Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Laissez les bon temps roulez

Tomorrow I'm off to the US for what has become virtually an annual trip. Kicking off in Memphis I will be going to Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the Juke Joint Blues Festival, then on to Shreveport, Lafayette, a week in New Orleans for Jazzfest and the Ponderosa Stomp and then back to Memphis for the Beale Street festival. Getting away from the unseasonably cold weather - and from work - for two and a half weeks is reason enough to feel excited. But the music available makes this more than just a holiday.
Of course many of the original acts who I went to see in New Orleans back in 1989 when I went to Jazzfest for the first time have since died or stopped performing. I remember seeing Ernie K-Doe, Jessie Hill, Albert King, Junior Walker, Bobby Marchan, Earl King and many more who are no longer with us. But some have survived and continue to excite. I'm looking forward to seeing Irma Thomas and Al Green again, hopefully Bobby Bland, plus many relatively obscure or hard to see acts at the Ponderosa Stomp, including Ronnie Spector and Question Mark and the Mysterians among dozens of others.
There's something great about just driving around the deep south, stopping off at roadside bars and flea markets, searching for obscure records and meeting up with friendly, interesting people. It just doesn't happen in the UK. Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have played such a key role in 2oth century music - from Sun Records, to the birth of the blues, Stax, Hi, the legends of New Orleans R and B, Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and southern soul. - even jazz itself. There is simply nowhere else in the world that can compare with this region for its musical heritage.
I remember a few years ago feeling that I had seen just about everyone I ever wanted to see. Yet still there are musicians that I have yet to experience, not to mention others who I just want to see at least one more time.
This is the season for the South, and for its music. Look out for reports on what I see on The Vinyl Word. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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