Friday, October 26, 2012

Blues News from the Magnolia State

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The past few months have been busy in Mississippi as far as the blues are concerned.  There are always several blues festivals during the summer months that allow the body to enjoy great music, food, and beverages at 100+ degree temperatures.  The past couple of months, the state was part of the wonderful Bridging the Blues events that took up twelve days in late September and early October.  Occasionally, Friday Blues Fix will take a look at what's going on in the Magnolia State....after all, it's like home to this week, we will look at some things that have been going on, that will be going on, and maybe turn you on to some tunes by some fellow Mississippians that deserve to be heard.  So, check it out, y'all!!!!

The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation will be presenting the Robert Johnson Crossroads Celebration this Saturday (October 27th) in Jackson, MS at the famed Alamo Theatre downtown on Farish Street, beginning at 8:00 pm.  As you can see from the poster on the left, there's a pretty impressive list of musicians appearing, including Vasti Jackson, Chris Thomas King with special guests Cedric Burnside, Billy Gibson, and Japanese blues artist Keiko Kamaki.  Robert Johnson's grandson, Steven Johnson, will also be appearing.  You can buy tickets in advance ($20.00 each....they're $25.00 at the door) through Paypal by visiting the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation website.  Here are a couple of videos from Chris Thomas King and Vasti Jackson to give you a taste of what to expect on Saturday night.

Also this weekend, in Meridian (about 90 minutes east of Jackson), there will be a Mississippi Roots Music Film Festival and Symposium taking place on Sunday, October 28th, at the Temple Theatre in the downtown area, just a few blocks from the Riley Center.  For a $5 admission, there will be three films and about Jimmie Rodgers, one about Elvis Presley, and one featuring....wait for it....the movie We Juke Up In Here!!!!  Filmmakers (and fellow FBF'ers) Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel will also be present for the showing.  All of those films will be worthwhile viewing, but if you haven't seen We Juke Up In Here! yet, your blues credentials could be in danger of being revoked.  Local blues lovers, now's your chance to keep that from happening.  It all starts at 2:30 pm on Sunday.

Last week, we told you about the 424 Blues Cafe' in downtown Philadelphia, MS.  They held an Open House last Saturday, during the town's annual Octoberfest celebration, to allow the curious to drop by and see what was in store for them in a few short months.....good food and drink and great music.  Capping off the festivities was a free performance by Jackson bluesman, Louis "Gearshifter" Youngblood, one of the stars of We Juke Up In Here!  Youngblood played his irresistible mix of urban blues and deep soul for about two hours, even graciously stepping aside a couple of times to allow some local talent the opportunity to show what they had.  His guitar work was first-rate, as was his singing.  He did a mix of covers and originals with a pair of local musicians on bass and drums.  I urge you to check Mr. Youngblood out first chance you get.  In the meantime, check out the clip below (filmed in Pennsylvania during the summer) to get a taste of what you missed this past weekend.

The 424 Blues Cafe' will officially open in a few weeks, so keep an eye on this blog for further info.  As we said last week, owner (and fellow FBF'er) Lenard Ingram plans to have live music on Fridays and Saturdays for starters, but hopes to add Thursdays as soon as possible.  It's going to be a really cool place for east central Mississippi and west central Alabama blues fans to check out the blues without having to drive a long way to do it.

There are several other events taking place this weekend, too.  The state is dedicating a stretch of Interstate 55 near Crystal Springs to Robert Johnson on Friday, designating it as the Robert L. Johnson Memorial Highway.  The ceremony will take place at Exit 72 in Copiah County, just off of I-55 southbound.  The house where Johnson was born was supposedly located at the site of one of the Interstate exits at Hazlehurst.

Also in Crystal Springs on Friday, the grave of bluesman Tommy Johnson is finally getting a headstone.  Chris Thomas King, who played Johnson in the movie, O, Brother Where Art Thou, is slated to appear as part of the ceremony.  The headstone dedication is also part of the Tommy Johnson Blues Festival, which also takes place this weekend, with Eden Brent scheduled to headline.

As we sign off for the week, check out a few examples of Mississippi Blues......starting with the legendary Son House, from a 1960's performance.

Hill Country master R.L. Burnside plays his original tune, "See My Jumper On The  Line," circa 1978.

Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White recorded in the 30's and later on in the 60's and 70's.  A cousin of B.B. King, White's slide work was highly influential, and some of his songs are considered classics today, like "Fixin' To Die Blues," "Parchman Farm Blues," and his version of the standard, "Shake 'em On Down" is considered to be the definitive version.  Another favorite is "Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues," as heard below.

And, of course, here's Bukka White's famous cousin from 1974, telling us why he sings the blues.

We'll close out with a look at Grady Champion, one of the younger Mississippi blues artists who is now building a big following here and worldwide, especially after winning the IBC a couple of years ago.  Champion is a master showman who appears regularly around the state and frequently in his hometown of Canton, MS and around the Jackson area.  This is the video of one of his most recent releases, "Make That Monkey Jump."

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