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Kim "Festival Junkie" WelshBy Kim "Fest Junkie" Welsh

John Mooney
Happy Holidaze, fellow blues fans!

Record rainfall in New Orleans for the past few weeks and I was sick of drinkin’ muddy water and sleepin’ in a hollow log, so I decided to get my “fix” with some blues, booze, and BBQ in Memphis before the holidaze. Instead of the usual shacks, I opted for luxury accommodations at the River Inn and the Peabody. River Inn is far nicer with more service for less cash; The Peabody is resting on an old reputation. My advice: Go to the Peabody lobby and have a drink if you must, but stay at the River Inn and enjoy free parking, champagne upon arrival, cookies and apple cider all evening, truffles and port at turn-down, a gourmet breakfast, and excellent service all afford far more bang for your buck!

It was Trolley Night, so I stopped for some art, shopping, and cultcha on my way to Ernestine and Hazel’s for a Soul Burger, the best juke box, to commune with naughty ghosts, and to chat with Nate, the upstairs bartender with his stories of countless traveling bluesmen from the days of the "chitlin circuit" and their favorite upstairs workin' girls in this old brothel.

The set list for the
Hill Country Revue

My Mind Is Ramblin'
Let Me Love You
Alice Mae
Hill Country Revue
Everybody Needs Somebody
Goin' Down
Georgia Women
You Told My Woman Joyful Sounds
Dirty Shirt
It's Alright
North Mississippi Allstars
2 ½ hour set list
Write Me A Few Lines
Drop Down Mama
Someday Baby
Stay All Night
Lord, Have Mercy
Stay All Night
Goin' Down South
I'd Love To Be A Hippy
Keep The Devil Down
Mean 'Ol Wind Died Down
Drinking Muddy Water
Shimmy She Wobble
Station Blues
Preachin' Blues
'Po Black Maddie
Skinny Woman
Shake 'Em On Down
The Ghetto (tease)
'Po Boy **
Lonesome Road
Goin' Home
KC Jones
Bad Bad Pain
Meet Me In The City
All Night Long
All Night Long
Snake Drive Encore:
No Mo

The following day, I visited the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum which explores the roots of America’s music – the sounds of field hollers, work songs, blues, country and gospel of the sharecroppers in the 1930-40s that eventually collided and fused with the urban sounds of Beale Street (urban blues and jazz), SUN Studio (rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly), STAX Recording and HI Records (rhythm & blues, soul music.) Then I toured the Gibson guitar factory and marveled at the workmanship of those fine instruments we all secretly jones for… I know it’s not just me!

Needless to say, there was much barbecue research going on at least twice daily and I must say that the winner is… Neely’s Interstate Barbeque on Third Street. They ain’t on Food Network for nothin’, y’all! Slap ya mama good! Those pigs really do fly!

North Mississippi Allstars with Hill Country Revue and guests Duwayne Burnside and Junior Kimbrough tore it up at Minglewood Hall. This huge venue in Midtown is a comfy place to hear some of the best blues/southern rock/jam bands ever. The Allstars included Minglewood Hall among their rigorous 23 stops in the next two months “Let it Roll” tour. Founded in 1996, these boys hail from Hernando, Mississippi. The Dickinson brothers, Luther (on guitar, vocals) and Cody (on drums, guitar, and wild electric washboard) are the sons of the late Jim Dickinson who recorded with everyone from Bob Dylan to Little Richard and played piano on the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" to name but a few.

The Allstars' first release, Shake Hands With Shorty, was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Contemporary Blues Album". Since then, 51 Phantom and Electric Blue Watermelon have received nominations in that same category. The group also won a W. C. Handy Award for "Best New Artist Debut" in 2001. The band has played with John Hiatt, Robert Randolph, Dave Matthews Band, and John Medeski, to name a few. In November 2007, Luther Dickinson joined The Black Crowes as lead guitarist. Cody and amazing bassist, Chris Chow started Hill Country Revue featuring Daniel Coburn, Kirk Smithhart (who was awarded The Albert King Award for Best Guitarist by the Blues Foundation when he was only 19) and Ed Cleveland. Their Hill Country Boogie is as rich as black Mississippi dirt.

Swung by to pay tribute to a few of our elders including Elmore James and Memphis Minnie. Ironically, Minnie, a tobacco-chewing, guitar slingin’, brawling feisty scrapper from Algiers, Louisiana, recorded “When the Levee Breaks” with one of her three accomplished blues guitarist husbands, Kansas Joe McCoy in 1929. She moved to Walls, Mississippi as a teenager and was soon lured to Memphis and then to Chicago….even ran off with the Ringling Brothers circus! She was a down-home diva who could handle herself and her men both on and off the stage. She overcame considerable odds, battled racism and sexisim, and was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame. After her career of critical and commercial recognition, she was buried in Walls.

Elmore James, King of the Slide Guitar, began playing the diddley bow when he was 12. He recorded for a variety of labels throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, leaving a legacy of slow blues, boogies, and full-fledged rave ups that dominate the musical vocabulary of Chicago blues. He died May 24, 1963, in Chicago, at the age of forty-five. His grave is located near his native Durant, Mississippi. Within a stone’s throw is the grave of Lonnie Pitchford, yet another blues singer whose life was cut short before he could reap his rewards. He was only able to record one album (for Rooster Blues label out of Clarksdale), but he also appeared in the documentary Deep Blues, a John Mellencamp album, and several other compilation albums before dying from AIDS.

Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, spent his boyhood years at the Abbay and Leatherman, the oldest and largest cotton plantation in the Delta. During a midnight visit to his grave near Greenwood, I swear I saw a lanky bluesman walking down the dusty moonlit road toward the crossroads.


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