King Biscuit Festival days 2 and 3
The second day of the King Biscuit Festival had a mixture of blues and rock designed for a crowd keen to see local acts. As a result there were periods when our attention wandered and we spent some time sitting on a park bench drinking beer from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags. Highlights on stage included the ever impressive Super Chikan and Sweet Angel, an energetic blues singer/saxophonist, who got the small stage jumping with some sassy singing on numbers including Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, Don't Lie To Me, Wang Dang Doodle, My Sweet Little Angel and the Thrill is Real. Equally good was Jimmy Burns, a blues singer with a soulful voice who was excellent on Snaggle Toothed Mule, Stand By Me and Sam Cooke's Nothing Can Change This Love. Elsewhere there was Terry Big T Williams, who lived up to his name, Mississippi Spoon Man playing, you've guessed it, a couple of spoons, Cedric Burnside, a bluesy drummer andTerry 'Harmonica' Bean, playing in the street. Headliner was Jimmie Vaughan, a fine guitarist but a bit middle of the road I thought, who was performing with Lou Ann Barton.
The highlight of the entire day was a trip to Red's juke joint in Clarksdale afterwards. The tiny place was packed and the atmosphere electric. The music was good too, with Selwyn Cooper and the Sharecroppers playing, Teddy Johnson acting as MC and Lucious Spiller guesting. Bass player Noel Neal threw in some very soulful numbers.
The final day began with a blues symposium on the decline of the juke joint, featuring Henry Gipson from Bessemer, Teddy Johnson from Zachary, Red Paden from Clarksdale and David Kimbrough Jr, whose father ran a juke joint in Holly Springs. Both Gip and Teddy said that they had suffered problems from local authorities trying to close them down. I've been to both and they should definitely be preserved in my opinion. Red said that he saw his job as keeping everyone safe, while David said the essential ingredients of a juke joint are grease, onions, beer and moonshine. Interesting stuff. Music wise, the best act was probably the folky blues of Ruthie Foster, whose set included Still Singing The Blues, Fruits Of My Labor, Richmond Women Blues and Small Town Blues, although Lucky Peterson was pretty wild on Funky Broadway and I Can See Clearly Now among others. There was also some rock and roll from Jimbo Mathus, some solid blues from Big George Brock, entertainment from blues men Bob Margolin, Kenny Smith and Bob Stroger, some rather heavy stuff from guitarist Larry McCray, and some modern R and B from Lil Buscuit. Also good were Nick Nixon, with the talented Peterson Brothers guesting, and Memphis soul man Eb Davis, who duetted with Charlie Brown on Dock Of The Bay to good effect. There was good gospel too in the Malco Theatre, but I didn't get to see a lot of the headliner Taj Mahal. Finally it was back to Clarksdale for an excellent show at the Ground Zero Blues Club by Super Chikan. I'm pretty well bluesed out now, but we've got a couple of days left in Memphis before we fly home. Watch out for photos when I get back.