Marshall County, Mississippi in the part of Northeast Mississippi known as the Hill Country, is home to two of the state’s best-known blues families, the Kimbroughs from the Hudsonville area, and the Burnsides, originally from Harmontown, far in the north of Lafayette County, but better associated with the Independence area on the border between Tate and Marshall counties. Scholars find a unique musical pattern in this area that differs from blues styles elsewhere in the state or in Chicago. Junior Kimbrough called his style “cotton patch soul blues,” and while Marshall, Benton, Tate and DeSoto Counties were all full of cotton patches, the best evidence is that he was referring to a place, a small village in northern Benton County where Highway 7 and 72 cross, and where there was a roadhouse called the Cotton Patch Cafe. Junior Kimbrough was playing there in 1968 with a white rockabilly musician named Charlie Feathers; of Kimbrough, Feathers said, “That man is the beginning and end of all music.”
Annually in May, Robert Kimbrough, one of Junior’s sons, sponsors the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Blues Festival in Marshall County, usually near Holly Springs. This year’s festival was held in a vacant piece of ground between Holly Springs and Lake Center, where Duwayne Burnside has held events in the past. This year’s event featured performances by Little Joe Ayers, David Evans, Carlos Elliott, Lightning Malcolm, Duwayne Burnside, Lady Trucker and of course Robert Kimbrough himself, as well as great food and fun. It was especially good to see J. J. Wilburn, the excellent Hill Country drummer, who performed with Joe Ayers, and has largely been absent from the scene in recent years. The Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Festival is an awesome opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Junior Kimbrough and the ongoing musical contributions of his descendants.