Compared to the tourist haven of New Orleans it was so refreshing to arrive in Clarksdale, definitely the ‘realest’ place I’ve been to on this trip, with little to do aside from various blues music landmarks and dive juke joints. With the blues festival going on, it turned out that there was plenty to do just listening to some of the fantastic artists playing.
Being about a million degrees outside, there wasn’t much option other than buying cold drinks and basking in the shade offered around the stage. My drink of choice was beer, although there was actually a half decent American ‘cider’ on offer as well, but this was a bit sweet for mass consumption!
The music on offer was stunning, and actually very varied, from a drum and Fife band kicking the day off to Norwegian Grammy-winning acoustic blues queen Rita Engedalen and soul legend William Bell. The highlight of the festival was local musician, 16 year old Christone ‘kingfish’ Ingram, who was as good a guitar player as I’ve ever seen. Some of the things he could do with his guitar was really incredible.
As William Bell rocked his headline set I made friends with a guy who had been at the festival for 9 years, coming every year with his friends from his college days. He was a vip so managed to get me lots of free beer which was great, but it actually turned out he was hitting on me, not even very subtly! After hanging out at the after party at the ground zero blues club I met some guys who were staying at a shack just outside the city. They were having a house party, so I went along with them, which turned out to be a lot of fun, with them just jamming on their guitars and doing some jazz improv! It turned out to be a very late night, but was so much fun, although this morning wasn’t so good…
It was particularly interesting seeing how real the blues are. I imagine that when country music is not booming in popularity that this is the kind of thing you’d get, rather than big arena performers like Jason Aldean or Brad Paisley. I absolutely loved my time at the festival, and I really hope I can come back next year!