Things are heating up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. On Thursday, April 12th, the fourth annual Juke Joint Festival (JukeJointFestival.com) gets under way with blues jams hosted by Guitar Mikey and The Cornlickers scheduled for Ground Zero Blues Club and Red's Lounge, respectively. Can't make it down to the Delta that early? Cut out of work on Friday afternoon in time to catch Honeyboy Edwards perform at the unveiling of the Muddy Waters Blues Trail Marker, at the site of Waters' onetime cabin on the Stovall Plantation. There's plenty more music that night, including a CD-release party for Broke & Hungry Records' Meet Me in the Cotton Field, which features new music from Clarksdale natives Terry "Big T" Williams and Wesley Jefferson, acoustic blues from Bill "Howl-N-Mad" Perry, and stinging electric sets from Big Jack Johnson, Blind Mississippi Morris, and others.
The festival itself officially begins at the crack of dawn on Saturday, when the Juke Joint Festival 5K Run kicks off at the Greyhound Bus Station. The music starts early, at 8:30 a.m., when Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band plays a special breakfast set at Sarah's Kitchen, and lasts all day and all night, with Bentonia bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Greenville fave T-Model Ford, Alabama great Willie King, and Memphis' own Robert Belfour slated to perform. There are also plenty of diversions should you overdose on the music, including pig races, Border-collie-riding monkeys, a Juke Joint Film Festival, and art exhibits at the Delta Blues Museum, Passenger's Station, Cathead Delta Blues & Folk Art, and other galleries around town.
The authentically down-home Juke Joint Festival gives out-of-towners a chance to experience Clarksdale's gritty blues scene hands-on. The town's New World district is a real treasure in this era of gentrified, tourist-driven entertainment districts and music festivals, although the blues-related roster on tap for this year's Memphis In May Beale Street Music Festival — which includes regional talents such as Belfour, Edwards, Sharde Thomas & the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, Bobby "Blue" Bland, the Daddy Mack Blues Band, Alvin Youngblood Hart, James "Super Chikan" Johnson, and the North Mississippi Allstars — is a step in the right direction.
Should the hour-long drive down Highway 61 prove too taxing, head over to the Memphis Drum Shop (878 S. Cooper) on Saturday, April 14th. Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission's Musician's Advisory Council is presenting a free showcase from 3 to 6 p.m., featuring bluesy fare from Daddy Mack Orr and Charlie Wood along with sets from Rich Riegel, Will Graves & Men-Nefer, and metal gurus Rabid Villain. For more information, go to MemphisMusicians.org or call the Memphis Drum Shop at 276-2328.
Whether or not you took advantage of the Ponderosa Stomp's 2006 Memphis exile, which included three glorious nights of music at downtown's Gibson Guitar Factory, you might want to head south to catch the sixth annual Stomp, slated to storm three stages at New Orleans' House of Blues on Wednesday, May 2nd. Perennial favorites, including Lazy Lester, Rockie Charles, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Jay Chevalier, and Little Freddie King, are on the schedule, along with first-time Stomp performers Dan Penn and Bobby Emmons, Augie Meyers, Ralph "Soul" Jackson, Bobby Rush, and Roky Erickson & the Explosives. Go to PonderosaStomp.com for the full roster.
When Jay "Reatard" Lindsey and The Arch Rivals share the stage at Midtown pub Murphy's this Sunday, April 15th, it should be a standing-room-only crowd. Lindsey's new material, which includes the stunning Brit punk throwback "Oh It's Such a Shame," debuted at SXSW and can be heard on his MySpace site, MySpace.com/JayReatard. Also, check out the inaugural tunes from the Arch Rivals — Alix Brown (Lindsey's bandmate in The Angry Angles) on bass, Andrew "Buck Wilders" McCalla on drums, and guitarists Quinn Powers and Joe T. Simpson — atMySpace.com/MemphisArchRivals.
"I was like, you guys don't have a bass player. You need one? And Quinn said, 'I guess so,'" explains Brown, who describes the Arch Rivals as an R&B-influenced rock-and-roll band. "He and Andrew had formed the group already and recorded some songs and played a few shows live without a bassist," Brown adds. "We've played one show with all of us, and we recorded a Nancy Sinatra song that I sang on. I want to write some songs, but right now I have to focus on the next Angry Angles album. Jay and I already split the advance money, so now we have to record it."