Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Mississippi River Delta Blues: At the Crossroads of Ground Zero

Sometimes I get the itch to go someplace; you know a place you’ve been to before.  It's a feeling you get like you have unfinished business there.  The Mississippi River Delta is one of those places.
I was here a few years ago on my way to Baton Rouge and we had a short stop.  We did not have time to see all the sites or have a full experience.  I talked my neighbor one of my best friends
into a trip here.  A trip to see some Blues and the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale Mississippi.

This area of Mississippi is considered the home of the blues.  It is ground zero of all American Music. Until recently when people talked about the Mississippi River Delta in my mind I actually thought they were talking about the area just south of New Orleans.  Come to find out I was completely wrong.

As it is called down south the Delta consumes a large area of 4 states near the Mississippi River.  South of Memphis to New Orleans has some of the most fertile soil in the World.  A lot of work went into draining these swamps and of course in America, it was cheap slave labor that made this part of America the richest in the world for a time. A time when cotton was king, it made some American kings.  It is ironic that now it is one of the poorest areas in the Nation.   It is hard to understand where all that wealth went.  I still do not completely understand it.

The Delta is a Mystery wrapped in a blanket of shame. The shame of slavery, the oppression of Jim Crow can still be felt in the Delta.  It hangs in the air like the humidity of a hot southern day.
Through this pain and heartache blues music developed.  It is this music that eventually rocked the world literally.  Slaves were not allowed to read or write but they were given musical instruments.

Their music became the ultimate coping mechanism.  An enduring part of American Culture.  When you turn on the Radio you are in the Delta.  The blues are responsible for the development of all 9 American Music genres.  So whether you like it or not you have the Delta is in you.  Did you watch the Voice or American Idol last night?  If the answer is yes, the Delta is in you.

From my front door to the Delta, Clarksdale Mississippi is a 5-hour drive. It's about an hour below Memphis.  It is a town that for the most part is depressed.  There are new signs of economic life appearing.  People are starting to understand this untouched cultural heritage.

We leave Clarksville around 8 am and arrive in Clarksdale MS for lunch.  We stop at Four Brothers Seafood for an authentic Delta Seafood Dinner. The taste of the delta is almost as good as the music.  Deep fried goodness is truly a southern tradition along with Red Beans and Greens.  After a great lunch, we head over to the Delta Blues Museum.

The Museum was a great experience giving you a taste of the life and culture of where the Blues Originated.  My favorite attraction was Muddy Waters cabin where he grew up which was an old plantation slave cabin.  Looking at some of the housing in Clarksdale you could say things really
haven’t come that far, but they have. People are free to leave and many do.  Here in Clarksdale, you are at the Crossroads.  Where Robert Johnson as legend has it sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play the blues.  The blues sometimes is known as the devil's music.  This is all well documented in the museum.

We check into the Uptown Motor Inn on 2nd street, a couple of doors down from where W.C. Handy, Ike Turn, and Sam Cooks lives intersected.  We rest a little bit before going out for Dinner at the Yazoo Pass Bistro.  A great little Cafe a block over.   With a contemporary menu, I had the grilled Mahi Tuna Asian style with a sesame seed crust, it was excellent.  On this trip like many others, the food is always part of the adventure.  

After dinner, it was to Morgan Freeman’s establishment the Ground Zero Blues Club we played a few games of pool waiting for the band to start.  The Band was Albert King JR and the Final Touch Band; they were a good standard blues band.  We listen to a few sets and then called it a night.  Our mission was accomplished.  We listen to some good blues and ate some good food in the heart of the delta.  We have experienced Ground Zero of American Music.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Music City: A Ride to Ri'chards Louisana Cafe

I love Cajun food so when ever I get a chance I head down to Richards Cafe in Whites Creek.  It was a sunny Sunday, a great day to get the motorcycles out to go get some lunch.  Such a good day we decide to ride into Nashville for lunch and some well-deserved wind therapy.   You don’t get very many days like this in February so you have to take advantage of them when you can.

Nashville sits in the Cumberland River basin, so from almost any direction there will be a series of winding roads that gets you there.   We decided to stay off the interstate and take the back roads our usual form of road rage.  We first take Highway 76 from Clarksville to Adams where we jump on US Highway 41 that heads to the music city.   When we get to Springfield we take 431 to Whites Creek a crossroads which is now a North Nashville suburb.

On 431 the road is full curves that reinvigorates the soul.  As we drop down into the Nashville Basin the switchbacks have us using all the tread on our tires.   We arrive at our destination Ri‘chards Louisiana  CafĂ© for some great Cajun food and some live music.   It is one of the many song writer hang outs in the Music City Area and Nashville is a song writer’s town.  We each get a bowl of Gumbo, Terri has the Shrimp Po’boy and I have the blackened Red Fish.  It was a great lunch, all while listening to some good music.

Well all good things must come to an end, so we pay up and make the short trek back to Clarksville.  This puts another 50 miles under our belt.  We cannot wait for more of these days.  It won’t be long now.  Spring is on its way it can’t be stopped and our motorcycles will be there to enjoy it.