Fate? Karma? Purgatory? Help me put a good spin on this.

My wife and I are heading out to Clarksdale, Mississippi for the Juke Joint Festival which is primarily a blues festival for local delta and hill country blues acts. It is a ton of fun.

We are staying with some old friends in a nearby town. They have graciously invited us to a music series hosted by local country music singer and songwriter Steve Azar. The event occurs every couple of months and features a meal by a prominent local chef (featured in Southern Living, Garden and Gun, etc) as well as cocktails and a casual performance and interview with other songwriters and musicians. It is a small group and the guests interact with the guest musicians. The tickets are fairly pricey and our friends have insisted on buying our tickets.

Other than their love of country music our musical tastes are similar to our friend's. They are going with us to the blues festival. They are also into Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, etc.

The guest musician/songwriter is named Anthony Smith. I'd never heard of him. Apparently he has written songs for some big names in the country music world as has the host, Steve Azar.

Now, I don't hate country music per se. But I have a hard time with contemporary pop country. Here is a video of Anthony Smith's:


It is going to be a long night. Fortunately the music will be acoustic. Just the guest with his guitar. I suspect the food will be great and there will be plenty of booze. And I guess it will be interesting to get some insight into the singer/songwriter world even if it is pop country.

I just think it is funny that the one type of music I can hardly stand is what is being featured. I'd prefer hip-hop or rap to pop country ;-)
Well maybe he'll tell some long,interesting,funny stories.Might be fun.Maybe.
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The upside is it isn’t in a dry county. Uh,  I just watched the you tube , my condolences. 

I showed my wife the video and she thought it was a spoof on pop country......I had to explain to her that it was _actual_ pop country. 

@dweller : Agreed. It is generous and thoughtful of our friends to invite us and I will try to be gracious about it and have a good time. Getting a glimpse into that world might be interesting.....in a side show sort of way.

@whart : "Take 'em down to the crossroads."

That is exactly where we will be taking them for the Juke Joint Festival. The legendary crossroads is on highway 61 right there in Clarksdale.

My connection to Clarksdale was that I lived there for 5 years as a child. My father was a 'revenuer' and busted moonshiners. He loved it.
n80, Probably just fate. You seem like a decent guy so I doubt it's karma, & purgatory will just be yoko ono's constant "singing", so... 
My wife and I drove through Mississippi on our way to New Orleans on Sunday. Today we drove from New Orleans to Memphis. Unfortunately the weather isn’t good tonight. Tomorrow night we will hang out on Beale St and will hear some great Blues. Will be dining at BB Kings on some most excellent BBQ. We love Memphis, it’s our 4th time here in the past 6 years. Tomorrow’s lunch will be Reds Fried Chicken, can’t wait.

You will have a blast with your friends. Funny, I dislike Country, Hip Hop and Rap, but I would take Country over the other two. Enjoy.
Yep, we visited the Delta a few years ago. I had this image in my mind of sepia-tones, it was quite lush and beautiful. Obviously a lot of history there, some pretty scary. I did see the road to Parchman Farm but I doubt they wanted visitors.
We wound up staying the night in Greenwood, lodging and eating at that upscale place that is tied to the Viking Stove company. Did not really stay to explore -- we headed on to Arkansas, through to Dallas, en route to Austin on our move from NY.
We were a little like the Beverly Hillbillies; my wife’s car was packed to the gills. We did have fun though, even though it was a tiring trip from NY.
Be thankful there’s no polka revival movement there.
We just had the Honk Festival here- street bands, the odder the better. Same day as the Chihuahua Beauty pageant, so I was conflicted. :)
Mississippi is a lush and beautiful state for sure @whart - but troubled. You gotta do the backroads, the single blue-line highways on the map. Meet a local. There tends to be a high quotient of colorful people, “characters.” They’ll probably invite you over for dinner and may even offer a place to stay. Vicksburg National Military Park is really interesting.
You can hope that as a solo he might perform some folky style cause that youtube song will make your ears bleed and your musical soul cringe. He sure "don't know what country is". 
We like going to the delta. It is a different world for sure. Our favorite thing to do is to drive down highway 61 from Memphis to New Orleans stopping along the way to enjoy good food, listen to blues and visit friends. We do not have time to make that trip this year.

