Alvin Youngblood Hart Amplifies the Blues at the Hill Country Picnic

Bands, entertainment, events, music

Up until this year’s Hill Country Picnic, every performance I have heard from Alvin Youngblood Hart has been a solo acoustic effort, a style at which he excels. But on Saturday afternoon at the picnic, Hart performed with his electric trio in a style that incorporated a harder-edged, rock-influenced aesthetic, and the crowd responded enthusiastically.

Alvin Youngblood Hart Performing at the Sid Selvidge Tribute @LevittShell

entertainment, events, music

California bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart has family ties to Carroll County, Mississippi and moved to Memphis a few years ago, which has been a tremendous blessing to our local music community. Having him perform at the Sid Selvidge Tribute at the Levitt Shell Tuesday night was especially appropriate, as Hart and Selvidge were both involved in the efforts to preserve the acoustic Delta blues style. Alvin is of course a versatile performer, as comfortable in his electric rock-oriented ensemble as in an acoustic setting, but on Tuesday night he kept it acoustic, being joined on a couple of tunes by Luther Dickinson on mandolin.

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The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic is an annual two-day outdoor concert at which most if not all of the living hill country blues performers appear, as well as many younger artists from the hill country of Mississippi, many of whom play styles of music influenced heavily by the hill country tradition. But unfortunately, not everyone has the time or money to travel to Marshall County, Mississippi in June for the picnic, so it is fortunate that Devil Down Records has issued a North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic Volume 2 sampler, which amounts to an aural record of the 2010 picnic. There is gospel here by artists like Rev. John Wilkins and Duff Dorough. There is music on the thin line between alternative rock and country, such as “Little Hand, Big Gun” by Jimbo Mathus, or “Midnight in Mississippi” by Blue Mountain. There are aggressive, rock-influenced readings of hill country blues by artists such as Eric Deaton, Duwayne Burnside, Hill Country Revue and North Mississippi All Stars, and there are traditional blues performances by Alvin “Youngblood” Hart, T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour. Of course, no recording can perfectly capture the thrill of being present at such a history-making concert, but this sampler satisfies with consistently-good music throughout. A hidden final track is R. L. Burnside telling a joke from many years ago, like a reminder of his spiritual presence giving approval to the picnic, and this recording.