From Savage to Minter City


On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I decided to continue my exploration of small towns and backroads in the Mississippi Delta. My first stop was a community called Savage, Mississippi, that Apple Maps showed being tucked between Highways 3 and 4 on the railroad tracks. Although I had heard of the place, I had never been there, and was surprised to encounter a large, abandoned store of some sort, and a small wooden railroad station. Unfortunately, the station was behind fences and today sits on private property, so I was unable to explore it or photograph it close up, but I still managed to get some good photos around the tiny village.
West of Sarah, Mississippi, I came to swamps, and a long, oxbow-type lake called Walnut Lake, bordered by a road of the same name. Although I had read of a nightclub called the Pussycat Lounge that was supposed to be next to the lake, I didn’t see it at all, but at the end of the lake and the road was a quaint tin-roofed grocery store called the Three-Way Grocery where a man was barbecuing meat in front, while a few men played chess or checkers on a table nearby. Although the barbecue smelled amazing, I had recently eaten, so I drove back to Highway 3 and continued south through Marks and Lambert and into the town of Sumner, one of two county seats for Tallahatchie County (the other is Charleston).
Sumner sits on the Little Tallahatchie River, and consists of little more than the courthouse, a restaurant called the Sumner Grille, and an art gallery called the Cassidy Bayou Art Gallery. Neither was open on the hot Sunday afternoon, but I took a few pictures on the Tallahatchie bridge and around the courthouse square, noting the historical marker about the trial of the murderers of Emmett Till, which took place in the Sumner courthouse. An Emmett Till Interpretive Center is located a block off the square in Sumner.
The next town to the South, Webb, seemed larger and more significant, although most of its fairly large business district along Main Street seemed empty and abandoned. Of note was a weatherbeaten frame train station, and what appeared to be a fairly large juke joint.
From there, I came to the town of Glendora, which clearly had seen better days. Almost all the town stretched along the railroad tracks on both sides, and on the east side, along Burrough Street, was a row of rough-looking jukes, including a rather large place called Club 21. The employee there was amenable to me photographing the place, so I got to take pictures inside and out, and I was especially pleased with the classic pool table indoors. What I saw on the west side of the tracks was sad, the ruins of a large building that by the signs visible appeared to have once been Glendora’s City Hall. Only the building’s shell remained.
Things were similar at Minter City, in LeFlore County, where the massive ruins of T. Y. Fleming School sit along Highway 49E west of the actual townsite, although nothing much is left of the town. From the looks of it, Fleming must have at one time been a high school, but was most recently an elementary school. That it had won awards for student achievement didn’t stop the LeFlore County School Board from closing it down, and one of the more ironic things to see there was school’s sign in front of the buildings facing Highway 49E, which included a “No Child Left Behind” logo. With the school closure and abandonment of the campus, it seems that all of Minter City’s children got left behind.
Because I had to make it back to Memphis for a gig, I didn’t go on to Greenwood, despite the fact that I was close. Instead I turned east on Highway 8, but in coming to a little town called Phillip, I spent some time photographing the old downtown area along Front Street, and then got back on the road heading for Grenada.

Rain Couldn’t Dampen The Enthusiasm At Juke Joint Festival


Each year, Clarksdale becomes the center of attention in the blues world, as fans come from all over the world for the Juke Joint Festival. Although the official festival is only one day, events surrounding it now stretch over four days, and hotels are sold out for more than 75 miles in any direction. Unfortunately, this year, for the first time in memory, the festival was adversely affected by wet weather, showers that continued for much of the morning and early afternoon. Nevertheless, there were still significant crowds at many of the stages, and by the afternoon, the showers had begun to exit the area. In addition to the vendors of artwork, cigar-box guitars, books and more, attendees enjoyed performances by Lightnin Malcolm, the Cedric Burnside Project, Carlos Elliot, the Andre Otha Evans Fife and Drum Band, Garry Burnside, Duwayne Burnside, R. L. Boyce and many other performers from the Hill Country, the Delta, South America, Europe and other parts of the United States. This year also saw a larger number of stages and participating venues. One unfortunate trend this year however was the tendency of local restaurants to offer special, highly-limited menus for guests because of the Juke Joint Festival. We found that as a result, we often could not order what we wanted, and had to settle for things like burgers. I suppose the goal was to make things easier on the kitchen staff, but it ended up making things harder or at least less pleasant for the attendees. Still, it was a day of good music and good fun.