@mclain, agree with you about the Vicksburg National Military Park, especially the huge gunboat they pulled out of the river and reconstructed. Vicksburg is a neat little town altogether. A bit depressed like much of Mississippi but doing okay. There is a casual rooftop restaurant on one of the taller buildings there with great views of the river. The old court house up on the bluff is also really cool and has a real throwback of a museum in it.

@thepigdog : I've lived my entire life in the deep south and the comic book, Tobacco Road, Dukes of Hazard images that pop country loves are such worn out and stupid cliche's. The musical heritage here is among the richest on the planet. It is a shame what the pop industry has done to much of it.

MS? not bad. home of Kevin Moore (Keb Mo), Paul Thorn, and Morgan freeman. maybe you'll run into one of them. lol

one thing about musicians that make a living writing and playing music, most of them are pretty good.

I've been to a few festivals and had no idea of who these folks were or what their catalogs were, but nearly everyone of them knew how to perform and capture an audience, one way or another.

it might be a good idea to see the list of who is performing and check out some of their stuff in advance.

familiarity may add soemthing to the overall mix.

I used to like both kinds of music.


and Western.

but I hate most of what they call Country today. its just Rap songs about country themes. as soon as I hear hands clapping I skip the song.

given the ticket prices are lofty too, the crowd should be a bit more mature. if so, that should be a plus.

set aside any expectations and see if you find out things end up being better than you may have thought going in.

I feel your pain!  My tastes fall pretty much the same, and I would not look forward to it, but relaxing and seeing another slice of life has its merits.  Do you have access to some gummy bears?  That might not hurt....
@orpheus10 The dinner with the 'country' musician is different from the Juke Joint Festival which is almost entirely local blues musicians a fair number of whom are relatives of Junior Kimbrough and RL Burnside which is cool. Some of it is hard core delta blues as in one old guy with a guitar and that is what I like the most. 

@blindjim : Mississippi is a treasure chest of great musicians and writers. Sam Cooke was from Clarksdale. BB King was from nearby Indianola. The friends we are visiting helped do some engineering work for the BB King museum and got to meet him several times before he died. Of course most of the famous blues musicians were from Mississippi or Arkansas.

Elvis was from Mississippi.

Jimmy Buffett

Ike Turner

A slew of country and jazz music singers.

Leontyne Price (opera).

For a state so small, so poor and so backwards its contribution to literature and music is unparalleled. Rock and roll started in Mississippi.

@jbrrp1 I'll have a flask.
Literature too. The South is famous for writers.
There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a record business exec visiting a road house down south and hearing this marvelous performer. He approached the artist after a set and said, I’m with X label, I’d like to talk about signing you. To which the artist responded, "all that stuff goes through my agent in NY."
I’m fascinated by the stories of the blues revival and those (mostly young) people who collected 78s seeking the out the surviving legends. Some of the stories are great and have been collected in various books about Son House, Skip James, etc.
@whart : One of my hobbies is southern literature and criticism. I visit Faulkner's home in Oxford whenever we go. Eudora Welty's also but her home isn't all that interesting. Flannery O'Connors place in Georgia is run down but well preserved.

When you look at a lot of the web sites from these young local blues acts you will see that they frequently tour Europe, especially Scandinavia where they are greatly appreciated. At this Juke Joint Festival there are always lots of Europeans. Our friends own a B&B in a big old southern mansion and their primary customers are Europeans coming here for the blues.

@tuberist : If that video/song is a parody I'd give the guy some credit for hitting pop country right on the nose. I'd like to ask him at this event but would never do that. As much as I hate that kind of music I have no desire to put anyone down or hurt their feelings. Of course, there is a good chance he knows what sells and is just playing the market. I've seen some video of just him playing the guitar and that stuff seems a little more genuine. I hope we get more of that.
I'd look at this as opportunity to expand my musical horizons. You just might find much to like. Hope you have a great time!
Garden and Gun !!! Ya man
lived in Charleston for a
good while
maybe after a snort or three off the flask offer to back him up on beat box....

have fun, roll with it.... 
But you could always just adjust your speech for the evening to include some choice tidbits from The Sound and The Fury...

don't overdo it or ya might end up in a movie about insane people...

