Blues at Home Blowout in Oxford at the @LamarLounge with @JimboMathus Et Al

I learned about the Blues At Home Blowout at the Lamar Lounge from attorney Tom Freeland’s excellent North Mississippi Commentor blog, which is a great online destination for all things Oxford, from music, to legal things to Faulknerian lore, so even though I had just gone to Oxford the week before, I had to go again. The line-up displayed on the poster was absolutely amazing, and I frankly could not imagine how all of those artists would be able to perform even in the three hours or so allotted for the concert. As it turned out, not all the performers listed appeared, but even so, the three hours were jam-packed with blues, and everything got worked in by the expedient of having Jimbo Mathus on drums for everyone, and keeping the same bass player throughout, and they did a yeoman’s job, although I’m sure they were quite tired when it was all over. The event was actually an after-party for Mississippi artist H.C. Porter‘s remarkable Blues At Home exhibit at the University of Mississippi, and fearing that I wouldn’t get a table in front of the stage otherwise, I showed up at the Lamar Lounge two hours before starting time. As it turned out, Jimbo Mathus performed a dinner hour set on guitar with his bass player for an hour before the starting time for the concert. He then switched to drums, and the first performer of the night came on stage, 82-year-old Leo “Bud” Welch, who released his first album Sabougla Voices this year on Fat Possum Records‘ Big Legal Mess subsidiary. He was followed by Hattiesburg/Jackson bluesman Vasti Jackson, a musician I had often heard my poet friend Charlie Braxton mention. Vasti Jackson was followed by Natchez blues guitarist Y.Z. Ealey, who is a brother of Southern soul star Theodis Ealey, and whose style showed a considerable influence from swamp blues and swamp pop. He was joined by Broke and Hungry Records artist Terry “Harmonica” Bean sitting in on harmonica. Mickey Rogers was up next, a blues guitarist I had seen last year on a trip to Indianola, and then Jackson-based Jesse Robinson came up, a guitarist I was really not familiar with, but whose guitar skills amazed everyone in the room. Behind him came Kenny Brown, the hometown favorite who grew up with blues legend Joe Callicot in Nesbit, Mississippi and who studied with the late R. L. Burnside. His music can always get an Oxford crowd to their feet, and what little space was available for dancing was soon filled. Finally, the headliner of the night, Bobby Rush came and performed very briefly, as he had driven down from an earlier performance at Rhodes College in Memphis. Altogether it was an amazing night of Mississippi blues, from a number of different performers than the ones often seen in North Mississippi, and there was a sort of lagniappe when, quite unexpectedly, Vasti Jackson and Bobby Rush launched a brief guitar and harmonica duo on the back patio near the barbecue pit. All in all, one of the most memorable Mississippi blues nights ever.

Day 1 of Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, Clarksdale MS

Although last year’s Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival was actually rather depressing, with stage access cut off by a horrendous VIP compound, improvements had been promised this year, and fortunately, things were a lot better last night. Bobby Rush was on stage at the time I entered the festival grounds, and fans were able to set up their lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy the music directly in front of the stage. There were still some minor annoyances, like the whole festival grounds being fenced off (which doesn’t happen during Juke Joint Fest, and which I cannot see the point of since there is no admission charge), and people coming from Ground Zero are still required to walk the long way around to Third Street to get into the festival. But altogether, the experience was far more pleasant and fun, and it seems that the Sunflower River Festival is on the right path. Around the corner at the Wade Walton Stage, a southern soul DJ was having his own miniature blues festival, spinning for the few patrons of the rib shack next door.

Bobby Rush Wows the Crowd at Hill Country Picnic

Bobby Rush is a living legend of the blues, and his appearance at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic on Friday was enthusiastically received by the crowd. Performing with just his guitar, Rush told a lot of his best-known stories and sang a number of his somewhat-naughty songs before being joined on stage by Kenny Brown, the host of the festival. This was, as far as I know, Rush’s first appearance at the picnic, and it was a good one.

Celebrating Record Store Day with Bobby Rush at Morning Bell Records @morningbelljxn

Record Store Day proved to be a warm and beautiful day in Jackson, and I headed over to Morning Bell Records in the old Duling School in Fondren to celebrate. The great bluesman Bobby Rush was on hand, performing with just his guitar to an initially-small crowd that grew until the whole store was filled by the end of his hour-long set. He is as much a great raconteur as blues musician, and he held the audience spellbound. There were also limited-edition Bobby Rush compact discs and vinyl albums for sale. I also managed to buy $50 worth of used CD’s (including a Lee “Scratch” Perry boxed set), and a delicious Abita root beer, since Morning Bell sells craft beers and sodas. Outside in the hallway, there were delicious, free pulled-pork sandwiches for Record Store Day revelers.