Blues at Home Blowout in Oxford at the @LamarLounge with @JimboMathus Et Al

Bands, entertainment, events, music, videos


I learned about the Blues At Home Blowout at the Lamar Lounge from attorney Tom Freeland’s excellent North Mississippi Commentor blog, which is a great online destination for all things Oxford, from music, to legal things to Faulknerian lore, so even though I had just gone to Oxford the week before, I had to go again. The line-up displayed on the poster was absolutely amazing, and I frankly could not imagine how all of those artists would be able to perform even in the three hours or so allotted for the concert. As it turned out, not all the performers listed appeared, but even so, the three hours were jam-packed with blues, and everything got worked in by the expedient of having Jimbo Mathus on drums for everyone, and keeping the same bass player throughout, and they did a yeoman’s job, although I’m sure they were quite tired when it was all over. The event was actually an after-party for Mississippi artist H.C. Porter‘s remarkable Blues At Home exhibit at the University of Mississippi, and fearing that I wouldn’t get a table in front of the stage otherwise, I showed up at the Lamar Lounge two hours before starting time. As it turned out, Jimbo Mathus performed a dinner hour set on guitar with his bass player for an hour before the starting time for the concert. He then switched to drums, and the first performer of the night came on stage, 82-year-old Leo “Bud” Welch, who released his first album Sabougla Voices this year on Fat Possum Records‘ Big Legal Mess subsidiary. He was followed by Hattiesburg/Jackson bluesman Vasti Jackson, a musician I had often heard my poet friend Charlie Braxton mention. Vasti Jackson was followed by Natchez blues guitarist Y.Z. Ealey, who is a brother of Southern soul star Theodis Ealey, and whose style showed a considerable influence from swamp blues and swamp pop. He was joined by Broke and Hungry Records artist Terry “Harmonica” Bean sitting in on harmonica. Mickey Rogers was up next, a blues guitarist I had seen last year on a trip to Indianola, and then Jackson-based Jesse Robinson came up, a guitarist I was really not familiar with, but whose guitar skills amazed everyone in the room. Behind him came Kenny Brown, the hometown favorite who grew up with blues legend Joe Callicot in Nesbit, Mississippi and who studied with the late R. L. Burnside. His music can always get an Oxford crowd to their feet, and what little space was available for dancing was soon filled. Finally, the headliner of the night, Bobby Rush came and performed very briefly, as he had driven down from an earlier performance at Rhodes College in Memphis. Altogether it was an amazing night of Mississippi blues, from a number of different performers than the ones often seen in North Mississippi, and there was a sort of lagniappe when, quite unexpectedly, Vasti Jackson and Bobby Rush launched a brief guitar and harmonica duo on the back patio near the barbecue pit. All in all, one of the most memorable Mississippi blues nights ever.

Uncategorized

The Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy had their Grammy GPS event yesterday at the Stax Music Academy in South Memphis, with an array of speakers that included Steve Jordan, activist rapper Talib Kweli, southern rapper and producer Fiend, and Mississippi poet and activist Charlie Braxton. The event also attracted a number of local Memphis artists, including Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys, Al Kapone, Knowledge Nick, Cities Aviv, Miscellaneous, James Alexander of the Bar-Kays, Jason Da Hater and Montana Trax. Memphis TN, 9/29/12

Uncategorized

The R U Still Down Conference: The Career and Impact of Tupac Shakur was held on the campus of Jackson State University on Thursday, February 16. It was organized in part by noted Mississippi poet and activist Charlie Braxton, and featured a number of panelists, including myself, Memphis rapper Al Kapone, and Mississippi artists and DJs, including Skipp Coon, Kamikaze and DJ Phingaprint.

