The Kimbrough Blues Legacy Lives On At Rooster’s Blues House in Oxford


Robert Kimbrough Sr. calls his style of music “cotton patch blues”, but he is the son of one of the biggest legends of what blues scholars often call Hill Country blues, Junior Kimbrough. The Hill Country is generally considered to be Marshall, DeSoto, Tate, Panola, Lafayette and Benton Counties, and perhaps the most important city in the region is Oxford, the home of the University of Mississippi. Music fans in Oxford love the cotton patch or Hill Country styles of blues, and they often go to Rooster’s Blues House when regional blues artists are booked, so there was a large, enthusiastic crowd on a Friday night in September when Robert Kimbrough performed with his band the Robert Kimbrough Sr Blues Connection. Kimbrough treated the crowd to a mix of original compositions and Junior Kimbrough standards like “All Night Long”, and the dance floor in front of the stage stayed full. It was a great way to kick off a big Oxford football weekend.

Eric Deaton Trio & Garry Burnside Live at Proud Larry’s


Although Proud Larry’s is first and foremost a rock club, Oxford, Mississippi is deep in the Mississippi Hill Country, and has been the scene of many a classic blues performance. Nearly all the greats of the Hill Country have performed there, including the great Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside. So it came as no surprise that they kicked off the Labor Day weekend with a Friday night appearance by R. L. Burnside’s son Garry, with his band featuring Kody Harrell of Woodstomp, singer Beverly Davis, and Cedric Burnside on drums, followed by Eric Deaton, a bluesman who learned the Hill Country style from time spent playing with R.L. Although the holiday weekend had many entertainment options, the club was surprisingly full, and the crowd unusually attentive, considering that all too often, young Oxford crowds view the music as background to serious drinking. Both the musicians and the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, and it was basically just a good time.


Robert Kimbrough’s Blues Yard Parties in Benton County


Benton County, Mississippi is due east of Marshall County, and was once a part of it, having been carved out of it and Tippah County by the state legislature during Reconstruction. Demographically similar to the county it was taken out of, Benton is a part of the Mississippi Hill Country, although sparsely populated and somewhat poorer than the other Hill Country counties. Although many great musicians came from Benton County, including Willie Mitchell, Syl Johnson, Joe Ayers and Nathan Beauregard, there has never been a live music scene in the county, mainly for the simple fact that Benton has always been a dry county, and remains so today. Such music as there has been has usually been held at private events such as picnics and yard parties.
However, over the last month or so, Robert Kimbrough, one of the sons of blues legend Junior Kimbrough, has been holding yard parties/jam sessions at his house just outside the Benton County seat of Ashland. The somewhat remote location is an opportunity to hear the music in a setting more like where it originated, in an era where “clubs” or even “juke joints” were still unknown. The atmosphere in the yard is easy going, with musicians taking turns going on stage and then coming off to enjoy food and drink. Musicians like J. J. Wilburn, G-Cutta, Little Joe Ayers and even Robert’s brother David Kimbrough occasionally come through and sit in. Fans bring lawn chairs and sit in the lawn while the musicians play under the carport roof. It’s all a rather informal affair. However, the weekend schedule for these events is somewhat erratic, as it depends on Robert’s touring schedule, so if you want to attend, follow Robert on Facebook here so that you know when and where his events are occurring. (I won’t put his address here publicly, although he occasionally does put it on Facebook. Follow him for details on where and when to go).

Celebrating the Legacy of Junior Kimbrough in Holly Springs


Marshall County, Mississippi is recognized as the home of the Hill Country blues, and the home of its two greatest exponents, Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside. So it was entirely fitting that this year, one of Junior’s sons, Robert Kimbrough, put together an event to celebrate the life and legacy of his father, the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Blues Festival. Over several days, the event featured an exhibition of photographs at Rust College in Holly Springs, a guitar workshop, a jam session and a Sunday afternoon concert on an outdoor stage adjacent to the old VFW Hut on West Valley Avenue. On Mother’s Day afternoon, with impeccable weather, a crowd gathered to enjoy authentic Hill Country blues from Robert Kimbrough Sr. and the Blues Connection, Little Joe Ayers (who had played with Junior), Dan Russell, Memphis Gold, Cameron Kimbrough, Leo Bud Welch, R. L. Boyce with Carlos Elliot Jr and Lightnin Malcolm, and the Kimbrough Brothers, featuring Robert, Kinney and David Kimbrough. Young drummer and guitarist Cameron Kimbrough is a grandson of Junior and son of drummer Kinney Kimbrough, and was especially impressive on drums with Memphis Gold and Leo Bud Welch. Altogether, it was an amazing day of some of the best blues Mississippi has to offer.










