Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Drive Down The Blues Highway

Catfish & Cotton: Driving Down The Blues Highway by brothers Luc & Marc Borms is a self-published, wonderfully illustrated account of their journey to the heart of the delta blues culture through their experiences visiting Delta landmarks and their interviewing artists, merchants, scholars and others involved in the Delta Blues scene today.

The Borms brothers, both blues musicians from Belgium, made this Trans-Atlantic trek to the area that is the heart of the music that has so engrossed them as they (among other things) spent two days in Clarksdale; went to Hopson’s Plantation where Jon Gindick conducts a harmonica camp; visited the grave of Sonny Boy Williamson II; stayed at the Riverside Hotel; spent night’s at the juke joint, “Red’s Lounge”;visited the Delta Blues Museum and Cat Head and had a beer at the Ground Zero Club; Helena, Arkansas; Memphis and Beale Street: Oxford, Mississippi; Leland Mississippi; and Avalon Mississippi.

The brothers interviewed Jon Gindick, who has become well known for his harmonica instructional material to describe the camp he holds; Frank ‘Rat’ Ratliff, owner of the Riverside Hotel which was a hospital prior to becoming a hotel; Roger Stolle, who operates Cat Head , a store of folk art as well as a record label, Broke & Hungry; Heidi Hockenhauer, MC of the Delta Family Gospel Festival held in Helena; Blind Mississippi Morris, blues harmonica player and singer; Laurie Montalnaro, staff member of the Memphis Rock’n’Soul Museum; ‘Sunshine’ Sonny Payne, longtime host of the King Biscuit Time Radio Show; Cristen Craven Barnard, painter and mural artist; Adam Gussow, harmonica player and educator; Bill Abel, guitar builder and player; Randy Magee of the Highway 61 Museum; Eddie Cusic, Delta blues musician; Super Chikan, blues musician and others. I was particularly pleased to see the interview of Cusic, who I myself interviewed in 1991 when I saw him life Festival at the Smithsonian FolkLife Festival who is such a strong performer of classic Delta blues.

This book is wonderfully illustrated by the brothers’ photography of various blues landmarks, persons and some performance shops. Illustrations and inserts give information on towns and cities, landmarks including Hopson’s Plantation; the Riverside Hotel Cherry Street in Helena; Sonny Boy Williamson II’s grave; the Homemade Jamz Band and more. I was particularly moved by pictures of Pat Thomas, including one of him holding a guitar and singing while sitting in front of the grave of his father, James ‘Son’ Thomas. And they weave their narrative in which the interviews, and other materials are placed. 

The layout of all this material is quite attractive and reading is enhanced by the layout and use of 4 column text where text is printed. It will be valuable as a guide book for places one might wish to visit when one travels in the Delta as well as a document of the music today and the community in which it persists and thrives in. It is a marvelous book that will appeal to anybody with an interest in the blues and the land from which it sprung.

I became aware of this book from participation in The Real Blues Forum, a Facebook Group that Marc participates. The link for this book is www.catfish-and-cotton.com, which will take you the brothers store on lulu.com, the website that allows books to be self-published. The brother’s store link is http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/infoatcatfishandcottondotcom and can choose from a standard Black and White Edition, or the more expensive Deluxe Edition which is published in color. It is a 184 page, perfect bound book, 9 inches wide by 7 inches tall. I purchased the more expensive paperback edition. I have included for this blog a couple of the sample pages that you can view at lulu.com website for this book.

Here is a little clip of Eddie Cusic & Luc Borms filmed during the Catfish & Cotton tour.

No comments: