By now, faithful reader and blues scholar, you know all about the delta blues and hill country blues and the differences between the two. Tunings and rhythms typify the varying styles that have emerged from Mississippi from which nowadays music draws inspiration from back-in-the-days artists. Well, there’s another style from a region just south of us here in Clarksdale. Heading south on Highway 49, just past Yazoo City is a corner of the world called Bentonia. Small but legendary, this town gave rise to the Bentonia School, a guitar playing style known for it’s minor tones and hypnotic rhythms. The origin of the Bentonia sound rests with Henry Stuckey who had head soldiers from Trinidad play an open tuning when he was serving in the Army and was stationed in France during WWI. He came home after the war and developed the Bentonia style of Blues using a variation on the open tuning, singing in a high voice and incorporating dark lyrics. He then taught all of the other blues musicians in the Bentonia area how to play, including Jack Owens, Cornelius Bright, Adam Slater, Dodd Stuckey, Jacob Stuckey, and his most famous student – Skip James, born in Bentonia in 1902. The last student he taught how to play the Bentonia Blues was little Jimmy Duck Holmes who lived next door….
This is the same man keeping the sound alive, straight from the Blue Front Cafe. His parents opened the juke joint in 1948, just after he was born, and he took over the operation in 1970. Almost five decades later, his juke joint attracts blues fans from all over the world, and has been featured in documentary film (I Am The Blues from Eyesteel Film) and in an amazing in-depth article by author, Richard Grant, detailing hot spots on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Well worth a read – check it out here! The Blue Front Cafe began as a general store selling groceries, hot meals, and – ahem – refreshments (bootleg liquor). It was a hub, even housing a barbershop, so music was sure to follow with informal performances by local and passing musicians.
All these decades later and the music is still surging from Bentonia. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes started the Bentonia Blues Festival in 1972, and this year celebrates the 45th year! June 17th, 2017 marks the occasion, so be sure to check it out:
In support of our friends at the Bentonia Blues Festival, and in celebration of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes playing DBF in October of this year, we will be donating 2 pairs of weekend passes for Deep Blues Festival 2017 to be raffled off! This raffle keeps the festival free to the public, so please get involved! It’s a win-win situation all around – get down to Bentonia Blues Festival, and buy a raffle ticket for the chance to win a pair of weekend passes to Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, this October!
We look forward to welcoming Jimmy “Duck” Holmes to Clarksdale, and you should join us! Weekend passes are available online in our shop here, and if you really want to get deep into this festival, become a benefactor! This is a donation to the Deep Blues Festival that helps get our festival off the ground. Perks include first dibs at booking accommodation at the Shack Up Inn and exclusive access to the Benefactors’ Ball – a party to thank you for your support!
See y’all in October!