Cadillac Funk and Cedric Burnside At The Levitt AMP Summer Music Series in New Albany

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 Levitt Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting live music opportunities in America, especially outdoor performances. Well-known to Memphians as the organization that helped save the Overton Park Shell, the foundation runs shells and other outdoor stages in a number of American cities, and sets up summer concert series in many more. This year, the Levitt Foundation announced a Summer Music Series in New Albany, Mississippi, taking advantage of the city’s recently renovated Park Along The River (the river in question being the Tallahatchie). On July 2, the series brought the Hill Country blues to New Albany with performances by Oxford-based Cadillac Funk, and then the Cedric Burnside Project, featuring Trenton Ayers (son of Little Joe Ayers) on guitar. A fairly large crowd showed up for the two-hours-worth of funk and blues, with dancers filling up the space in front of the stage. As is his custom, Cedric started his set out with several acoustic guitar songs before moving to the drums and inviting Trenton Ayers to join him. In its more hardcore, electric form, the Cedric Burnside Project performs a large repertoire, from originals that feature a Hill Country edge, to many of the songs made famous by Junior Kimbrough and Cedric’s grandfather, the late R. L. Burnside, such as “Firemen Ring The Bell” and “Goin’ Down South.” All too soon, the show was over, and the crowd was left asking for more.


Juke Joint Fest: Robert Kimbrough Sr.

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

Although Clarksdale is in the Delta, visitors to the Juke Joint Fest love some Hill Country blues as well, and the Robert Kimbrough Blues Connection band is popular with the fans. Robert is one of the sons of the late Junior Kimbrough, who together with R. L. Burnside helped define the style known as Hill Country blues. Besides annual appearances at Juke Joint Fest, Robert Kimbrough performs frequently in and around Holly Springs in Marshall County.

Celebrating Hill Country Blues at Foxfire Ranch

047 Foxfire049 Welcome To Foxfire Ranch050 The Blues Pavilion at Foxfire054 Heavy Suga and the Sweet Tones055 Sweet Tones Drummer058 Foxfire Blues Festival062 Leo Bud Welch071 Little Joe Ayers074 Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry077 Duwayne Burnside079 Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry082 Foxfire Blues Fest084 Sherena Boyce089 JJ093 Duwayne Burnside098 Duwayne Burnside and Kenny Brown101 Duwayne Burnside106 Sherena Boyce108 Sherena Boyce111 Kenny Brown114 Duwayne Burnside118 JJ117 JJ121 Foxfire Blues Fest122 Foxfire Blues Fest126 Kingfish Ingram128 Foxfire Blues Fest131 Lightning Malcolm
Fans of the unique Mississippi style of blues known as Hill Country blues are of course very familiar with Marshall County, as it was the home of both Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, arguably the two most important Hill Country bluesmen. And they are probably also familiar with the Foxfire Ranch at Waterford in Marshall County, where a superb summer schedule of live blues occurs nearly every Sunday at 5 PM, under a shelter known as the Hill Country Pavilion. But this year, the Hollowell family, which owns the ranch, decided to sponsor an all-day concert of blues, and somewhat surprisingly, chose to do it in March, which is slightly earlier than the start-up of the festival season, which generally occurs in April.
Although the weather can be chilly and unpredictable in March, this year’s inaugural Foxfire Blues Festival was warm and pleasant, with plenty of sunshine. A large portable stage had been set up in the valley at the back of the large hill on which the pavilion stands, and a moderate crowd sat on blankets on the hillside, enjoying performances by Little Joe Ayers, Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, Heavy Suga and the Sweet Tones, The Duwayne Burnside Band, Kenny Brown, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Lightning Malcolm. For a first-time festival, the event was fairly well-attended, it rolled smoothly, and the crowd enjoyed a beautiful day of great music.











