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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival, Clarksdale, August 8 - 10

The Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale was founded in 1988, and takes place in front of the Delta Blues Museum downtown. The event is free, and many fans bring their chairs to camp out on the grassy area in front of the main stage. The acoustic stage on Saturday is under a tent that serves as the VIP tent in the evening, located near the main stage.

This year's festival salutes Clarksdale blues legend Big Jack Johnson (1940 - 2011), who was the leading artist on the Clarksdale scene for decades. A group consisting of his former bandmates headlines the festival on Saturday. Friday night is usually dedicated to soul/blues, and this year doesn't disappoint, with Latimore of "Let's Straighten It Out" fame and Johnny Rawls, who was won both Blues Music Awards and Living Blues Awards for his music.

Friday, August 8, 2014 

Main Stage

5:00pm – 5:30pm Delta Blues Museum Band
5:45pm – 6:15pm Kingfish
6:30pm – 7:00pm All Night Long Blues Band
7:15pm – 7:45pm Otis "TCB" Taylor Blues Band
8:00pm – 8:30pm Joshua "Razor Blade" Stewart
8:45pm – 9:15pm Stone Gas Band
9:30pm – 10:30pm   Johnny Rawls
10:45pm –11:45pm  Latimore

Saturday, August 9, 2014 

Acoustic Stage
9:00am – 9:30am   Robert "Wolfman" Belfour
9:45am – 10:15am   Eddie Cusic
10:30am – 11:00am   Pat Thomas
11:15am – 11:45am   Lucious Spiller
12:00pm – 12:30pm   Jimmy "Duck" Holmes
12:45pm – 1:15pm    Leo "Bud" Welch
1:30pm – 2:00pm     Sharde Thomas & Rising Stars & Fife Drum Band

Education Program
2:00pm – 3:00pm Conversation with Family & Friends of Big Jack

Main Stage
3:15pm – 3:45pm David Dunavent & The EVOL Love Band
4:00pm – 4:30pm Kenny Brown
4:45pm – 5:15pm Heather Crosse-Heavy Sugar' & Sweet Tones
5:30pm – 6:00pm Terry "Big T" Williams & the Family Band
6:15pm – 7:15pm James "Super Chikan" Johnson
7:30pm – 8:30pm James "Jimbo" Mathus & The Tri State Coalition / with Special Quest
8:30pm – 8:45pm Award "Presentation of Early Wright Award"
8:45pm – 9:45pm Home Made Jamz Blues Band
10:00pm – 12:00pm  The Big Jack Johnson Band

Sunday, August 10, 2014 

Gospel Stage

4:00pm – 4:30pm W.A. Higgins Academy of Art Choir
4:45pm – 5:15pm Morning Star & Locusr Grove Mass Choir
5:30pm – 6:00pm Diane & The Spirtual Angels
6:15pm – 6:45pm Determined
6:45pm – 7:00pm Award ""Presentation of Julius Guy Award"
7:00pm – 7:30pm Chapel Hill Male Chorus
7:155pm – 7:45pm The Myles Family
8:00pm – 9:00pm The Gospel Four

Unofficial events in Clarksdale during the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, August 8-10

Clarksdale has multiple blues festivals each year, and there's always plenty of unofficial events during the festivals as well as in the days leading up to following them. This year it's no exception, as there will be many events outside the festival grounds to take in.

The free 2nd Street Blues Party takes place in front of the Rock and Blues Museum in Clarksdale on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Cat Head Mini Blues Fest takes place three times a year on the Sunday of the weekends of the Juke Joint Festival, the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, and the King Biscuit Blues Festival. The free event takes places in front of Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art on Delta Avenue, and starts at 10am. As usual, there's a great lineup of traditional blues acts.

In order of appearance: Bill "Howl'N Madd" Perry, Lucious Spiller, Big George Brock w/Clarine Wagner, Robert Bilbo Walker, Anthony "Big A" Sherrod and "Bad" Sean Apple w/Stud


Clarksdale's many blues clubs will also be offering live blues each night, and the Club 2000 on Issaquena Avenue has already announced their lineup.

