An Even Bigger Saturday at Coldwater’s GOAT Picnic

Although Saturday, August 25, 2018 was even hotter than the day before, the crowd that gathered in the late afternoon in Coldwater for the second day of the 68th Annual GOAT Picnic was even larger than the one from the day before. The surprise of the early evening was an R & B singer from Coldwater named Felita Jacole, who had a band of talented musicians backing her up, and who, to my surprise, did some original material, including a song called “Weekend.” 

She was followed by the legendary R. L. Boyce, the last of the original Hill Country bluesmen, who performed with Kesha Burton from Brownsville, Tennessee on drums, and his daughter Sherena Boyce on tambourine and dancing. 

Later in the evening came exciting sets by Nashville-based Blue Mother Tupelo, and Mississippi bluesman Mark “Muleman” Massey, but as it was the previous night, the most excitement in my opinion was the raw and exuberant processions of Sharde Thomas and her Rising Stars Fife and Drum Band between the performances on stage. After dark, the interplay between djembe, bass drum and dancers became truly uninhibited, and the crowd gathered around to watch. 

Confronted with the challenges caused by moving to a new town and venue, the 68th Annual GOAT Picnic managed to rise to the occasion. The weather was perfect both days, with the grounds after dark illuminated by a beautiful full moon overhead, and a crowd of several hundred people in front of the stage. 

Hill Country Traditions at the Hulette Picnic in Senatobia

Although it was the weekend of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale, R. L. Boyce’s daughter Sherena had mentioned something about a large birthday picnic and party near Senatobia, Mississippi that was supposed to feature live blues and fife and drum music, so on Saturday evening, despite the heat and occasional storms, we headed down to a small village of trailer homes along the LRL Road south of Senatobia, where a birthday party was being held for a woman named Carolyn Hulette. A large flatbed trailer had been set up as a stage, and a hundred people or so were gathered at tables and chairs under the trees, enjoying barbecue and live music. Fife musician Willie Hurt was playing when we arrived, and the musicologist Carl Vermilyea was backing him up on the snare drum. Later, Willie called me over to meet Ms. Hulette, who explained to me that she used to “follow the drums” but that she was now “too young” for that. Many Hulette family members had come from Virginia and from the West Coast, and some were camping in tents on the hill south of the stage area. There was a DJ as well, lots of dancing, a birthday cake and lemonade, and then Ms. Hulette’s son Tracy and grandson Travis came on stage with a drummer to play some blues. Sherena explained to me that Travis had been playing with R. L. before he had moved to Nashville. He proved to be a talented, gifted Hill Country-style guitarist, and he played several standard blues tunes, such as “See My Jumper Hanging Out on the Line” and “Going Down South.” After they performed, the proceedings were turned back over to the DJ, and as it was after 11 PM, we headed back to Senatobia. 

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 Fest226 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.

Mississippi Highlights the Blues @SXSW 2013

#039 Mississippi Blues @ SXSW Like Memphis, Mississippi has increasingly tried to leverage its musical heritage into increased tourism and/or film production, so they also had a trade show exhibit highlighting the blues. Festivals that feature blues drive a considerable amount of the state’s tourism, particularly in the Delta region.

Little Joe Ayres decided to become a musician after noticing the enthusiasm that Marshall County, Mississippi residents had for bluesmen like Louis Boga and Junior Kimbrough. After teaching himself to play the guitar, Ayres began to learn from Kimbrough, and ended up becoming a member of Kimbrough’s band, the Soul Blues Boys. After many years of performing as a sideman and a solo artist, Little Joe Ayres has released his debut album Backatchya, a welcome collection of Kimbrough standards, hill country standards, and other familiar blues tunes that are adapted to the unique hill country style. Like all Devil Down Records releases, the album captures both a moment in time and a unique sense of place. Ayres’ guitar and vocals, as well as his spoken comments, were captured not in a recording studio, but on the front porch of fellow hill country bluesman Kenny Brown’s home. The resulting album has an intimacy that makes the listener feel as if he has spent a day with Little Joe Ayres rather than just listening to a record. Backatchya is a welcome documentation of one of Mississippi’s living blues legends, and is hopefully the first of many albums to come.