Sunday Morning Coffee at Steampunk Coffee Roasters in Natchez


After R. L. Boyce’s show in Leland, we headed on down Highway 61 to Natchez and checked into the Hotel Vue. Duwayne Burnside had a show at the Circle Bar in New Orleans on Sunday night, and we wanted to get as close to New Orleans as we could get, so that our drive down the next morning would not be bad. Our room was big and comfortable, and better yet, it came with a free breakfast buffet for the next morning. Arriving at 2 AM, we hadn’t seen much of the decor, but on the next morning, we were able to see amazing views of the city of Natchez and the Mississippi River from the rather steep hill on which the hotel was built. After we checked out, we both wanted coffee, so we headed downtown to a place called Steampunk Coffee Roasters, which turned out to be directly behind Smoot’s Grocery, the local blues venue in Natchez. The coffee roastery and cafe was housed in an historic brick cottage that dated back to the 19th century, and was fairly crowded, a mix of local people and those coming or going from New Orleans Mardi Gras. Although the previous Saturday had been cold, the weather was warming up on Sunday, and people were walking along the Mississippi River, and enjoying the outdoor tables at the coffee bar. We took a table inside, and enjoyed our coffee drinks, and I purchased three bags of beans to take home, some Costa Rican, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan varieties. Across the street from the coffee bar was a large warehouse with a mural promoting a different kind of coffee, the Interstate Coffee Company of Natchez, and its brands of coffee, Double Eagle Coffee and Chicory, and Alcafe Coffee. The company was long out of business, sadly, but the mural had been beautifully restored by the building’s current owners, and we were told that it would soon become Natchez Brewing Company. Fueled with light food and coffee, we soon headed out to New Orleans.

Endings and Beginnings With Duwayne Burnside at The Shelter on Van Buren

001 Duwayne Burnside002 Artwork003 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell004 Duwayne Burnside005 Kenny Brown006 Sherena Boyce007 Duwayne Burnside008 Duwayne Burnside009 Duwayne Burnside010 Duwayne Burnside011 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell012 Kenny Brown013 Duwayne Burnside014 Duwayne Burnside017 Duwayne Burnside018 Tonight Duwayne Burnside019 Duwayne Burnside020 Duwayne Burnside021 Duwayne Burnside022 Duwayne Burnside023 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell024 Kenny Brown025 Duwayne BurnsideJPG026 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell027 Kenny Brown028 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce029 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce030 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce031 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce032 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce034 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce035 Duwayne Burnside036 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce037 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell038 Duwayne Burnside039 Duwayne Burnside040 Duwayne Burnside041 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell042 Duwayne Burnside043 Duwayne Burnside & Kody Harrell045 Kenny Brown046 Sherena Boyce047 R. L. Boyce & Duwayne Burnside048 R. L. Boyce & Kody Harrell049 R. L. Boyce050 R. L. Boyce052 R. L. Boyce053 R. L. Boyce & Kody Harrell054 R. L. Boyce055 R. L. Boyce056 Kenny Brown057 R. L. & Sherena Boyce058 R. L. & Sherena Boyce059 R. L. Boyce, Sherena Boyce & Kody Harrell060 Duwayne Burnside061 R. L. Boyce & Kody Harrell062 Duwayne Burnside063 Duwayne Burnside064 R. L. & Sherena Boyce065 R. L. & Sherena Boyce066 R. L. Boyce, Kody Harrell & Sherena Boyce067 Duwayne Burnside & R. L. Boyce068 Duwayne Burnside & R. L. Boyce069 R. L. & Sherena Boyce070 Duwayne Burnside & R. L. Boyce071 Duwayne Burnside, Kenny Brown & R. L. Boyce072 R. L. Boyce073 Duwayne Burnside & R. L. Boyce077 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce078 Duwayne Burnside & Sherena Boyce
Duwayne Burnside had played The Shelter on Van Buren in Oxford, Mississippi earlier in the fall, but I had not been able to attend, so when it was announced that he would be playing there again on New Years’ Eve, I was eager to be there. It would prove to be both my first, and sadly my last, visit to The Shelter.
The venue was a coffee bar and live music venue, which also served a very limited food menu, some desserts, and craft beer. The atmosphere was extremely laid back, with couches, benches, chairs and tables in a rather haphazard pattern near the stage. The night of Hill Country blues featured not only Duwayne Burnside but also Kenny Brown, and a few local Oxford musicians, including guitarist Kody Harrell. At first Duwayne’s drummer had not shown up, so he was playing a sort of “unplugged” acoustic set. After his drummer arrived, he picked up the pace and intensity level to an extent, and the moderate crowd in the seats loved every minute of it. Como bluesman R. L. Boyce then joined Duwayne on stage for a few songs, and some local musicians came up to sit end toward the show’s end. At 10 PM or so, Duwayne brought things to a halt, as he had another show at The Hut in Holly Springs starting at 11, and we all left in a happy frame of mind. Unfortunately, it would be the last time we got to visit The Shelter on Van Buren. A week into the new year, it abruptly closed for good.