Ignore the music if you have to, and enjoy time with people you care about.

May be hard to do but it will be good on your heart, my opinion of course.

@tomic601 : I’ve read The Sound and the Fury probably three or four times. It is difficult, disturbing and sad.....but brilliant. Not my favorite though. I’d more likely quote from Go Down, Moses or Absalom, Absalom! which is also dense and difficult but in my opinion the best novel of the post modern era, maybe the best novel in U. S. literature. Of course, not many happy quotes from any of those. 

Fortunately the deeper I get into a flask the quieter I get. 

Anyway, the country event is this coming Wednesday night and the festival is the following Saturday. I’ll report back here afterwards. 
Do not focus on music, focus on experience and I cannot see how that one could be bad. True, Clarksdale these days may not be Clarksdale of your youth, it is way more commercialized, but some festival there cannot be unpleasant.

Marginally related to this trip, you could invite your friends to be your guests at King Biscuit, It is usually in the fall, October I think. Helena is a historic marker on the USA music map for sure.

Or Memphis in May? You will not regret it. Guaranteed.

EDIT: I just watched the video you linked to. That kind of music usually feels much better live in some small venue. It may not be your preferred thing, but it should be way better than on youtube. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you, just in case.
Well, I gave it a fair go, honest. I got into 56 seconds of the video.
I hope they got a good bar.
I listened to 30, maybe 45 seconds. 

Sorry man.
Maybe he's got a killer rhythm section with him and you could focus on bass lines all night.
Ahh, Clarksdale, MS. an area I used to "pass through" on occasion.
Beale to the north, Tupelo to the east, Helena across the river and Turkey Scratch, AR not much further (yes, the great Levon Helm’s stomping grounds). Also the original Viking Ranges were built not too far from there (so?).

As with most Redneck/Blues/Country Festivals my best advice is not to take anything too seriously. As others have said, enjoy the cooking, booze, humidity and local talent. If it rains, get wet and let it roll off.

I went to a much smaller event years ago in Arkansas City when it poured (like it was 1927....) and a guy from Eureka Springs, AR named Lucius broke into a version of "Rainy Night in Georgia" that was as good as it gets.
Wait, you're going there to attend a music festival and your friends invite you to another music festival? Seems kinda one dimensional to me. Oh well I hope they're just trying to be good friends.
I think I’ve confused everyone. 

My my wife and I are going to a blues festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi. We’ve been before. It is awesome. 

We have some old friends who live near there. They have invited us to stay with them in Leland Mississippi which is near Clarksdale. Every couple of months there is a dinner event usually featuring a country music singer/songwriter. They go to this event every time. Since we were going to be there when the event was happening they invited us to go. They did not even know who the musical guest would be when they bought the tickets. I doubt they’re wild about this guy either unless he has other stuff I don’t know about. Anyway, it will be a good five days of music, whiskey and southern food. Can’t complain. 

Glupson, Clarksdale is actually dead/dying except for during various blues festivals. It was much more vibrant in the late 60s. During the festival it comes alive. We were there in February 3 years ago and it was a ghost town.... I got some great B&W photographs during that trip. Maybe I’ll post them here sometime since they are more or less music related. 

It was strange but there were stencils of Robert Plant spray painted all over town. 

Once upon a time, it was probably a vibrant town where you could feel people live. I have not been there in 3-4 years, but then I thought it was clearly trying to cash in on the music history. Robert Plant paintings may be just that, in some way. I would not expect them there, but they do not surprise me too much https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walking_into_Clarksdale

Many more years before that, I ended up at Ground Zero. It had the looks of a regular juke joint, mismatched chairs and all. I chatted with the owner, not the actor but the other one, who looked like anything but the guy who owns a rundown place. Think pastel yellow LaCoste T-shirt, or something like that, ironed slacks, etc. At some point, they brought me a drink and I went to the bar and asked for the glass. The bartender pulled the glass out of the freezer. Nice touch, but not what would have genuinely gone with the décor. In short, it was a brilliantly executed presentation of what visitors would hope to see. The band was way too loud, though, and was the only one I remember from those days that did not play well.

