California native Markus James has spent a lot of time studying the music of Mali, and these influences are apparent in his work with Kinny Kimbrough at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, 5/3/13
Like Memphis, Mississippi has increasingly tried to leverage its musical heritage into increased tourism and/or film production, so they also had a trade show exhibit highlighting the blues. Festivals that feature blues drive a considerable amount of the state’s tourism, particularly in the Delta region.
Hill country bluesman Kenny Brown performs at the Blues Foundation Stage near the National Civil Rights Museum during the River Arts Festival in Memphis, 10/27/12
Kenny Brown and Duwayne Burnside, Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis, 5/6/12
Hill Country bluesman Kenny Brown grew up near Mississippi Joe Callicutt in Desoto County, and was eventually mentored by the late R.L. Burnside. He has been tireless in his effort to preserve the Hill Country Blues tradition, not only through his performances and recordings but through he and his wife’s organization of the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic which is held in Marshall County, Mississippi each June. Here Kenny and Duwayne Burnside perform at the Southern Comfort Blues Shack at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, 5/6/12. You can purchase Kenny Brown’s most recent album “Can’t Stay Long” here: http://devildownrecords.com/
The Juke Joint Festival begins tomorrow in Clarksdale, MS and runs through Sunday. Click on the banner for a schedule and further info
Little Joe Ayres decided to become a musician after noticing the enthusiasm that Marshall County, Mississippi residents had for bluesmen like Louis Boga and Junior Kimbrough. After teaching himself to play the guitar, Ayres began to learn from Kimbrough, and ended up becoming a member of Kimbrough’s band, the Soul Blues Boys. After many years of performing as a sideman and a solo artist, Little Joe Ayres has released his debut album Backatchya, a welcome collection of Kimbrough standards, hill country standards, and other familiar blues tunes that are adapted to the unique hill country style. Like all Devil Down Records releases, the album captures both a moment in time and a unique sense of place. Ayres’ guitar and vocals, as well as his spoken comments, were captured not in a recording studio, but on the front porch of fellow hill country bluesman Kenny Brown’s home. The resulting album has an intimacy that makes the listener feel as if he has spent a day with Little Joe Ayres rather than just listening to a record. Backatchya is a welcome documentation of one of Mississippi’s living blues legends, and is hopefully the first of many albums to come.
The family of Otha Turner has continued his tradition of having a picnic at his old homestead in Gravel Springs between Senatobia and Como. The event features fife and drum music, Hill Country blues, good fun and barbecued goat (if you dare!).
Of course blues in Mississippi was not restricted to the Delta or the Hill Country, but in fact spread throughout the length of the state. L. C. Ulmer, who is from Ellisville, Mississippi in the southern piney woods region, has been playing blues for nearly 70 years, but has his album debut at 80 years of age with the release of “Blues Come Yonder” on the venerable Hill Country Records imprint out of Jimbo Mathus’ Delta Recording Service in Como.
Although Ulmer hails from the southern part of Mississippi, his performance style has many points of similarity with artists from further north. The casual listener might notice moments where Ulmer superficially resembles Mississippi Fred McDowell, yet Ulmer’s style is largely his own, honed during a lifetime of wandering and working odd jobs across America. Legendary Mississippi alt-rock-county icon Jimbo Mathus and Afrisippi bassist Justin Showah provide sympathetic and unobtrusive accompaniment to Ulmer’s guitar virtuosity and vocals, which are particularly evident on the title track “Blues Come Yonder.” And while most of the tunes are in the rural blues tradition, the inclusion of the hillbilly breakdown “Get Along Cindy” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” reveal a hidden shared heritage and influence between white and black Misssissippians. A masterful debut from a living legend of Mississippi blues.
The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic will be held June 24-25, 2011 at Foxfire ranch at Waterford, Mississippi. This is in Marshall County, between Holly Springs and Oxford, just off Highway 7. Many of the living legends of the Hill Country blues style will be performing, as well as the young generation of artists influenced by legends like Otha Turner, R. L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough.