It was announced this week that Mississippi blues legend Honeyboy Edwards is retiring from the music scene due to health reasons. This is a devastating blow to blues fans all over the world. Edwards has been an incredible source of information about the pre-war blues era (especially Robert Johnson) for numerous writers and interviewers over the years and served as a source of encouragement to blues musicians all over the world. The 96-year-old maintained a very active schedule up until recently. He was the last of the pre-war bluesmen and if you were able to see him perform, you were in for a treat. Fans wishing to send him get-well wishes can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Friday Blues Fix wishes Honeyboy a long and enjoyable retirement.
|Son Thomas pictured with a few examples of his artwork|
Next up is R.L. Boyce, who got his start in Turner’s band, playing the bass drum. Boyce is also a guitarist and has weekly houseparties of his own in
Another star of the M for Mississippi documentary is Terry “Harmonica” Bean. Bean is a relative youngster in the blues, in his late 40’s. He plays guitar and harmonica and sings. He started out as a stud athlete in high school, working on a baseball scholarship, but suffered a career-ending injury. He took up the blues and now tours throughout the state and the country. He was also recorded for M for Mississippi, at the Ground Zero Blues Club, singing “I’m A Bluesman.” Bean once was only a harmonica player, but was encouraged to learn to play the guitar by fellow harmonica player John Weston after Bean's band stood him up a couple of times. The clip below, though hard to see, features Bean with T-Model Ford at Red's in Greenville. The song is "Red's Hideaway," which would serve as this blog's theme song if I could ever figure out how to do it.
Speaking of one-man bands, here’s the previously mentioned Bill Abel, from Belzoni, MS. In addition to his recording engineer skills, Abel is also a noted painter and musician who makes and plays guitars made out of cigar boxes. Very cool. He recently released his own disc, called One-Man Band, and played all the instruments on it with no overdubs at all. Below is from Abel's appearance at the 2008 Mississippi Delta Hip Hop Festival, where he plays Muddy Waters' "Can't Be Satisfied" on a homemade diddley bow made of a cigar box, broom stick and string, sounding better with a one-stringed instrument than many guitarist sound with six strings.
When New Orleans native Corey Harris decided to record his Mississippi to Mali disc in the early part of the last decade, he was going to use Othar Turner, but Turner passed away the week before recording was to begin. Harris decided to use Turner’s band with his granddaughter, Sharde' Thomas, in her grandfather’s place, and they appear on several songs on the disc. Fortunately, there is some footage of Harris and Othar Turner performing together, in the clip below, the pair tackle the blues standard, "Sittin' On Top Of The World."
Mississippi to Mali took Harris from the Mississippi Delta to Africa and he used both Mississippians (Turner’s band along with Sharde' Thomas, Bobby Rush and Sam Carr) and Africans (Ali Farka Toure and his band) to help him make music. It's a remarkable record, showing that there's actually little difference between the blues as it developed in the Mississippi Delta and at the origin point in Africa. Harris is one of the few modern country blues artists these days, but has begun to move more and more toward world music, notably reggae, to the point where his last few releases have been pretty much devoid of blues. Hopefully, he will return to the blues in the near future.
There are plenty more Mississippi bluesmen out there today that we will check out another time. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to record labels like Broke & Hungry, Cat Head, Hill Country, Fat Possum, and numerous others for getting these artists on record.