Thursday, July 10, 2008
Mississippi Blues Trail
By SUE WATSON
The Hill Country was honored Thursday in Holly Springs with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
The Blues Trail was developed under the leadership of Gov. Haley Barbour and is designed to preserve the state’s musical heritage through more than 100 historical markers and interpretive sites, said Stephanie Movre, executive director of the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau.
The unveiling took place at noon at North Center Street and East College Avenue.
Scheduled to coincide with the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic at Potts Camp, the unveiling drew contemporary blues artists and blues lovers already gathering for the picnic, as well as local enthusiasts and politicians.
Joe Ayers, who played with the late Junior Kimbrough 31 years, was one of those in attendance. He plays in Clarksdale and Oxford and works for the Holly Springs School District.
Cedric Burnside said at the unveiling, “It’s been a long time coming.”
David Kimbrough also spoke of his father, whom he called a great guy, a great father.
“I am continuing his legacy,” he said. “It’s a great thing.”
Alex Thomas, with the Heritage Trails project with the Mississippi Development Authority’s tourism division, spoke to the presence of the blues all over the state, not just in the Hills or the Delta.
“Today marks the 35th marker established on the Mississippi Blues Trail,” he said. “Blues is all over the state - the birthplace of the blues.”
The list of request for blues trail markers is growing with requests up to nearly 140, he said.
As the birthplace and residence of many of the state’s most accomplished bluesmen, the Hill Country has long played an important part in the development of the blues and will be a welcome addition to the Mississippi Blues Trail, Governor Barbour said.
During the 1990s the hill country blues of the North Mississippi counties surrounding Sardis Lake-Tate, Panola, Marshall, and Lafayette-became recognized internationally via the recordings of bluesmen David Junior Kimbrough (1930-1998) and R.L. Burnside (1926-2005). Both men recorded multiple albums for the Oxford-based Fat Possum label, which was formed to capture the sounds of Kimbrough’s Marshall County juke joint, where Burnside and Kimbrough played on Sunday nights.
The music there was captured in the 1991 documentary “Deep Blues,” which also featured fellow hill country musician Jessie Mae Hemphill.
Prior to the 1990s, blues from the Delta region, which tends to follow the typical 12-bar, three-chord approach to the blues, largely overshadowed the hill country style of music. Some notable characteristics of hill country blues include songs that use only one or two chords and an emphasis on riffs or the groove, which lends a hypnotic quality to the music. Few artists from the hill country region were recorded prior to the 1960s, when field researchers made extensive recordings of local artists including Mississippi’s Fred McDowell, Burnside, and the fife and drum traditions of Panola and Tate counties.
Following the deaths in the late1990s and early 2000s of Burnside, Kimbrough, Hemphill, and fife and drum master Othar Otha Turner, their children, grandchildren and proteges have largely carried on the hill country tradition.
On July 4 and 5 many of these younger musicians performed at the third annual Hill Country Picnic. To keep up with this year’s and past picnics, visit www.hillcountrypicnic.wordpress.com.
The Mississippi Blues Trail markers are funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and by support from the Holly Springs Tourism and Recreation Bureau, Mississippi Department of Transportation, Delta State University and the Mississippi Development Authority.
Money was raised by local hill country blues artists Kenny Brown and Duwayne Burnside to help with the installation of the marker in downtown Holly Springs near Blues Alley. They held two concerts in Oxford to raise money for the first marker of three that will be installed in the county.
Movre thanked Sara Davis, Chico Harris, Gary Burnside, Joe Ayers, Calvin Jackson, Kenny Brown, Cedric Burnside, Lightnin Malcolm, Dixie Dan (who flew in from Michigan for the event), the Hill Country Review and Danny Klimetz (www.captured-photography.net) for unforgettable images of the event as well as Fat Possum Records and the North Mississippi Allstars for their private donations.
For further information on the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit www.msbluestrail.org.
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page