|(L to R) Roger Stolle, R.L. Boyce, unidentified party goer, Jeff Konkel|
Two weeks ago, Jeff Konkel and Roger Stolle's blues reality series, Moonshine & Mojo Hands debuted online. So far, three episodes have been broadcast and they were all entertaining. The debut episode, Alligator Women & Raccoon Barbecue, was divided into two segments. The first featured an interview with Jimbo Mathis, who talked about his music and influences, and growing up in the south. It was pretty informative because although I've listened to a lot of his music over the years, I really didn't know that much about him, how he came to love the music, and what helped connect him to the music. He's a pretty engaging and enthusiastic interview. For the second segment, Konkel and Stolle talk to musician Sean "Bad" Apple about the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues and then accompany him to one of R.L. Boyce's house parties in Como, MS. Folks are still talking about the Boyce house party from the M for Mississippi documentary, and this one may be even wilder than that one. This time around, we get to hang out with some of the attendees, check out their very diverse menu, and listen to some good music.
|Otha Andre Evans & Band|
The second episode, Paul MacLeod Has Left The Building, had three segments. The first was a visit to the now-defunct Graceland Too, where they introduce us to the owner/caretaker, MacLeod. What follows is a weird and wild tour of the premises with the slightly askew caretaker that sometimes leaves ours hosts shaking their heads. The next two segments focus on the next generation of the Fife and Drum branch of the Hill Country Blues (Otha Turner's grandson, Otha Andre Evans) and one of the Kimbrough family (Junior Kimbrough's son Robert). Both talk about what makes their music so compelling and give us a few samples in the process.
Yesterday's third episode, Home Away From Home, found the duo visiting with the late Arthneice "Gas Man" Jones at Cat Head, then heading a few blocks over to tour the Riverside Hotel and discuss it's history with the late owner Frank "Rat" Ratliff, followed by a fascinating visit with Super Chikan in his workshop, where he shows some of his handiwork and plays a few tunes. I'm glad they got to visit with Jones and Ratliff before they passed away (both in 2013), and the Super Chikan segment is proof positive that he's not only a Mississippi treasure, but a national one as well. To me, this was the best episode yet.
|Konkel & Stolle (center) with the crew of Moonlight & Mojo Hands (L to R) Jon Michael Ryan, Fred Early, Lou Bopp, and Jacob Elior Berkowitz|
Konkel and Stolle are great hosts, as those who saw both their documentaries can verify. They introduce the segments and let the subjects take center stage. Blues fans should really appreciate what these guys are doing.....in addition to telling current fans about what's going on with the Mississippi blues scene, they are also making it possible to introduce the blues to a whole bunch of new fans to see what they're missing. I've been telling my friends and co-workers about the shows and several of them have commented about how cool it is. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to head on over to their website and check it out. I promise you'll be checking it every Thursday for the next few weeks. There are ten episodes in the can right now and, hopefully, more to come.
I haven't quite gotten over Otis Clay's sudden passing in January, so it did my heart good to receive a copy of his final recording, the single "Mississippi Poor Boy," in the mail last week for review. Back in 2014, when Clay and Johnny Rawls were recording their award-winning collaboration, Soul Brothers, for Catfood Records, Clay recorded an a capella version of his favorite gospel song, previously recorded years ago by the Canton Spirituals. The plan was to record the song again later for a proposed Otis Clay solo album that never materialized due to his passing. Recently, Rawls, Catfood Records head man/bassist Bob Trenchard, and guitarist Johnny McGee recovered the vocal track, added guitar, bass, drums, and background vocals (from Rawls and singer Janelle Thompson) and decided to release the song as a single. The final product is a raw, stripped-down, bluesy Gospel track with Clay's intensely soulful vocals front and center and is a masterful performance, which is appropriate. Otis Clay got his start singing Gospel, so it's fitting that his last recording was Gospel as well. I strongly urge you to track down this single, especially if you're a fan of Otis Clay's.
Wednesday night (May 4th), the 2016 Blues Hall of Fame welcomed their new inductees. There were five performers inducted, two individuals who played a vital role in creating the blues, five single blues recordings, one blues album, and one piece of blues literature.
The performers included Elvin Bishop, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson, John Mayall, and the Memphis Jug Band. This year's non-performing inductees were Tommy Couch, Sr. and Wolf Stephenson of Malaco Records.
The five blues singles were "Crazy Blues," by Mamie Smith (Okeh Records, 1920), "That's All Right," by Jimmy Rogers (Chess Records, 1950), "I Wish You Would," by Billy Boy Arnold (Vee-Jay Records, 1955), "Merry Christmas Baby," by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (Exclusive Records, 1947)....the first Christmas song to be inducted, and "Blues Before Sunrise," by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell (Vocalion Records, 1934).
The album inducted was Blues in the Mississippi Night (Nixa Records, 1957, United Artists, 1959), an unforgettable 1948 field recording by folklorist Alan Lomax which featured Big Bill Broonzy, and Sonny Boy Williamson I.
The Blues Literature classic inducted was Jeff Todd Titon's Early Downhome Blues: A Musical and Cultural Analysis (University of Illinois Press, 1994, University of North Carolina Press, 1994).
Congratulations to all of this year's inductees.
The Winners of the 37th Blues Music Awards were announced last night (May 5th) at the BMA Awards ceremony in Memphis. The categories and nominees are listed below with the winners in bold. Congratulations to all of this year's BMA nominees and winners!