Artisan Wood-Fired Pizzas At Little Rock’s Raduno

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

The Italian word “raduno” refers to a gathering, and everyone knows that pizzas are a favorite party food. So Little Rock’s new Raduno Brick Oven in the trendy South Main entertainment district next to the venerable South on Main is a great place for friends and family to gather around great food and drink. Although the concept of wood-fired pizzas is not as new to Little Rock as other cities, Raduno offers a more upscale environment for its artisan pizzas, a sleek, modernistic look with plenty of artwork on the walls, and electronic dance music playing in the background. The fairly diverse menu features weekend brunch, soups, salads, a small assortment of Italian sandwiches, and of course, pizzas, which are the restaurant’s signature. My thin-crust pepperoni was more than enough for one person, and absolutely delicious. Prices, while not cheap, were reasonable, and service pleasant, prompt and efficient. Raduno is definitely worth a visit when in Little Rock. Highly recommended.

Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom
1318 S Main St
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 374-7476
http://radunolr.com

A King Biscuit Daybook: Mookie Cartwright & Friends on Cherry Street

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

After the Rebirth Brass Band performance, I walked back through the crowds on Cherry Street in downtown Helena. Many of the vendors were beginning to take down their displays for the night, but there was still a lot going on. At an outdoor performance spot, a group of younger blues musicians was performing, and it was actually really good music. A sign nearby explained that the group was Mookie Cartwright, Josh Parks and Friends. I am not sure who any of them were, but presumably, they are local Helena area artists. After checking them out for a moment, I stopped in Southbound Pizza nearby for a pepperoni and bacon pie before making the drive back to Memphis.

Cameron Kimbrough and R. L. Boyce Bringing The Hill Country to the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

The annual Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, held each Labor Day weekend along Main Street in downtown Memphis, is the city’s premiere music festival featuring the styles of music indigenous to Memphis and its surrounding region. The totally-free festival features multiple stages across two days, filled with gospel, blues, soul, rock, bluegrass and country, as well as local drill teams, majorettes and drumlines, cooking demonstrations and visual art. One of the highlights of this year’s festival was the Sunday afternoon meeting of Hill Country blues veteran R. L. Boyce with Hill Country youngblood Cameron Kimbrough, grandson of the legendary Junior Kimbrough. The early tunes featured R. L. Boyce on guitar and Cameron Kimbrough on the drums, and then, about halfway through the performance, they switched, with Boyce setting up a fife-and-drum-inspired groove on the drum set, and Cameron playing his original blues tunes on the guitar. It was a truly magic collaboration from the start, and one that I hope finds further opportunity in the future.





Kingfish and Terry “Big T” Williams Rock The Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival

Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival / Google Photos

Founded in 1988, the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival is the older of Clarksdale’s two main annual blues festivals, but in recent years it has seemed to struggle as the Juke Joint Festival in April has grown in popularity. Nevertheless, it still attracts many people to Clarksdale each August, and after an ill-fated expansion effort in 2012, the festival has finally returned to its roots as a regional blues festival in downtown Clarksdale. This year, I was thrilled to see that the fencing around the festival grounds in previous years had been done away with, allowing free access to and from the festival to the surrounding streets and venues of downtown Clarksdale, and attendees again had access to the front of the stage, unlike 2012 when the whole area had been reserved for VIP’s who had donated large sums of money to the festival. Unfortunately, we were late in getting to Clarksdale this year, but when we arrived at the main stage, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram was on stage, amazing the crowd with his guitar skills, backed by Chris Black on drums and Paul Rogers on bass. He was followed by Terry “Big T” Williams, a perennial favorite in Clarksdale, whose Family Band includes the prominent Delta saxophonist Alphonso Sanders. The crowd seemed somewhat smaller than in previous years, but that may have been due to the threat of rain, which persisted all day Saturday.Nevertheless, the rain stayed away while we were there, and with the barricades gone, festival-goers swarmed around the downtown Clarksdale, visiting shops and restaurants, and several venues sponsored their own performances to coincide with the festival weekend.

