The concert was headlined by a rock group, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, but the guest star list was phenomenal.....a list of Mississippi blues stars past and present. Representing the present, and future, of Mississippi blues were drummer/guitarist Cedric Burnside and singer/guitarist Steve "Lightnin'" Malcolm. Representing the storied past and present of Mississippi blues were long time Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin and the living legend himself, David "Honeyboy" Edwards.
Mohr opened the show with an acapella reading of the old song, "John the Revelator," then strapped on a guitar for a couple of other Johnson tracks before being joined by BHT keyboardist Jeremy Lawton, Lightnin' Malcolm, and Cedric Burnside on drums for several tracks, then the rest of BHT (drummer Brian Nevin and bassist Rob Squires) joined in. For the most part, the rockers played it straight on the blues tunes, and they sounded great, especially the twin drum attack of Burnside and Nevin. Their version of "Love In Vain" was particularly good. Mohr did a fine job singing and playing guitar. He didn't try to overdo it, either vocally or instrumentally, as sometimes happens at these sort of events.
|Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm|
|Hubert Sumlim & Honeyboy Edwards|
|Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards, & Lightnin' Malcolm|
Big Head Todd had returned to the stage for the last couple of Hubert Sumlin's songs (including an excellent reading of "Smokestack Lighthin'") and closed things out with some modernized versions of more Johnson songs. Their modern interpretations worked just fine and were well-received, but after the appearance of the two legends, it all seemed a bit anti-climatic. When the set ended and the band came out for an encore, they pulled out all the stops for two of Johnson's classics....."Dust My Broom" and "Crossroads." Then they brought Edwards and Sumlin out for the final two songs as the crowd roared their approval. All in all, it was a very enjoyable show. Unfortunately, pictures and video were forbidden during the show since it was being taped, but there's footage out there to be seen. Check out this montage of performances captured by some nice chap at YouTube. While it's not as good as being there (I thought Honeyboy was better on Sunday night), it should be enough to encourage you to check it out if they're in your area.
In addition to Sumlin and Edwards, other living legends like B.B. King, James Cotton, and Charlie Musselwhite have appeared on various shows at various locations. Big Head Todd's new release will be in stores in March, with guest appearances by many of these same artists, so be on the lookout.
(Added 2/24/11) - the group posted a video from the MSU Riley Center earlier this week. Check it out.
Other essential related listening.......