Preserving the Hill Country Blues Tradition: Duwayne Burnside Live in Holly Springs

001 Holly Springs002 The Square003 JB's on the Square004 The Square005 JB's on the Square006 The Square007 Blues in the Alley008 Marshall County Courthouse009 Blues in the Alley010 Blues in the Alley011 Blues in the Alley012 Blues in the Alley013 Blues in the Alley014 Blues in the Alley015 Blues in the Alley016 Blues in the Alley017 Blues in the Alley018 Blues in the Alley019 Blues in the Alley020 Funnel Cakes021 Blues in the Alley022 Duwayne Burnside023 Blues in the Alley024 Duwayne Burnside Band025 Duwayne Burnside Band026 Duwayne Burnside Band027 Duwayne Burnside Band028 Duwayne Burnside Band029 Duwayne Burnside Band030 Duwayne Burnside Band031 Duwayne Burnside032 Duwayne Burnside038 Duwayne Burnside Band039 Duwayne Burnside Band040 Duwayne Burnside Band041 Duwayne Burnside Band042 Duwayne Burnside Band043 Duwayne Burnside044 Duwayne Burnside045 Duwayne Burnside Band046 Blues in the Alley049 Duwayne Burnside Band1744 Holly Springs Sunset1746 Marshall County Courthouse1748 Blues in the Alley1749 Duwayne Burnside1751 Blues in the Alley1754 Duwayne and Garry Burnside1756 Duwayne Burnside Band1745 Marshall County Courthouse1752 Duwayne Burnside
Think of Mississippi Blues and you are likely to think of the Delta. The long highways and crossroads, the endless flat land, broken only by the occasional bayou, small towns, juke joints and Robert Johnson. But there was also blues in Northeast Mississippi, the Hill Country, particularly in Marshall County, and the style of blues in that region was an especially primitive and basic form of the music that perhaps has more in common with the music of West Africa than any other African-American music form. Hill Country blues is based around guitar drones and repetitive patterns that seem to almost induce trance. Unlike the Delta blues, Hill Country blues remained largely unknown until the late 1960’s, with some awareness coming through the rediscovery of Mississippi Fred McDowell in Como. The efforts of George Mitchell and Dr. David Evans to make field recordings led directly to the discovery of the two great figures of Hill Country blues, Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, both from Marshall County, whose records in the 1990’s made Hill County blues familiar to people all over their world. Since their deaths, their children have endeavored to continue the tradition, and so there is a growing interest in Holly Springs for blues tourism. Every Thursday night, from July through the end of September, there is live blues on an outdoor stage on the Marshall County Courthouse square. It is usually well-attended each week, but all the more so when one of the county’s favorite sons is appearing, such as guitarist Duwayne Burnside. On this particular night, Duwayne was joined by his brother Garry Burnside on bass, and by his nephew Cedric Burnside on the drums, and they proceeded to give the audience a musical history of the blues, venturing into any number of different styles, and covers from as diverse a collective as R. L. Burnside, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, B. B. King and Tyrone Davis. Duwayne has always been one of the great living blues guitarists, but over the last two months or so, he seems to be hitting a new stride, playing some of the best music of his life. And to watch his face while on stage is to see the sheer joy of creation in progress.









The Ruins of Hudsonville

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On my way to Holly Springs, Mississippi for a blues event, I decided to travel a slightly different way in order to check out the town of Hudsonville on Highway 7, intriguing to me as it was the place where the legendary Hill Country bluesman Junior Kimbrough was from. Unfortunately, not much of Hudsonville is left. There’s one small store at a crossroads on Highway 7 outside the town, but if one follows the road to the railroad tracks, there are only ruins of a couple of buildings beside the railroad track, which is itself abandoned as well. Because the buildings are in such poor shape, it is impossible to tell what they were. One appears to have perhaps been a store, and the other, maybe a railroad building of some sort. A short distance away is one other building, in relatively good shape, which a sign says is a polling place for local elections. Other than that, there is nothing left of Hudsonville at all.