Celebrating The Juke Joint Legacy In Clarksdale

001 Messengers002 Red's Juke Joint003 Sunflower Avenue004 Ground Zero005 Juke Joint Fest006 Barbecuing007 Stud008 Stud at Blues Alley009 Stud010 The Stud Ford Experience011 Juke Joint Fest012 Delta Amusement Cafe013 Juke Joint Fest014 Juke Joint Fest015 Juke Joint Fest016 Juke Joint Fest062 Juke Joint Fest Merchandise Tent063 Juke Joint Fest064 Juke Joint Fest065 Juke Joint Fest066 Kenny Brown067 Juke Joint Festival068 Juke Joint Fest069 Juke Joint Fest070 Juke Joint Fest071 Juke Joint Fest072 Juke Joint Fest073 Juke Joint Fest074 Juke Joint Fst075 The Bank076 The Bank077 Otis TCB Taylor078 Otis TCB Taylor079 Otis TCB Taylor080 Otis TCB Taylor081 Otis TCB Taylor082 Otis TCB Taylor083 Otis TCB Taylor084 Juke Joint Fest085 Yazoo Pass086 Cedric Burnside & Trenton Ayers087 Trenton Ayers088 Cedric Burnside089 Cedric Burnside090 Trenton Ayers091 Juke Joint Fans092 Juke Joint Fest093 Juke Joint Fest094 Granma's House of Blues095 Our Granma's House of Pancakes112 Juke Joint Fest113 Juke Joint Fest114 Juke Joint Fest115 The Elements Band116 The Elements Band117 The Elements Band118 The Elements Band
119 The Elements Band120 Juke Joint Fest121 Juke Joint Fest122 The Elements Band123 Juke Joint Fest124 Juke Joint Fest125 Sunflower River126 Sunflower127 The Griot Project128 Griot Youth Program129 Griot Youth Program130 Juke Joint Festival174 Juke Joint Fest175 Juke Joint Fest176 Juke Joint Fest183 Juke Joint Fest219 Take Our Picture220 Take Our Picture221 Ground Zero222 Juke Joint Fest223 Delta Amusement Cafe224 Juke Joint Fest225 Judata-flickr-embed=226 Ground Zero227 Juke Joint Fest278 Juke Joint Fest280 Juke Joint Fest297 Yazoo Pass313 Juke Joint Fest315 CSpire317 The Elements Band

Clarksdale rarely gets mentioned in the same context as South Beach Miami, the Vegas Strip, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but once a year, in April, people from all over the world flood to the Mississippi Delta for three days of great blues, arts, crafts and food. The Juke Joint Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become the largest festival in Clarksdale, surpassing the older Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, and it is not unusual to hear all kinds of foreign accents along Delta Avenue on the weekend of the festival. Not only is Juke Joint Festival a world of fun, but the overwhelming majority of it is free of charge. The night shows on Saturday require a $10 wristband, which is a real bargain when compared to the price of a ticket to the average American music festival. For the lover of blues and American roots culture, Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival is not to be missed.

A Memphis Rap Jam for Christmas at the Hi-Tone

001 I Love Memphis002 The Band003 Walawyse004 Walawyse005 Walawyse006 Walawyse007 Walawyse008 Walawyse009 Tori WhoDat010 Tori WhoDat011 Tori WhoDat012 Tori WhoDat013 Tori WhoDat014 Tori WhoDat015 Tori WhoDat016 Tori WhoDat017 Tori WhoDat018 Tori WhoDat020 The Drummer022 DJ Bay023 Lloyd Anderson025 Al Kapone & Tune C026 DJ Zirk & Al Kapone027 Young AJ028 Young AJ & Al Kapone029 Young AJ & Al Kapone030 Young AJ, Tune C & Al Kapone031 Young AJ, Al Kapone & Tune C032 Young AJ & Al Kapone033 DJ Zirk034 Al Kapone & Young AJ035 Young AJ & Al Kapone036 Tune C037 Frost, G & Tune C038 Frayser Boy039 Frayser Boy040 Frayser Boy041 Hi-Tone042 Frayser Boy043 Tune C044 Tune C
Two days before Christmas, the Hi-Tone in Midtown Memphis was the scene of an all-star gala rap show with a live band, featuring many of Memphis’ best lyricists, old and new. The DJ and announcer for the occasion was none other than Radio MemphisDJ Bay, and the line-up of performers included such Memphis icons as Tori Whodat, Al Kapone and Frayser Boy, as well as guest appearances from Memphis veterans like DJ Zirk. But there were also some outstanding new artists in the house, including a new Memphis rapper named Wala Wyse who was quite impressive, as well as the solo debut of Tune C, Al Kapone’s long-time hype man and a former member of the 1990’s hip-hop group NationWide. Tune performed his new single “Naturally”, one of five recent songs that have been recorded toward his upcoming album The Great Flood. Also fun was an impromptu collaboration between the band’s drummer and DJ Bay during an extended break between live acts. Such drum/DJ duets have caught on in markets like New York, Vegas and Miami, but have not been seen as often in the Memphis market. Altogether, it was a cheerful holiday tribute to our city’s hip-hop past and future.