Hot Springs Blues Festival, August 29-31 in Hot Springs, Arkansas

18th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival

August 29-31, 2014 (Labor Day weekend)

Hill Wheatley Plaza, various locales around Hot Springs

For more information on regional events, go the website for Visit Hot Springs.

August 29
  • Heavy Suga & The Sweetones
  • Steve Hester & DegaVooDoo
  • Hump Night Blues Band

August 30
  • BITS Band
  • Beckham Brothers
  • Tim William (2014 IBC Solo/Duo Winner)
  • Mr. Sipp (2014 IBC Band Winner)
  • Barbara Blue
  • JP Soars & The Red Hots

August 31
  • Little Roy Gene & Grayson Goff
  • Charlotte Taylor & Gypsy Rain
  • Brick Fields & The Chosen Ones
  • Ghost Town Blues Band
  • Larry Garner 
Also: Kickoff Party, After Parties, Workshops, & More

For more information, contact: David Hughes (501) 815-2939. For complete details, scheduling & ticket information visit www.spacityblues.org

Gateway to the Delta Festival, Charleston, Mississippi, Saturday September 20

The Gateway to the Delta Festival takes place on the town square of Charleston, and its name stems from its location where the hill country meets the Delta. In addition to a solid lineup of music, the festival features a many craft tents, a 5K race, and a BBQ cook-off.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sam Chatmon Blues Festival lineup announced -- September 27 in Hollandale, Mississippi

One of the key events of the first weekend of Bridging the Blues is the annual Sam Chatmon Blues Festival in Hollandale, Mississippi. Chatmon (circa 1899-1983) was a longtime resident of Hollandale, located in the south Delta though he was raised in Bolton, which is between Jackson and Vicksburg. In the '20s and '30s he was a member of the Mississippi Sheiks, a string band that included multiple of his brothers; he recorded with the group in addition to making records under his own name. In the 1960s Chatmon returned to performing, and became popular on the festival circuit.  Festival performer Libby Rae Watson was a student of Chatmon's during the '70s and '80s, and still plays his music.

For more information check out the Blues Trail marker for Chatmon in Hollandale, and the Blues Trail marker for the Chatmon Family/Mississippi Sheiks. 

Here's Chatmon playing a song and talking about music with folklorist Alan Lomax in 1979.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Arkansas Delta Music Trail

While visiting the region during Bridging the Blues be sure to go out on the Arkansas Delta Music Trail, and visit the places that gave rise to musical greats including Johnny Cash, Levon Helm of the band, and bluesman Peetie Wheatstraw, aka "the Devil's Son in Law."

And be sure to stop by the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, where Monday to Friday you can watch -- and likely take part in! -- a broadcast of the legendary King Biscuit Time radio program, hosted by Sunshine Sonny Payne for over 10,000 broadcasts.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lineup announced for the main stage at the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival - October 3-5 in Greenville

The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival  in Greenville is one of the cornerstone events of Bridging the Blues, particularly as it incorporates the Highway 61 Blues Festival, whose legacy is represented in the Highway 61 Stage. The festival takes place in the beautiful Warfield Point Park, which is situated on eight acres between the Mississippi River and the levee several miles south of Greenville. Last year many attendees camped on site.

In addition to headliners Dr. John and Gov't Mule, the main stage will also feature the New Orleans brass band-influenced Big Sam's Funky Nation, country artists Deanna Carter and Steve Azar, Austin-based rockers Band of Heathens, Alvin Youngblood Hart's electric trio Muscle Theory, North Mississippi's Shannon McNally, Cedric Burnside, and Jimbo Mathus, and local favorites Jason Fratesi and the Dirt Road Jam Band and Rob Mortimer's Good Paper. Hart, Mathus, and veteran bluesman L.C. Ulmer are also performing on the Highway 61 stage (lineup below).

Last year was the debut of the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, and many fans were so impressed with both the music and amenities that they immediately bought tickets for this year's event.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mississippi Delta National Heritage area approved!