The Cassie Bonner Band on the Square in Holly Springs

001 Holly Springs002 Holly Springs003 Holly Springs004 Marshall County Courthouse005 Marshall County Courthouse006 Holly Springs007 Marshall County Courthouse009 Holly Springs010 Holly Springs011 Marshall County Courthouse012 Aikei Pro's Record Shop013 Holly Springs014 Holly Springs015 Holly Springs016 Hill Country Blues017 Holly Springs018 Holly Springs019 Holly Springs020 Holly Springs021 Holly Springs022 Holly Springs023 Holly Springs024 Holly Springs025 Holly Springs026 Holly Springs027 Holly Springs028 Cassie Bonner Band030 Holly Springs031 Holly Springs032 Holly Springs033 Holly Springs034 Holly Springs036 Holly Springs038 Cassie Bonner's Drummer039 Cassie Bonner's Drummer042 Cassie Bonner's Drummer043 Cassie Bonner Band044 Cassie Bonner Band045 Cassie Bonner046 Cassie Bonner Band047 Cassie Bonner Band048 Cassie Bonner049 Holly Springs051 Wobble, Baby, Wobble052 Wobble, Baby, Wobble053 Cassie Bonner Band054 Holly Springs055 Holly Springs056 Cassie Bonner Band057 Holly Springs058 Holly Springs059 Holly Springs060 Highway 7 & 4061 Holly Springs063 Little Joe Ayers065 Holly Springs066 Holly Springs067 Holly Springs068 Cassie Bonner Band069 Cassie Bonner Band070 Cassie Bonner Band071 Cassie Bonner Band072 Cassie Bonner Band073 Cassie Bonner Band074 Holly Springs075 Cassie Bonner Band076 Cassie Bonner Band077 Cassie Bonner Band078 Cassie Bonner Band079 Cassie Bonner Band080 Cassie Bonner Band084 Holly Springs086 Holly Springs087 Holly Springs088 Holly Springs089 Cassie Bonner Band090 Cassie Bonner Band091 Cassie Bonner Band092 Cassie Bonner Band093 Cassie Bonner Band094 Cassie Bonner Band095 Cassie Bonner Band097 Holly Springs098 Holly Springs099 Future Attractions1565 The Smiling Phoenix1568 Holly Springs1570 JB's On The Square1572 Holly Springs1574 Holly Springs1575 Marshall County Courthouse1576 Marshall County Courthouse1578 Holly Springs1579 Cassie Bonner Band1581 Cassie Bonner's Drummer1583 Cassie Bonner Band1585 Wobble, Baby, Wobble1587 Cassie Bonner Band1589 Cassie Bonner Band1591 Holly Springs1592 Holly Springs1596 Cassie Bonner Band1599 Cassie Bonner Band
Although the Delta of Mississippi is known as “The Land Where Blues Began”, the area to the east known as the Hill Country produced a unique style of blues that has become famous around the world. This subgenre of blues was especially prevalent in Marshall and Benton Counties, so it’s not surprising that Holly Springs, the county seat of Marshall County, is a town that emphasizes its blues heritage. The county was home to Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, and each Thursday night during the summer, Holly Springs sponsors a weekly live music concert called Blues in the Alley, which is held directly on the courthouse square. On July 9, the featured artist was the Cassie Bonner Band, a group from Oxford that I was not familiar with. Cassie Bonner proved to be a keyboard player and a singer, and while the group’s style was more neb-soul than blues, I was quite impressed with them, particularly the young drummer. There were also food vendors and a DJ, and a crowd of several hundred people, as well as a number of motorcyclists, and a camera crew filming a documentary about Holly Springs and David Caldwell, the owner of Aikei Pro’s Record Shop. I also ran into Hill Country Blues legend Little Joe Ayers on the square as well.

Keep up with Cassie Bonner:
https://www.facebook.com/cassie.bonner.9
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https://myspace.com/cassiebonnersoul