For whatever reason, the music at this year’s River Arts Festival seemed oriented toward folk, rock and country, with far less jazz, blues, soul or gospel than previous years’ festivals. But one exception was Clarksdale-based bluesman Terry “Big T” Williams, who played all Saturday afternoon on the festival’s far northern end of Main Street, occasionally accompanied by Latin percussionist Rico Rumba as well. Big T’s repertoire stretches from traditional blues to soul tunes like Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog.” Occasionally, groups of festival goers would stop to listen before heading further down to the art exhibits.
Pontotoc blues musician Terry “Harmonica” Bean was the last artist I got to see at this year’s Juke Joint Festival before I had to drive back to Memphis to play my own gig. He was playing on the New World Stage in front of the New Roxy Theater with a fairly decent crowd there to here him. As always, the Juke Joint Festival was a full day of fun, the overwhelming majority of it free.
The closure of Madidi and then Rust basically left Clarksdale without an upscale restaurant at all, so the opening of the new Pinkbar is welcome. Located on John Lee Hooker Lane (which is really cool in and of itself), the Pinkbar inhabits an old tin-roof house that has been vacant for several years. Unfortunately, during the Juke Joint Festival, it was closed for a special event, but I will be back down to Clarksdale to try it soon enough.
312 John Lee Hooker Ln
Clarksdale, MS 38614
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.
Hattiesburg blues musician Wes Lee has a following in the Southern part of Mississippi, but this was my first time encountering him at Juke Joint Festival. He played a version of the traditional spiritual “John The Revelator” AKA “The Book of the Seven Seals” , which caught my attention because I had just heard a quartet version of it on Spotify a few days before.
Arkansas blues musician CeDell Davis, born in 1927, overcame both the ravages of polio and the crushing of his legs during a nightclub stampede in the 1950’s, and still today plays the blues, though confined to a wheelchair.
Of course the Juke Joint Fest is far more than simply blues bands. There are all kinds of arts, crafts, food, and fun things for kids to do, including a mechanical bull and a climbing mountain.
Clarksdale blues musician Otis “TCB” Taylor is not to be confused with the Denver blues musician Otis Taylor, but he is a frequent performer in Clarksdale year round. This year, he and his TCB Blues Band were playing the New World Stage in front of the New Roxy Theatre during the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale.
The Wade Walton Stage, named for the man who owned the blues club and barber shop on the spot when he was living, is always one of the most crowded and boisterous stages during Juke Joint Fest each year, and this year was no exception, as young blues artist Mr. Sipp performed with his band and drew a crowd of dancers directly in front of the stage. Unlike many older blues artists, Mr. Sipp is as equally at home with Jimi Hendrix as he is with traditional blues, and the people loved all of it.