This month the US Congress formally approved the management plan for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which is comprised of 18 counties that contain land inside the Delta region. It's one of just fifty National Heritage Areas in the country. Here's a news article that explains the process leading up to Congress' approval.

A central idea behind National Heritage Areas is to foster identify, celebrate and perpetuate cultural resources for the purposes of both education and economic development, such as through foster blues and Civil Rights tourism.

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area focuses on five themes.

- The Mississippi River and the Land It Embraces

- The Culture of the Blues and the Birth of an American Sound

- Moving Toward Freedom: Changing America’s Character in the Struggle for Rights

- Growing More than Cotton: The Delta as a Wellspring of Creativity

- The Delta Divide: Building Communities.

The board for the non-profit organization is chaired by Delta State University President John Hilpert, and much of the legwork was conducted by Dr. Luther Brown, who recently retired from DSU's  Delta Center for Culture and Learning. Brown has contributed immensely to drawing attention to the cultural wealth of the region for the last fourteen years, and will continue to work with the Center. DSU recently announced his replacement, Dr. Rolando Herts, who has worked extensively on the issue of universities and tourism and served for several years in the Delta with Teach For America.

On October 6-7 Delta State will host the first International Conference of the Blues, featuring artist including Alvin Youngblood Hart and speakers including Robert Santelli of the Grammy Museum.

B.B. King Museum to host exhibit "Blues @ Home" by H.C. Porter

Over the last several years Vicksburg-based artist H.C. Porter traveled across Mississippi document blues artists through oral history interviews and photographs, which she used as the basis for a series of thirty paintings. The portraits include a wide range of artists, ranging from B.B. King to lesser-known musicians such as T-Bone Pruitt of Laurel and YZ Ealey of Natchez. To read more about the project and to view many of the portraits, visit the Blues @ Home website.

The opening reception for Blues @ Home will take place on Thursday, August 21 from 6-8pm at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, with an "After Glow" party following at the nearby Club Ebony. The exhibit will remain up into the first week of Bridging the Blues. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This weekend in Vicksburg - King Edward! Full BTB schedule for the Bottleneck Blues Bar

Every Friday and Saturday night the Vicksburg Blues Society teams up with the Ameristar Casino's Bottleneck Blues Bar for great blues shows, with no entry fee. This week it's veteran Jackson bluesman King Edwards; he's originally from the Lafayette, Louisiana area, but has been in Jackson since the 1970s after a stint in Chicago.  He just recorded a new CD, and he'll be glad to sell you at the Bottleneck show this weekend! 

Here's the schedule for the next months -- during Bridging the Blues the featured artists are Mr. Sipp, Eddie Cotton, and Grady Champion, all exciting young Mississippi artists.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fall lineup for free concert series at Memphis' Levitt Shell

Memphis' wonderful outdoor venue the Levitt Shell has announced its Fall lineup, with 18 free concerts and events beginning in September. The first scheduled event, on Friday, September 5, is a showing of the music documentary  "Meanwhile In Memphis: The Sound of a Revolution."  The following evening, Saturday September 6, is a concert by the North Mississippi Allstars, who have been touring Europe this summer with Robert Plant.
The music continues each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 12.  A show of interest for blues fan during Bridging the Blues is the concert on Friday October 3 by Big Sam's Funky Nation, a New Orleans R&B outfit led by former Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist Big Sam Williams. The following night it's Tupelo native and roots rocker Paul Thorn.
Built in 1936, the Shell (known for many years as the Overton Shell) was the site of Elvis Presley's first professional rock'n'roll show on July 30, 1954. It  later hosted the Memphis Country Blues Festival.  It's located in Midtown off of Poplar Avenue in Overton Park, next to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Upcoming soul/blues festival in Helena, Arkansas

Many fans come to the Delta region seeking out traditional blues, but one of the most vital scenes today is of modern "soul/blues." Mel Waiters, Sir Charles Jones, Luther Lackey and Sweet Angel are all leading artists in this genre. This festival takes place on the levee of the Mississippi River in the same space of the main stage of the King Biscuit Blues Festival.

