Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stomping 2011 - 2: Springfield & Memphis

We're into day 5 of our trip and we've caught some great blues so far. The Greater Ozarks Blues Festival in Springfield was a laid back affair with a smallish crowd, but the music was anything but laid back. Larry Garner was back in fine form with his own band, laying down a soulful groove on a dozen or so numbers including The road of life, Goin' down slow, No more free rides and She's the boss, before finishing off with the rap based on I gotta keep singing the blues that he did at the Half Moon, Putney earlier this year. I thought he was a whole lot better this time, ably supported by guitarist Elvin Killerbee. Headlining act was Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, a strong blues band led by the charismatic Ed, which got the crowd going with some straight ahead blues.
After Springfield we drove through Arkansas to Memphis, stopping off at a picturesque town called Hardy, arriving around 4 and checking into a cheap motel in West Memphis. In the evening after a walk around Beale Street we sank a few pints at the Flying Saucer pub (well, Dave T did anyway) and then caught James Govan at the Rum Boogie Cafe. His band must be the best regular soul band anywhere and he was on great form as ever. A stunning performance of The Jealous Kind was a particular stand-out. Leaving the bar at around midnight we walked up Beale Street and I was struck by the fact that it was packed with people, 99 per cent of them black, including many girls in extremely short dresses. There is a barrier at each end of the street where anyone wanting to go in is checked by the police for weapons and drugs and there was a queue for hundreds of yards of people trying to get in. We went on Wild Bill's blues club which, conversely, has now been discovered by young whites. The club is as run down as ever though and the band, the Soul Survivors, just as good. After getting some beer from the off licence next door we settled down in the noisy, crowded bar for some great blues and southern soul, including some fine singing from, I think, Miss Kitten. I could have stayed till the end but some of the others were flagging so we left around 2. A great night though.


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