The death of Charlie Watts this week put me in mine of an obsession I festered a few years back: Drummers!
Then, by accident (or maybe guided by the speedy, ghostly hands of the Stones drummer himself), I clicked on a Netflix documentary last night, entitled "Count Me In," produced and directed by Mark Lo, that attempted to explain my fascination. And there they were, clips of my drummer heroes: Max Roach, Art Blakey, Alvin Jones, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Sandy Nelson, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, Taylor Hawkins, Topper Headon, Nick Mason, Nicko MrBrain, Ian Paice, Chad Smith, and, of course, Charlie Watts, and a few others showing and in some cases attempting to explain just how they did it. And, of course, the answer is what I had finally determined in following my obsession way back when: It's simply crazy, amazing magic!
It would be a stretch to call this year's (#33) Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival a bust, but it was far from the best. Nevertheless, the performers were hot--physically, professionally, and passionately--after having been cooped up away from audiences for the past year.
The same could not be said for the audiences themselves, that were instead sparse, relatively reserved, and sadly beset by heat, rain, and continuing COVID-19 angst. It was hot and humid all day Friday, but cooled off at night for sterling sets by Heather Crosse, "Lightin" Malcolm, and James "Super Chikan" Johnson ("Somebody shoot that thang!"). Saturday was hot again, but the rain cooled things down, and somewhat dampened the the crowd's enthusiasm, in the evening for Jimbo Mathus and surprise guest harpist Charlie Musselwhite, Anthony "Big A" Sherrod, Sweet Angel, and Nathaniel Kimble.
It didn't help that most of the juke joints in town were shuddered, except for Ground Zero, but then who would want to attempt social distancing in their cramped quarters anyway, in the state with the lowest COVID vaccination rate in the country (under 40%)?
So with the iffy weather, COVID still running so rampant that Gov. Tate Reeves was begging for out-of-state medical assistance, and the absence of a well-known headliner (as one local diner complained in Ramon's on Saturday evening as the clouds opened up outside), a true Delta blues fan could not really expect a miracle. Not this year anyway.
Jimbo Mathus and Charlie Musselwhite, two of Mississippi's finest
2021 SUNFLOWER RIVER BLUES & GOSPEL FESTIVAL LINEUP
Thursday, August 1Grits, Greeens & BB Que VIP Party
7:00pm-7:45pm Lucious Spiller
8:00pm-8:45pm Mississippi Marshall
9:00pm-9:45pm Terry "Big T" Williams
Friday, August 13, 2021 Main Stage
7:00pm-7:45pm Delta Blues Museum Band
8:00pm-8:45pm Heather Crosse: Heavy Suga & The Sweet Tones
9:00pm-9:45pm Steve "Lightin" Malcolm
10:00pm-11:00pm James "Super Chikan" Johnson
Headlining the Sunflower River Blues Festival's Friday night stage August 13, 2021, is James "Super Chikan" Johnson, an international and hometown favorite musician, ambassador, songwriter, and folk artist pictured performing at an earlier festival and also welcoming and entertaining a delegation of Norwegian visitors from Clarksdale's Sister City/ the International Notodden Blues Festival. Chikan is a recipient of the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts sponsored by the Mississippi Arts Commission. He also traveled with Gov. Haley Barbour to open Mississippi's Pavilion at the World Fair in Japan. Pictured also with "Chikan" on the porch welcome with our Norwegian "cousins" are State Rep. Orlando Paden, and Nancy Foley, Sunflower members.
We miss Super Chikan over here in Norway. Here is an attached photo where Super Chikan and Lee Williams are present when The City of Clarksdale is being honored with a star on Notodden Blues Walk of Fame in 2017.
Saturday August 14, 2021 Acoustic St (at the VIP Tent)
10:00am-10:45am Pat Thomas
11:00am-11:45 am Kenny Brown
12:noon-12:45pm Jimmy "Duck" Holmes
1:00pm-1:45pm Bill Abel
2:00pm-2:45pm Little Willie Farmer
3:00pm-3:45pm Sean "Bad" Apple (Acoustic Stage moves to the Main Stage)
4:00pm-4:45pm Bill "Howlin' Madd" Perry
5:00pm-5:45pm Mark "Muleman" Massey
Saturday August 14, 2021 Main Stage
6:00pm-6:45pm Lucious Spiller
7:00pm-745pm Terry "Big T" Williams
8:00pm-8:45pm Jimbo Mathus
9:00pm-9:45pm Anthony "Big A" Sherrod
10:00pm-10:45pm Sweet Angel
11:00pm-12:00am Nathaniel Kimble
Gospel Stage Coming Soon
In Alabama, it's against law to:
Ride your motorcycle without a helmet (or shoes)
Pass on a curve
Ride a bike on the interstate
Play music too loud
Drive on the wrong side of the road
Blow your horn unnecessarily
Skate in front of a church
Send your kid to school without proof of immunization for ten diseases
Require individuals to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to receive goods or services
Charles Farley is an author who lives and writes in Huntsville, Alabama.