Here's Mel Waiters live at last year's Crescent City Blues Festival in New Orleans

Go to the Visit Helena site for more great local events and activities, including the upcoming Bar None pop-up bar event

Tamales in the news; Hot Tamale Festival in Greenville October 16-18

Above - a Mississippi Blues Trail marker sits in stands in front of Rosedale's White Front Cafe. Courtesy of the Southern Foodways Alliance, who featured this image on a blog post.

This week the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Greenville, Mississippi native Julia Reed on the contemporary excitement among chefs for hot tamales, which have been a staple of Delta cuisine for a century.

On October 16-18 Greenville will host the Delta Hot Tamale Festival Fest, which will include a tamale cooking contest, a tamale eating contest, live music (the lineup is not yet posted, but last year there were multiple blues acts), and a "Literary/Culinary Mash-up," featuring many prominent chefs, writers and artists.

If you're driving around the Delta be sure to first check out the Hot Tamale Trail, which features a map of restaurants, an overview of the history of tamales in the Delta, and oral history interviews with tamale makers and sellers. It was created by the the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

This year's King and Queen of the Delta Hot Tamale Festival
are local bluesman Eddie Cusic and Corrine Goodman. 
From the Festival's Facebook page.

Brews and Blues in Greenwood on August 9

Ramcat Alley is a historic street that runs through downtown Greenwood. For more information about the event visit the Facebook page for the event or the website for Main Street Greenwood.

For more blues in Greenwood visit Joe's Place (313 Carrollton Ave.; 662-452-0069), which hosts live blues every Saturday night hosted by Blues Gate Jams.

Jazz pianist Andy Hardwick in concert in Vicksburg August 3

On Sunday August 3 the Vicksburg Heritage League is presenting a concert by jazz pianist Andy Hardwick "and friends" in a tribute to jazz legend and Vicksburg native Hank Jones. Hardwick has performed in the Jackson/Vicksburg area for half a century, and was a member of the legendary Red Tops. 

The show takes place this Sunday at the Vicksburg City Auditorium. General Admission is FREE. VIP and Reserved Seating is Available. For more info contact ShirleyWaring@VicksburgHeritage.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blues every weekend in Vicksburg

For the last several years the Vicksburg Blues Society has teamed together with the Ameristar Casino to present shows at the casino's Bottleneck Blues Bar--free of charge--every Friday and Saturday night. It's one of the best places to see Mississippi's leading blues artists, as you can see from the lineup below.

Other venues in Vicksburg featuring blues include L.D.'s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant that hosts a blues jam every second and fourth Tuesday night [1111 Mulberry St.; (601) 636-9838], and the traditional Southern restaurant Walnut Hills, which features the acoustic duo of Bud Carson and Mark Doyle every Friday and Saturday night beginning at 6pm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pop-up Bar in Helena, Arkansas with music from the Reba Russell Trio on August 9

On Saturday August 9 there will be a pop-up bar--named "Bar None"--featuring craft beer, southern liquor, and live music on Helena, Arkansas' Biscuit Row, an area being revitalized in this Delta town’s historic downtown district. The event will feature Cathead Vodka, Four Roses Bourbon, and craft beer by Ozark Beer Company and Stones Throw Brewery.

The bar will open at 5:00pm with a suggested $10 donation at the door. The event is headed up by the Helena Advertising & Promotion in partnership with the King Biscuit Blues Festival (KBBF). All proceeds will benefit the festival, which is going on its 29th year.

Cathead Vodka is Mississippi’s first legal still, opening in 2010. Kentucky based Four Roses Bourbon, has won numerous accolades over the past years including Distiller of the Year three years in a row from Whisky Magazine. Ozark Beer Company, based in Rogers, AR, and Stones Throw Brewery, located in Little Rock, are both relatively new breweries, opening in 2013.

Several food trucks will be parked out front including Little Rock based Waffle Wagon and The Southern Catfish. The Waffle Wagon is one of only a few chicken & waffles trucks in the region, earning a “WOW” from Arkansas Times food writer, Michael Roberts.

