When I left Hal and Mal’s, I headed on over to F. Jones’ Corner, where something called the Dexter Allen Blues Band was playing. Despite the name, Dexter Allen seemed to perform more soul than blues, but I was quite impressed with his first set, as he did two of my favorite songs. The first one, “Cruising”, is a difficult song to do right, as it immediately invites comparison with Smokey Robinson’s original, which is sheer perfection. However, it’s not one of those songs that just should not be covered, and Allen did a tremendous job of making the song his own, and his band gave it a slower, funkier gospel and neo-soul feel. He also performed Bobby Womack’s “Harry Hippie”, not a Womack song that gets covered frequently. Of course, everyone knows it, and one of the beautiful things about F. Jones’ Corner is that in a place like that, everyone will sing the hook together.
A little over a year ago or so, I wrote about the sorry state of Jackson’s historic Farish Street, a redevelopment nightmare that has left most of the street still abandoned, and most of the historic buildings rapidly crumbling beyond repair. The exception I noted at the time was a place called F. Jones Corner, a privately-owned blues juke joint that hopefully can serve as a template for what the rest of the street could and should be. F. Jones is an after-hours bar, and that is unusual enough for Jackson, but what is even stranger is that it books live music almost every night of the week, serves food, and attracts a crowd that’s nearly evenly split between whites and Blacks. Perhaps the key to F. Jones Corner’s success is the music, which is centered around Mississippi’s twin gifts to the world, blues and soul. On the Friday night I visited, the Sorrento Ussery Band was on stage, performing everything from funky down home blues to classic soul, with the dance floor full, and basically no place to sit inside. Fortunately, there’s a large courtyard outside which is available when the weather is nice, and even an outdoor stage, although nobody could tell me if the stage is ever used. The decor inside is historic, mostly ephemera from Jackson, from Farish Street itself, or from the blues and soul legacy. Things keep going at the Corner until 4 AM, and a sign on the wall near the entrance sums it all up nicely- “No Black, No White, Just The Blues.”