8/26/09: Lean Times In Fat City

entertainment, events, music, Music Conferences, Restaurants


Breakfast was at Panera Bread, and then I headed out to New Orleans for the Cutting Edge Music Business Conference, but I stopped in Jackson to have lunch with Charlie Braxton at Majestic Burger, and to pick up the new Ned Sublette book about New Orleans at Lemuria Books.
All the time I had spent in Jackson had me running behind schedule, but I got so sleepy south of Jackson that I had to stop in Brookhaven for a cappuccino.
The New Orleans rap artist Ms. Tee had wanted to meet with me, so when I got across the swamps and past Manchac and LaPlace, I called her from the outskirts of Kenner, and she suggested that we meet at Copeland’s Social City in Metairie. I had no trouble finding it, but, unfortunately, the menu had changed since the last time she had been there, and it was not only expensive, but just weird. mostly small plates, the tapas menu that’s so trendy nowadays in places like Los Angeles or New York. This was New Orleans, however, so we decided to drive further down Veterans to the Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, which was a much better and more diverse menu. We talked, some things about the city’s rap scene, and some about her career, and then went our separate ways, me out to the part of Metairie that had once been called Fat City in search of beignets.
Tucked behind the Lakeview Mall, it was hard to see how the nondescript strip malls facing each other had ever been intended to rival the French Quarter, but that’s what the developer who built them had bragged back in the early 1970’s when school integration had started in earnest, and whites began pouring out of Orleans Parish into Metairie like water flowing through the broken levees. Businesses flowed over the line as well, one of them the venerable old Morning Call coffee stand that had proudly stood in the French Market for 103 years, a block northeast of its more-famous competitor, the Cafe Du Monde. When it left the Quarter for Metairie in 1974, people began to realize that something was truly going wrong in New Orleans. Officially the move had been due to “street construction”, but the truth was, most of the place’s long-time customers had probably moved already. Nowadays, Fat City was a garish warren of outdated strip malls with old-fashioned neon signs, and the only thing that seemed “fat” about it might be the beignets at Morning Call. But the coffee stand still proudly advertised that they were open”24 hours”, and they were crowded (with locals, not tourists). The prices were slightly cheaper than the Cafe Du Monde, and I noticed that they didn’t dust the beignets with powdered sugar, but had canisters of powdered sugar on every table for you to do it yourself. From there, I took a spin through West End Park, where I had eaten on an enjoyable promotional trip back in the summer of 2005 before Hurricane Katrina. Although the Joe’s Crab Shack had been rebuilt and opened as a Landry’s Seafood House, the rest of the area was still strangely desolate. Peculiarly, the sand volleyball courts were still there and apparently had been rebuilt by the city, but there was not a trace of the four or so restaurants that sat in a circle at the western end of West End Park the last time I had been there. I felt rather depressed as I headed down Pontchartrain Boulevard and into the city, whose broad expanse of downtown towers suggested a place of infinite wealth and possibility. Any illusions were soon shattered when I exited onto Canal Street, passing an abandoned hotel, three abandoned movie theatres and a vacant office tower with shattered windows, although the street had been planted with rows of beautiful royal palms, and the street’s condition seemed to improve with each block as I drove nearer to the river. The hotel where my conference was being held was the Westin Canal Place at the very end of the street, and after I had checked in, I decided to call it a night. My room featured a window with a broad expanse of the city, looking eastward toward the Faubourg Marigny and across the river toward Algiers. Off in the distance to the east, I could see the flash of radio towers, maybe out at Michoud, and nearer, I could see a big boat negotiating the Mississippi, perhaps an oil tanker. I left the window open on the city and fell asleep on the plush bed.

8/16/09: RIP Jim Dickinson

Bands, entertainment, events, music

Breakfast with Charlie Braxton and two of his sons at Broad Street Baking Company. Then I drove back to Memphis, but detoured into Water Valley to meet Justin Showah, the owner of Hill Country Records, who had an order of Eric Deaton Trio CDs for me to pick up for Select-O-Hits. The talk in the little grocery store there in Water Valley had been about the weekend death of Memphis music legend Jim Dickinson.

8/15/09: Ya Heard Me Conference Day 2 in Jackson MS/Kevin Powell’s Keynote Speech

Bands, entertainment, events, Food, music, Music Conferences, Restaurants


Breakfast at Primo’s in Ridgeland (always good), and then I headed out to the flea market in Pearl to look for old records and Jackson State memoribilia (didn’t find much other than a couple of old Provine High School yearbooks). Events on the Jackson State campus got under way late because people had been out at clubs the night before, so I ducked into the bookstore to kill time and noticed racks of T-shirts announcing the historic football game between Mississippi State and Jackson State in September. I started to buy one, but then I noticed a book by former JSU president Dr. John Peoples, and I bought that instead. I was able to spend some time talking with Dee-1 and his manager, and then Charlie Braxton arrived, followed by Kevin Powell, the keynote speaker for the conference, who was formerly editor-in-chief of Vibe Magazine. After his early afternoon speech, he headed out with me, Charlie and Kamikaze to Cool Al’s in North Jackson, where we ate lunch. Although famous for burgers, I enjoyed the lemon-pepper chicken fingers and freshly cut french-fries.
Back on the Jackson State campus, there was a screening of a documentary about Mississippi rap, but the film upset a community organizer because it contained cursing, and he had brought his grandchildren to the event. He argued with the DJ from Mississippi Valley State that Black art should be appropriate for the elders and the children.
The afternoon panel that I was on almost didn’t happen because all the artists were over in the auditorium doing a soundcheck, but they eventually came back over to our panel, and we got underway.
Afterwards, Charlie, Kevin and I decided to go get pizza for dinner, and as we walked out of the back of the Student Center, the Sonic Boom of the South was practicing in the fields just to the north, with the War and Thunder drumline practicing their cadences. We had intended to eat dinner at Sal and Mookie’s Pizza in the Fondren nieghborhood, but they were overcrowded, so we headed to Soulshine Pizza Factory in Ridgeland instead. The food was great, and the conversation stimulating, and then we dropped Charlie back off at his house, and I dropped Kevin back off at the Jackson State guesthouse since he had an early flight back to New York the next day.
I found that the rap performances at the auditorium had ended, but something seemed to be going on on Gibbs-Green Plaza on the yard, so I parked and walked up there. The freshmen had arrived on campus, but some upperclassmen had too, and there were Sigmas doing a step routine near their benches as I walked past. At the Student Center end of the plaza, a DJ and turntables had been set up for what I supposed had been a “welcome back” party, but everything was winding down. I gave the DJ my business card, and then headed back out to the hotel.