Is the fancy restaurant, owned by same person(s?) (right side, walking away from Ground Zero) still there? It was really good although it was really long time ago.

I forgot the story about the crossroads, but there was something about crossroads in question actually not being where it is marked these days. I think it mentioned some other roads. Just in case, I actually did go there (these current "crossroads") at midnight. Nothing happened.

You are going about this in the wrong way!  First off, welcome the opportunity to spend time with your friends.  Probably does not happen that much.  Then head right over to the liquor store and purchase some chap wine or what ever floats your boat.  Just make sure you are buying in quantity not as much quality.  Start drinking as soon as possible in mass quantity and then you are at least prepared for the music festival. Even if you puke on your shoes, you will wake up the next day probably not knowing what the hell happened.  Go out for a breakfast with lots of fat, and bread to soak up the remainder of what is left over in your stomach.  Try some good old chocolate milk to line the edges of your stomach.  Trust me, you won't care what music was playing!  Plus your friends probably won't invite you back for another Country Music festival!

Happy Listening.  
If I had this opportunity, I surely wouldn't go public. In addition, I wouldn't ask others how I should conduct myself. Another wasted thread,
@slaw : "If I had this opportunity, I surely wouldn't go public. In addition, I wouldn't ask others how I should conduct myself. Another wasted thread,"

I've actually enjoyed most of the responses, including this one:

"I'd look at this as opportunity to expand my musical horizons. You just might find much to like. Hope you have a great time!"


Albert King played every juke joint between St. Louis and where he was from in Mississippi. When he was in St. Louis, he lived in Eagle Park Acres, a place where at night, it was so dark that your headlights had a hard time penetrating it, just like in Mississippi; he was my favorite, I saw him a lot, I was a "juke joint" specialist.
I am lucky enough to have seen and heard Albert King live, but it wasn't in a juke joint. Bill Graham put together great bills at the Fillmore Auditorium (the original, in the Fillmore district---a "negro" neighborhood of San Francisco), and that is where I saw him (as well as Cream, and many others). You would not believe how much Albert sweated! He played his Gibson Flying V, and hearing him I realized immediately from whom Clapton copped a lot of his guitar style.
Woah. Pop Country songwriting can occasionally be really good, on a craft level, but that video is SO much worse than I was expecting.
@glupson, the guy you met was probably Bill Luckett, a prominent attorney in Clarksdale and I think he has been the mayor too.

Interesting tidbit: Morgan Freeman's son Alfonzo, lives in the same city I do and lives next door to my father-in-law and frequently comes to holiday meals with our family. A really nice guy. He's been in a number of movies and also writes gospel music.

@orpheus10 : I've never been in an actual juke joint. I've been in plenty of bars and dives but all of them mostly white. I don't think genuine juke joints exist much these days as the few that do exist have been 'recreated' for a very different 'clientele'.

@allowedsound: Agree about that video and song. It almost exactly what I would have imagined as the worst aspects of pop country put together in one song/video.

n80, there were a lot of juke joints in E. St. Louis, Ill, and while Black, a lot of White people went to them; oddly enough, they were treated as guests, and had fewer problems than other Black people; this was in the late 50's and 60's.

Since girls was my one track mission, I never paid a lot of attention to the music, and even then I was into jazz; but I remember the music and think about it more now. The music was a blues "Gumbo", and NOLA music was deep in the mix.

All of the Blues artists of that era, who are now famous, played the juke joints, and there were a few white musicians (all on guitar) who played them as well. As good as they were, I don't know if any became famous; this was long before SRV.

n80, there were a lot of juke joints in E. St. Louis, Ill, and while Black, a lot of White people went to them; oddly enough, they were treated as guests, and had fewer problems than other Black people; this was in the late 50's and 60's.

Since girls was my one track mission, I never paid a lot of attention to the music, and even then I was into jazz; but I remember the music and think about it more now. The music was a blues "Gumbo", and NOLA music was deep in the mix.

