Duwayne Burnside Live at the Cat Head Stage #JukeJointFest2014

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After Garry Burnside performed, his brother Duwayne Burnside came onto the stage in front of Cat Head Delta Blues to perform his set. Duwayne performs many of his father’s classic Hill Country blues compositions, and frequently performs in and around North Mississippi. He is also the co-owner of Alice Mae’s Cafe just north of the square in Holly Springs on North Center Street.

Garry Burnside at the Cat Head Stage with Shannon McNally @McNally #JukeJointFest2014

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WHen I made my way back to the Cat Head stage, Garry Burnside (one of the sons of the late R.L. Burnside) was on the stage with his band, and sitting in with him was singer/songwriter Shannon McNally from Holly Springs.

Andre Otha Evans With The R.L. Boyce Fife and Drum Band at Cat Head #JukeJointFest2014

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The conventional wisdom is that there is really only one Black fife-and-drum band left in America, that of Sharde Thomas in Panola County, so it was thrilling to see a second one at this year’s Juke Joint Festival, even if it shared a member with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. R. L. Boyce, a blues musician from Como has long held yard parties at his house, and some of these have featured fife-and-drum music. At the Cat Head stage at this year’s festival, Boyce brought out a fife-and-drum band which featured Otha Turner’s nephew, Andre Otha Evans on the flute, rather than the bass drum he customarily plays with the Rising Star. Perhaps it’s a sign that the tradition has some life remaining in it, at least in Mississippi.

David Kimbrough Jr. Playing at Cat Head Delta Blues at #JukeJointFest2014 @Kimbroughville

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David Kimbrough Jr. is another of the sons of Junior Kimbrough, an amazing guitarist whom we don’t see quite as often since he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, but I recall his dulcimer playing at last summer’s North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, and a memorable concert last year at The Cool Spot in Holly Springs with his brothers Kent and Robert. Any opportunity to see him should not be missed.

Robert Kimbrough Performing at the Cat Head Stage at Clarksdale’s #JukeJointFest2014

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Robert Kimbrough is one of the many sons of the late legendary bluesman Junior Kimbrough, and a frequent performer at the Juke Joint Fest each year in Clarksdale. This year, he performed on the Cat Head stage in front of Roger Stolle’s Cat Head Delta Blues shop, and after his set posed for a picture with two of his brothers that are also musicians, Kent (a drummer) and David (a guitarist). Robert Kimbrough has also released a new album this year called It’s Your World.

Filmmaker and Blues Activist Roger Stolle Discussses “We Juke Up In Here” at On Location Memphis (@olm_trailer)

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Sunday afternoon at the Studio on the Square, the On Location Memphis Film and Music Festival screened a documentary called We Juke Up In Here, a sequel to an earlier documentary called M For Mississippi. The film was made by Roger Stolle, a blues historian and the owner of Clarksdale’s Cat Head Delta Blues store, and Jeff Konkel, the owner of the amazing Broke and Hungry Records label in St. Louis. Given the subject matter of the film, Mississippi delta blues and juke joints, I expected to like We Juke Up In Here already, but I hadn’t expected the production to be so beautiful, and there’s really no other way to describe it. The scenes of Mississippi wilderness during travel sequences are vivid, the interviews are frank and informative, and the music, both that played in the jukes and that of the soundtrack is truly incredible.
Unfortunately, the ultimate theme of the film is the ways in which the Mississippi juke joints are dying out and fading, and so the movie focuses ultimately on one, the legendary Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale owned by Red Paden, a juke that simply has refused to die. So ultimately, We Juke is a bittersweet film, beautiful in its celebration of Mississippi’s African-American folklore, but with the ominous clouds of loss looming on the horizon.
After the screening, Roger graciously took our questions and discussed some of the making of the film.

The Great R. L. Boyce & Como Breakdown Live at #catheaddeltablues #jukejointfest @VisitClarksdale

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Given the importance of Como, Mississippi in blues history, it is surprising and saddening that there is rarely any live blues to be heard in the little town, despite two popular restaurants and a recording studio. Nevertheless, there is abundant talent in the vicinity, as evidenced by the two records of Como-area singers released by the Daptone label. There is also R. L. Boyce, the senior statesman of Panola County blues musicians, whose career spans both the Hill Country guitar tradition of R. L. Burnside and also the endangered fife-and-drum traditions unique to the region of northern Panola County and southern Tate County in Mississippi. Boyce calls his band the Como Breakdown, and their spirited performance at Cat Head in Clarksdale Saturday was made even more exciting by the unexpected early appearance of Duwayne Burnside, son of the late R. L. Burnside. Boyce established a rapport with the crowd early, and his band kept things jumping, even before the two songs he did with Burnside. He has recorded an album which is supposed to be coming out here in 2013.