Holly Springs, Mississippi is a town in the center of the region of Mississippi known as the Hill Country, a place known for both Hill Country blues and the unique variant of it which the Kimbrough family calls Cotton Patch Soul Blues, after a community called Cotton Patch which existed near the intersection of Highway 72 and Highway 7 in Benton County during the 1960’s. This crossroads, between Michigan City and Lamar, was the scene of at least one or more juke joints, where rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers and blues legend Junior Kimbrough played together at one time. The extent of their collaboration must be left to conjecture, but it is undoubtedly true that Feathers recommended the man he called “Junior Kimball” to Tom Phillips, the owner of Select-O-Hits and Philwood Records in Memphis, and the small label recorded a 45 single of Kimbrough. Feathers also told an interviewer that Junior Kimbrough was “the beginning and end of all music,” a quote that now graces Junior’s headstone. Of such a legacy is greatness built, and that legacy is now celebrated annually at the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Blues Festival held at The Hut in Holly Springs.
The Friday night opening of the festival is a time for the students in the daytime workshops to show off what they learned, playing with the mentors who were teaching them during the day. This year, the mentors included drummer J. J. Wilburn, Robert Kimbrough and Duwayne Burnside, but Garry Burnside and David Kimbrough also performed.
The venue was a perfect one for the occasion, as The Hut, a former American Legion building on Valley Avenue in Holly Springs, has the ambiance of an old juke joint, made all the more by the smell of barbecue being smoked outside, and the crowds of people gathered around cars in the gathering dusk. Inside, the small room was packed from one end to the other, with barely enough room for people to dance. Yet they found a way.
For the second year, fans of Mississippi blues came to Holly Springs to celebrate the legacy of Junior Kimbrough and his sons David, Robert and Kinney at the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Blues Festival. Held over a three-day period, the festival was primarily centered around a former VFW hut known simply as The Hut, which suitably has the ambiance of an old Mississippi juke joint. Set in a hollow down from a higher street, it sits behind some trees which hide a spooky old Masonic lodge which has been abandoned, but inside on Friday night, the atmosphere was bright and cheerful, despite the failing air conditioner and the incredible heat. The great David Kimbrough Jr was on stage, with his brother Robert on bass and his brother Kinney on drums, and a small crowd was listening attentively in the chairs out in front of the stage. As the night progressed, the event turned into a jam session, with other artists and students from the earlier workshops joining in, and an even larger crowd milling around outside where it was cooler. Among the other cool things was that an Okolona beer company, 1817 Brewery had introduced a new variety of beer called Kimbrough Cotton Patch Kolsch in honor of the Kimbrough family, and it was being sold at the event.
I had heard that the second day of A3C would be kicked off with a VIP Brunch which would be open to panelists, so I texted my homeboy Fort Knox about it, and headed down to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the event was being held. The brunch was on the 25th floor, but proved to be not so much a brunch, but just a table of fruit, danishes, bagels, coffee and juice. However, the view from there was beautiful, and DJ Tephlon was spinning on the north side of the room. On the south side were some exhibits, including a display of new Reebok shoes, and a Microsoft gaming exhibit, and Beatminerz Radio was providing the music on that side.
Since there was very little actual food at the brunch, my fellow panelist Travis McFetridge from Great South Bay Music and I headed out north to Buttermilk Kitchen for a very late brunch that was really good, and then back to the hotel for our “Negotiating the New Music Industry” panel, featuring him, Fort Knox, Big Tah, Latisha “Ms. NuNu” Manigault, attorney Andrew Krems and myself. The panel, which was intended to give artists strategies for coping with lost revenue from the decline in music sales was literally so crowded that nobody else could enter the room. Several people told me that they considered it a success, so I was pleased with the outcome.