Memphis Soul Legend Don Bryant Performs With The Bo-Keys at Loflin Yard


Once in a while, a local music show gets announced which I just cannot miss, and the announcement of a Don Bryant show with soul revivalists The Bo-Keys was just such a show. Better yet, it was being held at Loflin Yard, one of my favorite Memphis venues.
Don Bryant is one of Memphis’ forgotten soul geniuses. Originally a member of Willie Mitchell’s group The Four Kings, he recorded a number of soul sides for Joe Coughi’s Hi label during the 1960’s, but ended up becoming better known as a staff writer for the label, with “I Can’t Stand The Rain”, recorded by Ann Peebles in 1973 becoming his biggest hit. Bryant married Peebles in 1974, and soon disappeared from popular music. There were rumors that both Bryant and Peebles had transitioned to gospel music, and a few gospel releases appeared under Bryant’s name. Peebles would occasionally return to blues and soul music, but Bryant did not, at least until embarking on the recording of a new album “Don’t Give Up On Love” for the Fat Possum label out of Oxford.
Friday night’s show at Loflin Yard was primarily a showcase of the new songs, backed by Scott Bomar’s Bo-Keys, the highlight of which was a funky gospel tune called “How Do I Get There?” which is the single from the forth-coming album. Despite the drizzly weather, the venue was fairly crowded, and Bryant, at 74 years of age, was still in great form and voice, a consummate performer. And thanks to the Bo-Keys ,featuring such Memphis legends as drummer Howard Grimes and keyboardist Archie Turner, the backing sound was authentic, with live horns and real instruments, and no modern anachronisms. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear authentic Memphis soul music as it was intended to be heard.

A King Biscuit Daybook: Robert Finley Live on Cherry Street

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

63-year-old Robert Finley is from Bernice, Louisiana, near Ruston, and is well-known to the people in the Monroe, Louisiana area where he often performs. But he never made a record until his recent debut Age Don’t Mean A Thing on the Big Legal Mess subsidiary of Fat Possum Records out of Oxford. The Fat Possum imprint started with blues artists, and slowly seems to be heading back in that direction, having signed the 83-year-old Leo Bud Welch a couple of years ago for his debut album, and finding a similar artist in Finley.
This year’s King Biscuit Blues Festival found Robert Finley performing on Cherry Street in downtown Helena and signing copies of his new debut album, which I highly recommend.

An All-Star Gala of Hill Country Blues at Leo Bud Welch’s Album Release Party

001 Jason Carter002 Jason Carter003 Jason Carter004 Jason Carter005 Jason Carter006 Jason Carter007 Leo Bud Welch & Duwayne Burnside008 Leo Bud Welch, Duwayne Burnside & Jimbo Mathus009 Leo Bud Welch, Duwayne Burnside & Jimbo Mathus010 Leo Bud Welch, Duwayne Burnside, Duwayne Jr & Jimbo Mathus011 Jason Carter012 Jason Carter013 Jason Carter014 Jason Carter015 Robert Bilbo Walker Limo016 Robert Bilbo Walker Limo017 Robert Bilbo Walker Limo018 Robert Bilbo Walker Limo019 Hill Country Blues Pavilion020 Hill Country Blues Pavilion021 Welcome to Foxfire Ranch022 Duwayne & Gary Burnside023 Duwayne & Gary Burnside024 Duwayne & Gary Burnside025 Hill Country Blues Pavilion026 Foxfire027 Cedric Burnside028 Cedric Burnside029 Cedric Burnside030 Duwayne Jr031 Passing The Tradition On032 Cedric Burnside Project033 Trenton Ayers034 Cedric Burnside035 Cedric Burnside Project036 Cedric Burnside037 Duwayne Jr038 Trenton Ayers039 Cedric Burnside040 Cedric Burnside Project041 Cedric Burnside Project042 Cedric Burnside Project043 Trenton Ayers044 Cedric Burnside Project045 Hill Country Blues Pavilion046 Duwayne Burnside & Son047 Leo Bud Welch On The Road048 Cedric Burnside Project049 Foxfire Ranch050 Hill Country Pavilion051 Dancing052 Cedric Burnside Project053 Dancing054 Dancing055 Jimbo Mathus056 Jimbo Mathus057 Jimbo Mathus058 Jimbo Mathus059 Jimbo Mathus060 Jimbo Mathus061 Jimbo Mathus062 Jimbo Mathus063 Jimbo Mathus064 Jimbo Mathus065 Jimbo Mathus066 Jimbo Mathus067 Jimbo Mathus068 Jimbo Mathus069 Robert Bilbo Walker070 Robert Bilbo Walker071 Robert Bilbo Walker072 Robert Bilbo Walker073 Robert Bilbo Walker074 Robert Bilbo Walker075 Robert Bilbo Walker076 Robert Bilbo Walker077 Robert Bilbo Walker078 Robert Bilbo Walker079 Dancing080 Sherena081 Robert Bilbo Walker082 Leo Bud Welch083 Leo Bud Welch084 Leo Bud Welch085 Leo Bud Welch086 Leo Bud Welch087 Leo Bud Welch088 Leo Bud Welch089 Leo Bud Welch090 Leo Bud Welch091 Leo Bud Welch092 Sherena093 Dancing094 Leo Bud Welch
Perhaps Easter doesn’t bring thoughts of blues to many people, but this Easter evening was the occasion for an amazing event at Foxfire Ranch celebrating the release of a new album by 84-year-old bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch. Welch’s story is amazing, for he is an authentic traditional bluesman who remained undiscovered until 2013 at the age of 82, when he began recording his first record. He signed with Fat Possum’s Big Legal Mess subsidiary the same year, and released his debut album Sabougla Voices, which was a gospel record. (“Sabougla” is a hamlet in Calhoun County, Mississippi where Welch is from). Gospel is Leo’s preferred music, but his young audiences love to hear him play blues, and he does so on his sophomore album, which is aptly entitled I Don’t Prefer No Blues. But to celebrate its release, rather than a typical release party, a full evening of live Hill Country blues was scheduled at the Hill Country Pavilion at Foxfire near Waterford, Mississippi. Although the sun was out, the day was chilly, but a decent crowd showed up at 5 PM for the opening act, Jason Carter, who performed acoustically with another guitar player. Right behind him came Cedric Burnside and Trenton Ayres, collectively known as the Cedric Burnside Project, who got things crunk with the heavy, rock-inflected brand of blues they play, including one of Cedric’s trademark extended drum solos. Several members of the legendary Burnside family were in the audience, including Duwayne and Garry Burnside. The next act up was something a little different. Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition are also on the Fat Possum label, and are more of a strange but winsome amalgam of indie rock, traditional country, blues and funk, which Jimbo whimsically calls “catfish music”. Although he maintains a different sound than Hill Country blues, the influence of blues can be heard through much of his work. Robert “Bilbo” Walker is 76 years old nowadays, and is a former Mississippi bluesman who currently lives in California. Although he is originally from Mississippi, his music has considerable Louisiana and swamp influences, which came to the forefront in his reading of the classic blues/soul song “Staggerlee”. Finally, at the end of the night, Leo “Bud” Welch came up with his three-piece band and performed a collection of songs from the new album, which he had available for sale there at the pavilion. When things finally came to an end around 10 PM, there was still a decent crowd.













