Friday, February 25, 2011

Rocking in Oxford

It was a dark and stormy night in Oxford Mississippi, with tornado watches, rain, thunder and lightening, and some of that was inside . . .

Thacker Mountain Radio had a special show in conjunction with the Blues Symposium, (check out the rest of the schedule for the Blues Symposium at local night spots) and the live radio show was at the Lyric Theater, a much larger venue than the usual one at Off Square Books, the Square Books offshoot, and home to TMR. As usual, lead-in comments by MC Jim Dees and Yalobushwhacker lead Duff Dorrough had the place rolling in the aisles.

The place was jamming, starting with the house band Yalobushwhackers, then moved to a reading by author Elizabeth Stuckey-French from her book, Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, a humorously noir fiction inspired by the true story of cold war scientists who fed pregnant women radioactive cocktails in the early 1950’s.

After that, we were ready for Alvin Youngblood Hart

performing his own “radio” active blues. Alvin is one of my favorite young ("young" being relative) blues musicians, or just musician period, since I’m never sure when I go to see him if I’m going to hear rock, blues, rockabilly, jazz, rap or a mix of some or all of these. Whatever he does, he does superbly, and last night was no exception. He was accompanied by former Squirrel Nut Zippers main man, Jimbo Mathus, who played a tin fife and what I’d call a tambourine (made from the jawbone of an ass). Mathus has done a lot of things since the SNZ’s, but I’ve always loved that band name, so had to drop it in here.

They were followed by Y.Z. Ealey a staple of the Natchez blues scene that I had heard about, but never actually heard before, although I’d seen his younger brother, Theodis Ealey, in a blues festival in Sardis, MS. Wish I had been able to see them together in the band they once had, with brother Melwin Ealey, called Y.Z. Ealey and the Merrymakers.

This was followed by a tune from a rockabilly musician, also from Natchez, Grey Montgomery. Interestingly enough, when he had a radio show and band back in the 50’s he had a young man apply to play piano for him, but declined to hire him to for that position, because of his “plunk-plunk” style. Instead he hired aspiring piano player Jerry Lee Lewis to play drums for him. I’m not even going to speculate on where Mr. Grey’s path since may have led had he taken Jerry on as piano player.

The end of the show was overtime and probably not on the live radio show broadcast from Oxford, but I really, really hope it ends up in the recorded show that plays on Mississippi Public Broadcasting (7 pm Saturday nights).

Whew.... talk about thunder and lightening!

I’ve seen the Rev. John Wilkins before, at the Otha Turner Family Goat BBQ, singing his father’s song, Prodigal Son (popularized by the Rolling Stones), and he was something else, but in the two or three years since I’d seen him, he’s blossomed even more. I was totally blown away by his performance, he is at the peak of his abilities, and they are tremendous. He sang from his new album “You Can’t Hurry God”, both the title tune and “You Got to Move”, (and I DID have to move) and in the big finale with all the other musicians who played earlier, “May the Circle Be Unbroken”, inviting everyone to sing along.
His voice was backed up, revved up, electrified, by deeply talented local blues musicians Eric Deaton and Jake Fussell! You can get the new album, which I believe features all three, online. It’s going to be the biggest music bargain you get for a long long time.

After all that excitement, I had to tone my adrenalin down to run over to the Ford Center to hear Louise Leakey’s lecture and slideshow, which I enjoyed thoroughly. She ended with a slide of the Grand Canyon with it’s extruded earth layers, and said that OUR layer would be a plastic layer. Words to ponder. There were several flickers of the lights as the thunderstorm moved through outside, but in the midst of that building, all was dry and calm, just the trip home was interesting (I passed an area without lights and with trash and sections of tin roofing scattered about).

Photographs were provided courtesy of Mr. Scott Baker (thank you so much!)

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