All of the Blues artists of that era, who are now famous, played the juke joints, and there were a few white musicians (all on guitar) who played them as well. As good as they were, I don't know if any became famous; this was long before SRV.
Albert King and Albert Collins were booked same night into bars on opposite sides of High street, circa 1982 if my cloudy hazy memory serves..
I picked King, brother went to Collins
about mid set they on early wireless setups w crappy range met mid street and switched bands....unbelievable....seems like but a dream today.....
King was beyond incredible...what a showman and could make that flying V scream and bend
Yeah @tomic601, Albert’s hands and fingers were huge, and he was very strong. I’ve never seen anyone bend strings like that (the high E string bent all the way to the top of the fretboard of his Flying V!), and he did it in a real relaxed, "no hurry" kind of way, unrushed. His tone was SO thick, like a big ol’ hit off a spliff of real good weed, the kind we San Jose kids found only in San Francisco. Only schwag made it to the suburbs ;-) .

"I’ve never been in an actual juke joint."
Those places still exist but they are not "Ground Zero" kind. I am resisting to go into details, but you have to know where to find them and you cannot go looking for them. Not as in some tourist sense "where locals go", but be one of them. As another poster mentioned, most are black and at times I felt I was the only white person who has ever set a foot there, but those were my people and fun was unimaginable. Of note, I even consider Junior Kimbrough’s place as somewhat touristy (before it burned down, of course).

As it seems that you are from the area and being a decent person, I wish this conversation was going on way back when...
@bdp24 : Speaking of thick fingered guitar playing, we saw this young man at the 2017 Juke Joint Festival. He was about 17 then. He was mesmerizing. We watched him play in an old bank building for close to two hours. He's played at the White House and been written up in Rolling Stone. Hard to believe those big fat hands can do what he does. Scroll forward to about 2:30 to see him let loose:


@glupson and @orpheus10 : Ground Zero is like a Disney version of a juke joint and that's most of what you find in that area now. I'm sure there are modern versions of juke joints out there now....there are some where I live. But they don't play blues. Mostly 'DJs' 'playing' hip hop etc.

Anyway, I suspect if I had been an adult and was into the blues in the mid 1960s I would not have had the nerve to go into a typical juke joint. It would have been my loss of course. But things were very different back then.

My mother was a school teacher in 1966 or so and she had a black girl in her class who was one of the first black children to go to a white public school in Mississippi, or at least in Coahoma County anyway. She said it all went smoothly, which was not always the case of course.

Robbie Robertson has repeated this story Levon Helm recounted in his autobiography, the Robertson telling of the story viewable on You Tube: In the Summer of ’65, The Hawks had a week off (they were a working band, playing on the circuit in the South, Midwest, and up and down the East Coast), so the four Canadians suggested they go to Levon’s hometown in Arkansas, Helena, to look up fellow Helenian Sonny Boy Williamson. Levon had gone down to the local radio station in the afternoon after high school got out for the day, watching and listening to Sonny Boy and his band perform live in the studio.

The Hawks found Sonny Boy walking down a street in Helena, and suggested they go somewhere to get a drink. He took them to the home of a woman who ran a booze & barbeque joint in her living room, where he and they spent a few hours getting drunk and playing music. Sonny Boy told them that he had just returned from a tour of the UK (where the Blues Revival was already in full bloom, a couple of years before it flowered in the U.S., though The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with Mike Bloomfield on guitar, were already making their first Elektra album), and said the backing bands he had been provided with by the promoter (one of which was The Yardbirds, with a very young Eric Clapton on guitar) "wanted to play the Blues SO bad, and that’s just how they play it" ;-) .

SBW and The Hawks made tentative plans to hit the road together in the U.S., but he passed away before that could happened. Bob Dylan hired them later that year, and took The Hawks with him on his UK tour in the Fall. In the audience on that tour were The Beatles, The Stones, and all the other UK bands, getting shown what a really good (heh) band sounds like.

"kingfish" sounded like a carbon copy of Albert King, which is a good thing from my point of view because Albert was my favorite.
Agree with Slaw:

**** I'd look at this as opportunity to expand my musical horizons. You just might find much to like. Hope you have a great time! ****

I have a strong suspicion that you will be at least a little surprised.  Videos intended for commercial success are often not representative of all that a performer is about.  To be honest, if you’re going to go into this so predisposed to hate this guy, I would find an excuse to not attend the performance; not fair to the singer.  Hey, maybe he’ll bring along the gorgeous cowgirl in the video.  Have a good time!