Keep Up With Jason Carter & The Healers:
https://www.facebook.com/jasoncarterandthehealers/info?tab=page_info

Keep Up With Cedric Burnside:
http://cedricburnside.com
https://www.facebook.com/cedric.burnside.5

Keep up with Jimbo Mathus:
http://jimbomathus.com
https://www.facebook.com/jimbomathus
https://www.youtube.com/user/jimbomathusvideo

https://myspace.com/jimbomathus

Keep up with Robert “Bilbo” Walker:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-Bilbo-Walker/144881378903373

Keep up with Leo “Bud” Welch:
http://www.leobudwelch.com
https://www.facebook.com/leobud.welch

Keep up with Foxfire Ranch:
http://www.foxfireranch.com
https://www.facebook.com/foxfireranch2008

Keep up with Fat Possum Records & Big Legal Mess Music:

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https://fatpossumrecords.bandcamp.com
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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Legal-Mess-Records/134672929932373

Blues at Home Blowout in Oxford at the @LamarLounge with @JimboMathus Et Al


I learned about the Blues At Home Blowout at the Lamar Lounge from attorney Tom Freeland’s excellent North Mississippi Commentor blog, which is a great online destination for all things Oxford, from music, to legal things to Faulknerian lore, so even though I had just gone to Oxford the week before, I had to go again. The line-up displayed on the poster was absolutely amazing, and I frankly could not imagine how all of those artists would be able to perform even in the three hours or so allotted for the concert. As it turned out, not all the performers listed appeared, but even so, the three hours were jam-packed with blues, and everything got worked in by the expedient of having Jimbo Mathus on drums for everyone, and keeping the same bass player throughout, and they did a yeoman’s job, although I’m sure they were quite tired when it was all over. The event was actually an after-party for Mississippi artist H.C. Porter‘s remarkable Blues At Home exhibit at the University of Mississippi, and fearing that I wouldn’t get a table in front of the stage otherwise, I showed up at the Lamar Lounge two hours before starting time. As it turned out, Jimbo Mathus performed a dinner hour set on guitar with his bass player for an hour before the starting time for the concert. He then switched to drums, and the first performer of the night came on stage, 82-year-old Leo “Bud” Welch, who released his first album Sabougla Voices this year on Fat Possum Records‘ Big Legal Mess subsidiary. He was followed by Hattiesburg/Jackson bluesman Vasti Jackson, a musician I had often heard my poet friend Charlie Braxton mention. Vasti Jackson was followed by Natchez blues guitarist Y.Z. Ealey, who is a brother of Southern soul star Theodis Ealey, and whose style showed a considerable influence from swamp blues and swamp pop. He was joined by Broke and Hungry Records artist Terry “Harmonica” Bean sitting in on harmonica. Mickey Rogers was up next, a blues guitarist I had seen last year on a trip to Indianola, and then Jackson-based Jesse Robinson came up, a guitarist I was really not familiar with, but whose guitar skills amazed everyone in the room. Behind him came Kenny Brown, the hometown favorite who grew up with blues legend Joe Callicot in Nesbit, Mississippi and who studied with the late R. L. Burnside. His music can always get an Oxford crowd to their feet, and what little space was available for dancing was soon filled. Finally, the headliner of the night, Bobby Rush came and performed very briefly, as he had driven down from an earlier performance at Rhodes College in Memphis. Altogether it was an amazing night of Mississippi blues, from a number of different performers than the ones often seen in North Mississippi, and there was a sort of lagniappe when, quite unexpectedly, Vasti Jackson and Bobby Rush launched a brief guitar and harmonica duo on the back patio near the barbecue pit. All in all, one of the most memorable Mississippi blues nights ever.