The Reba Russell Trio will provide live music throughout the night. Reba Russell, a blues artist and local favorite, has been described by Memphissound.com as “somewhere between the full throated, gospel charged firepower of Bonnie Bramlett and the gentle, seductive soul of early Rita Coolidge.”

“With Bar None, we’re testing out another business model. We tried out a more upscale restaurant with our first pop-up endeavor with Ben E. Keith, which went very well, so now we’re trying out a bar.” said Helena A&P Commissioner Lynn Chadwick.

“We’re very excited about this event,” said KBBF Director, Linda Broome. “The goal is to help support our community in multiple ways: promote restaurant and retail investment while also keeping our blues traditions alive by helping support our festival. Also, good drinks, good music and good food – what’s not to love?!”

For more information about the event, the festival and Helena, visit www.VisitHelenaAR.com or www.KingBiscuitBluesFestival.com or call the King Biscuit office at 870-572-5223.

Photo exhibit opening this Thursday at the Delta Blues Museum

This Thursday from 5-7pm the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale will host an opening of the photography show "Gone But Not Forgotten," featuring works by Billy Johnson of Leland. The show features now departed artists from the Delta. Johnson is the founder of the Leland Blues Project, which created both the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland as well as the Highway 61 Blues Festival, which was incorporated into the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival last year -- there is a separate Highway 61 blues stage. 

Johnson writes of the photos, "At these festivals the crowd saw the entertainers on the stage. These photos capture the friendships and camaraderie backstage. Festivals are more of a reunion among friends than a job." Delta Blues Museum director Shelley Ritter commented, "Billy Johnson has been a friend, fan, supporter and promoter of Delta Blues artists. His images capture the carefree, human moments on and off the stage. The artists' ease with Billy and camaraderie amongst themselves really shows through."

The opening will feature music by Bill Abel, and food provided by Oxbow Restaurant. 

Wonderful online exhibit of Lou Bopp's photographs of blues in the Delta

Photographer Lou Bopp has been a regular visitor to the Delta for the last decade, and many of them are featured on an MSN Entertainment website gallery. Above is a portrait of Willie "Po Monkey" Seaberry, who operates Po' Monkeys juke joint in Merigold, Mississippi.

The Pinetop Homecoming Celebration honors legendary blues pianist Willie "Pinetop" Perkins (1913-2011), and is put on by the non-profit Pinetop Perkins Foundation. The event takes place on the Hopson Plantation just outside of Clarksdale, where Perkins resided in the 1940s. Perkins was the honored guest at the event for many years, playing wonderful piano well into his 1990s.

Held the day after the King Biscuit Festival in nearby Helena, Arkansas, the event draws many artists from the Festival. This year confirmed performers include Super Chikan, Cedric Burnside, Lightnin' Malcolm, Bob Margolin, Jonn del Toro Richardson, Bob Stroger, Sweet Betty, Kenny Brown and Clay Swafford, Rip Lee Pryor and Stephen Blues Dude Duncan.

King Biscuit Blues Festival lineup

The King Biscuit Blues Festival--which takes place October 9-11 -- is celebrating its 29th anniversary this year, and once again is offering three days of music on three stages in historic downtown Helena, Arkansas. Artists featured at this year's festival include Delbert McClinton, James Cotton, Jimmy Vivino and the Black Italians, Bobby Rush, and the duo of Sonny Landreth and Roy Rogers. Here's a link to the full lineup

Blues Conference to take place during Bridging the Blues

Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi is inaugurating the International Conference on the Blues on October 6-7. The lineup will include Grammy award winner Alvin Youngblood Hart and blues scholar Robert Santelli, the executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Earlier this year there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Grammy Museum on the Delta State campus.

Here's Alvin Youngblood Hart performing "Pony Blues" by Charley Patton, who lived on the Dockery Plantation less than ten miles from the Delta State campus.

The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival has announced the lineup for the Highway 61 Blues Stage

One of the key events of Bridging the Blues, The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival features two stages, one of which features all blues. The name of the stage stems from the fact that the festival incorporates the Highway 61 Blues Festival, which was held in nearby Leland for years.