Saturday, September 18, 2021

What happened on Highway 61: Part III: On Highway 90

By A Tyke Dahnsarf
To read Part 2 of this blog series, please go HERE

"Laissez les bons temps rouler"

What does the Bayou have to do with the Blues Trail?

I am fortunate to live in both the UK and Southwest France, in Occitanie. A region deriving it's name from the language which, until the aftermath of the First World War, was widely spoken. My adopted Gallic home, a wild, mountainous land, was once a separate fiefdom, subsumed into France at sword point. It still enjoys a distinctiveness of it's own. There are other regions of France, remote from Paris, often historically turbulent, where cultures differ. When opportunity across the Atlantic presented itself, the more intrepid or desperate, disparate people settled in this "Acadie," in hope of better lives led of their own choosing.

It is this background, curiosity, love of music, and a recommendation, that led me to the Cajuns of Louisiana's swamps. A persecuted diaspora often holds dear it's culture, faith and especially, music, when an Acadien promise proves to be yet more "les haricots ne sont pas sal├ęs." An old French idiom (unsalted beans) meaning hard times, possibly corrupted to "Zydeco" - song of lament and Blues by any other name?

So, with friends, we set out from New Orleans to Lafayette and beyond, turning right across the flat lands to Eunice, where our accommodation awaited. Eunice is home to American manufactured accordions what Nazareth is to Martin guitars and as equally venerated for their tonal quality. And, a squeeze-box made by Savoy Music is the ultimate Acadian instrument, due as much to it's beautiful construction and portability as to it's sound and thus, to Eunice's claim of being at the heart of Cajun music. This boast may or not, be true but it is Mamou and Fred's Lounge, which is it's beat and the ultimate destination in our quest for the real deal.

Monday, September 6, 2021

What Happened on Highway 61 - Part 2: The Big Easy

By A Tyke Dahnsarf
To read Part 1 of this blog series, please go HERE

"Baby please don't you go down to New Orleans, you know I love you so. Baby please don't go."
--Big Joe Williams (1935)

There are cities you can't help falling in love with. They have that intangible something, an aura, a magic that permeates the very air that surrounds them. New Orleans is such a City and I was smitten from the moment the A300 touched tarmac at Louis Armstrong airport.

We were billeted in the French quarter, where tourism is displayed in Technicolor and Dolby surround sound. Often, careworn and grubby, it clings precariously to life, held together only by the Blutack of collective will; it's magnificent patina a magnet to many. It has no pretensions, displaying it's light firmly placed before the bushel and heart worn proudly on it's sleeve for all to see. At once cosmopolitan and provincial, conservative and carefree it is a haven to the deviant and dispossessed, embracing diversity as a mother would an itinerant but talented, favorite child. Yet, and for good reason, the Big Easy's citizens live in the now; tomorrow is an indulgence only the tourists can afford. Enjoying the moment is the raison d'etre of the natives of Nola and all-comers are welcome to join them in their hedonism. And, what better way to jig than to a tune of the Devil's making?

It was indeed, the music created in this great city which was the primary drive to begin my odyssey. A cradle to all the greats so, inevitable that I should visit all the places chronicling their lives and to experience some of the vibe of the Petri dish where their talent was nurtured. The French quarter bars look as though they might be constructed in a studio back-lot in Burbank and transported to Bourbon Street, but convey something of how it might have been. In any case, troubadours hustling tourist dollars for song requests is in keeping with this great city's tradition.

Amongst the wealth of museums and exhibits celebrating New Orleans' gift to the world, is the Katrina Exhibition. Not that the descriptives of celebration or gift can be applied to this tearful, moving experience, which documents a human catastrophe on a Pompeiian scale. However, the resulting outcome, with its message of optimism for the future and can-do attitude is, at least uplifting. At the of risk of this particular Limey telling grannie how to suck eggs, I would urge that you include this in your itinerary if planning to visit. It probably says as much about the fortitude of this fascinating city, and determined inventiveness of it's people as any musical construct of 12 bars. More on the pride the citizens take in their heritage, later in this missive.

Another most surprising and rewarding experience in New Orleans was that provided by the Ranger Service.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

What happened on Highway 61? - Part 1

A Blog Series by A. Tyke Dahnsarf

"Now I'm a man, way past twenty one, I tell you honey child, we gonna have lotsa fun."