Leo “Bud” Welch Live at Red’s Lounge #SunflowerBlues2013


I went from having never heard of Leo “Bud” Welch a couple of weeks ago to suddenly hearing his name everywhere. He’s getting booked a lot more often suddenly, and he has an album in the works from Fat Possum Records/Big Legal Mess. Saturday night, the North Mississippi All Stars were on the main stage, and they’re great, but I’ve heard them many times, so I decided to check out Red’s Lounge to see who was playing, and it was none other than Leo “Bud” Welch. Red’s is a true juke joint with worlds of authentic atmosphere. The tiny open space in front of the “stage” was occupied by dancers, and Robert Belfour, another legendary Hill Country bluesman was in the audience listening.

Rev. John Wilkins and the Hill Country Gospel at the Hill Country Picnic 2013


Although Americans tend to think about music in terms of a sacred/secular divide, that difference was never a part of African culture, where the everyday tended to be considered sacred. Although the European way of thinking about these things made some inroads (for example in people calling the blues “The Devil’s Music”), there is a considerable amount of ambiguity between the sacred and the secular in Black culture, and particularly in the Hill Country blues tradition of North Mississippi. All Hill Country musicians include a certain amount of religious music in their repertoire, so it’s not out of place for R. L. Burnside to sing “I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down”, or for Mississippi Fred McDowell to sing “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning”, and on the other side of the coin, Hill Country gospel musicians often play their music in a style that differs little from Hill Country blues other than the lyrics. Such an artist is the Rev. John Wilkins, a pastor and musician whose dad was the bluesman Robert Wilkins, who also eventually became a preacher. Perhaps because his music differs little from the traditional North Mississippi blues aesthetic, Wilkins is immensely popular with blues fans, and his accompanying band are first-rate musicians. When he isn’t performing at concerts and festivals, he preaches Sundays at Hunter Chapel Church near Como, Mississippi, the church that Mississippi Fred McDowell and his wife were once members of.


Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition (@JimboMathus) Opening the Horseshoe Blues Tent @BealeStMusicFes

Mississippi artist Jimbo Mathus first came to prominence as a member of swing revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers. As a solo artist, he straddles a number of genres, with the musics of white and Black Mississippians as the main influences, so he often performs a heartbreaking country ballad followed by a driving funk tune or a Southern rock song.
Friday night, Mathus opened up the Horseshoe Blues Tent at the Beale Street Music Festival with his band the Tri-State Coalition, featuring mainly songs from his new Fat Possum release White Buffalo, including “Tennessee Walking Mare” and “In The Garden”, the latter a philosophical look at sin entering the Garden of Eden. After the set, the hard-working Mathus and his band left Memphis for a show in Greenwood, Mississippi on the same night!

Oxford’s End of All Music (@endofallmusic) Records: A Vinyl Paradise

Oxford, Mississippi has had several record stores over the years, but more recently it has suffered through a “dark ages” where there was no place to buy music at all, so the emergence of End of All Music has been welcome. The store’s somewhat bizarre name does not predict an apocalypse in which there will be no music, but rather is a reference to rockabilly singer Charlie Feather’s quote about bluesman Junior Kimbrough, “That man is the beginning and end of all music”, an inscription that was placed on Kimbrough’ grave in nearby Marshall County.
As is appropriate for a store with a name that references such a Hill Country blues great, there is a wonderful blues selection, both on used and new vinyl, as well as a small selection of blues CD’s, primarily those on the Fat Possum label, which has an interest in the store. There are also plenty of indie rock discs, and used vinyl of all genres, as well as a small book selection. It’s definitely worth a visit, but also worth pointing out that they close relatively early each day at 6 PM, so if you’re driving to it from out of town, keep that in mind.