarksdale and Roger reminded me that today he would have been 75 were he still alive.  Then he showed us something truly special, that I’ll never forget, that had just arrived by FedEx courier…a newly-made headstone that will be a true memorial of the life and music of this great blues man.

Roger also gave us the full drum on the live music scene tonight.  No better source than he.  The three good options are Lucious Spiller at Red’s, the Blackwater Trio (at the Stone Pony) and the Daddy Mack Blues Band at our local, Ground Zero.

We motored about 20 miles north and then west over the Mississippi River (and the State border) into Helena Arkansas.  In particular, the Delta Culture Centre, a facility for honouring the blues and, specifically, the considerable Arkansas musical influence.

The flags were at half mast, given the anniversary of the attack on U.S. soil in 2001.

Delta Cultural Centre – photo Jim Jacob

‘Sunshine’ Sonny Payne was hosting his show The King Biscuit Time on KFFA 1360 AM, which numbered episode 17,338 and well into his 59th year as host!!

Sonny Payne – photo Jim Jacob

Chatting to Sonny before the show and, before you could say ‘y’all gonna be guests on this show today whether you like it or not’, he had us seated ready for a live interview.  We were seated there for the whole show but, thankfully, it runs only thirty minutes, giving us less opportunity to embarrass ourselves too much.

Jenny and Jim

Today was Friday so the show was filmed and you can hear and watch us somewhere on the station’s website www.kffa.com and have a laugh at our expense.

After the show and once we had explored all parts of the Centre, we wandered up the levee for another look at Old Man River

and then headed back to Clarksdale and The Delta Blues Museum.

Jim

Dinner was The Stone Pony, the band was The Blackwater Trio, not blues, but good-listening harmonies and Alice Hasen on violin is a special talent.

On to Red’s Club at Sunflower Avenue.  Lucious Spiller Band just started as we arrived.  Cover charge of $10 and smoke-free, would you believe it! (The last time I was here a gentleman seated next to me at the bar chain-smoked his way through an entire Robert Belfour set).  Now, you can have any drink you want at Red’s as long as it’s beer.

Lucious Spiller plays a soulful brand of the blues, he’s edgy and on the move around the club, eyes darting around as he doesn’t seem to miss what’s going on around him.  He had broken strings on two guitars within a few songs, but that didn’t slow him down one iota.  A beautiful player and the bassist and drummer with him obviously were not working to a song set list.  Mainly covers tonight, with a stunning version of Neil Young’s “The Needle and The Damage Done”.  He’s recording a new album, according to his manager and I picked up a copy of an EP of original songs – looking forward to hearing them back home.


Lucius Spiller

Time to leave Red’s.

Tomorrow, Alabama.

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Author: Rob Dickens

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