--Bo Diddley (1955)

So, I finally made it. The trip I'd promised myself for decades; the Blues trail up the delta to see the birthplace and stomping grounds of the musical hero's that informed my youth.

Like the millions of ingratiate Baby-boomers raised in post war Britain, the land of hope and glory was not our sceptered Isle but country on the far side of the Atlantic. A place portrayed on 9 inch screens, in black and white. A tableau peopled by the square jawed and white, with teeth to match. Beneath wide-brimmed hats, they rode Palominos or running boards of Chevy's - able to discharge firearms with amazing accuracy, considering the speed that their chosen mode of transport often travelled. Females were portrayed as victims who screamed a lot and got rescued from precarious situations by the square jawed. Uncannily, their coiffures and make-up always survived the ordeal where their captors or protagonists often did not. In this safer real world, that our parents had bravely sacrificed their youth to make possible for us, there were no Colts, neither with 4 legs nor 6 chambers. Nor Stetsons, Borsellinos or Chevrolets. It was a world in reality, as Black and white as that projected onto screens or via a cathode ray tube. 

So, we went further in embracing this perfect, mythic continent by imbibing it's music so that it became the soundtrack of our youth. Rock n' Roll was it's name and the more our parent's hated it so, we loved it the more. Then, when a home-grown, watered-down, insipid, mish-mash was offered once a week for an hour by Aunty Beeb (BBC TV) as a sop to the youth (and an establishment with an eye to future voters.) Some of us were audacious enough to seek out the itinerant father of Rock n' Roll - the Blues. Our parent's hated this even more. A number of those who had "discovered" this music also realized that the Devil had contrived to make it a musical genre (apparently) easy enough for whites to emulate. And so, some did just that, even I, but more of this later...

So, my informative years, like many in that post-World War II cohort, were first shaped by photogenic all American white boys--only just out of school--who regaled us with songs of love lost or gained. The most original and influential of them was one hailing from Texas and the other from Mississippi. With not a few ditties in their repertoire, a pastiche of songs from an all-together older generation, with very different life experiences, the raw immediacy of these ditties was not lost on us, even if the context of where and how they originated was. 

One of these "oldies" was Chuck Berry, who along with perhaps Cliff Gallop launched a thousand guitar wannabes. Berry was not one to waste a good riff on one song when it could be applied to further telling of fast cars and even faster female. His witty couplets succeeded in making subsequent refinements somehow different, and I could not accuse Berry of lazy, moon in June lyrics in his telling of trysts with the opposite sex. I loved him then and still do. Keef, Mick, Eric et. al., also felt the same too. Along with adulating Messrs. Morganfield, Burnett, Hooker and many a King, they helped pave the way to resurrecting the careers of many these Black American Blues artists, catapulting them from cult following into the mainstream. But they were not solely responsible for my getting acquainted with Blues music. Nay! It was another champion, Chris Barber. A noted UK jazz band leader, it was he who first introduced me and thousands of others to these great performers, via TV--together with a Glaswegian banjo player and Parisian born guitarist, both members of Barbers band. The former with the moniker of Lonnie Donegan and the even more exotically named, Alexis Korner. Together they guided our musical journey and their example launched an untold number of Rhythm 'n Blues Bands.

The Denyms

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mt. Zion Memorial Fund with RL BOYCE PICNIC Presents Walk Like A Big Blues Mane Workshop Weekend w/ RL BOYCE

Plan to Get DUSTY in Como, MS

Oct. 16 & 17 2021


RL BOYCE, Living Hill Country Blues Legend gathered the best of Mississippi Blues players for his 2019 family picnic. Recorded live in Como, RL's newest release is 60 minutes of unfiltered, raw and rocking hypnotic electric Blues from North Mississippi A complication of astounding artists show-cases the wide range of unique sounds happening in Mississippi today. All players were inspired by the traditional music making methods RL BOYCE has employed for the last 50 years. Crowned King of the Hill Country Boogie RL BOYCE closes the disc with a transcendent jam that takes you HIGHER! 

Come celebrate in person with the Big Blues Mane. 

Grab yourself a copy at the RL BOYCE PICNIC Walk like A Big Blues Mane Workshop Weekend Oct. 16 & 17, 2021, Como MS. RL will have a mess of copies on hand, and ready to sign. CD ONLY limited release available on WoodB Records. Recorded SEPT. 1, 2019, RL BOYCE PICNIC, COMO, MS. 

These recordings were made possible with generous support from the Mississippi Arts Commission